Ethiopia`s Green Legacy Initiative
In 2019 Ethiopia began an urgently needed reforestation program. A century ago 35% of the country was covered in trees. Since the last 2 decades that coverage is only 4%.
Most of the forests were in the Highlands which were uninterrupted vast stretches of ancient woodland. The small areas that remain, remain because they surround churches and the priests have protected them.
Forests and nature are seen in Ethiopia`s Christian spirituality as intrinsic to respect for God and the purity of churches and places of worship. It is said that for a church to be a church, it must be surrounded by forest so as to remind us of the Garden of Eden.
Dr Alemayehu Wassie is a forest ecologist and has been working with communities since 1992 to preserve the trees. He says of understanding the connected relationship, the synergy between humanity, nature and God :“The mystery is to think beyond what we see.”
” Every plant contains the power of God, the treasure of God, the blessing of God. So when someone plants a tree, every time it moves, the tree prays for that person to live longer. Just like we cultivate the new generation, we need to cultivate the forest. If the church loses its forest, it will lose itself” – Aba Gebre Mariam Alene, Ethiopian Orthodox Priest.
The Green Legacy Initiative aims to plant 20 billion trees within 4 years. In just 3 years Ethiopia has planted 18 billion saplings. The government want to fulfill the aim this year and plant an additional 5 billion trees.
To inspire others, Ethiopia has sent gifts of millions of saplings to neighbouring countries.
Poverty is the cause of the deforestation. Trees are cleared for cultivation and livestock and trees are cut for cooking fuel. This causes less rain to fall and droughts to worsen.
Reforestation is how droughts can be mitigated and soil quality and biodiversity conserved. The government of Abiy Ahmed see reforestation as a key to achieving food self-sufficiency. Modernized farming together with increasing the electricity supply through energy infrastructure like the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam ( GERD) can end poverty and hunger.
The film below is a beautiful glimpse into an ancient land, people and spirituality.