The nation is gearing up to adopt a new 10-year master plan for sustainable forest management.
The draft master plan, National Forest Sector Development Program, is developed by the Ministry of Environment, Forest & Climate Change and has five principal pillars – enabling environment and institutional development, sustainable forest production and value chain, forest environmental services, forests and rural livelihoods, and urban greening and urban foresting.
The master plan envisions the reforestation of nearly 2.5 million hectares of land with tree plantations, the creation of over 600,000 full-time jobs, increasing the value of agriculture and other sectors by 3.2 billion dollars and fully substituting the import of wood products.
The plan is intended to be used by regional states as a blueprint to formulate their own programs to lower carbon emissions into the atmosphere by 50pc.
“It will be the principal policy document in coordinating strategic interventions and directing sector-wide investments for the next 10 years,” said Tefera Mengistu (PhD), coordinator at the Ministry’s Forest Sector Development Program.
To attain the goals of the national forestry plan, roughly 15 billion dollars in investment are needed, and the plan is to target and leverage growing global interest to reduce deforestation and improve the management of existing forest resources.
The United Nations Development Programme, and the governments of Norway and Sweden have already pledged 10.5 million dollars and 6.5 million dollars, respectively.
“The local demand for forest products has increased over the past years,” Tefera said, explaining the need for the new master plan. “Besides, the global phenomenon of climate change needs to be addressed strategically.”
The plan replaces the Ethiopian Forestry Action Program, which has been in place since 1994.
“As Ethiopia continues to experience rapid economic growth, the demand for timber, non-timber forest products and environmental services increases, making the role forestry plays in the economy more important and relevant,” said Ababu Anage, national climate change specialist at the UN agency.
Currently, Ethiopia has 180,000ha of land under forest cover, and the government plans to increase this figure by five percent by the end of 2020. To attain its current demand for timber, Ethiopia has to develop about 310,000ha of new commercial forest plantation.
“We have to create well-managed commercial forests,” argues Tefera. “To attain this, we need to invite the private sector to engage in the forest industry.”
To reach this target, the master plan envisages the establishment of new commercial plantations, tree planting in the form of small-scale woodlots, afforestation, reforestation and forest landscape restoration.
The plan is also aligned with the Climate-Resilient Green Economy strategy, according to Ababu.
“Protecting and re-establishing forests for their economic and ecosystem services is one of its main stakes,” he said.
The project aims to double the contribution of the industry to the country’s gross domestic product by 2020, which currently stands at four percent.
“Forestry is a missed opportunity in Ethiopia,” said Mulugeta Limenih (PhD), an expert on forestry with over a decade experience, at a press conference organised by the Ethiopian Forestry Society. “There is very little public investment in forest development, and private players are not attracted to it.”
Ethiopia needs to have a long-term strategy and a robust institutional environment, he added.
Ethiopia’s natural forests and woodlands hold various commercially essential forest products, according to the report.
Ethiopia’s forests generated economic benefits in the form of cash and in-kind income equivalent to 16.7 billion dollars in 2012. Over the past decade, Ethiopia imported over 1.1 billion dollars worth of wood and wood products.