An inclusive approach to developing a national restoration strategy in Ethiopia

An inclusive approach to developing a national restoration strategy in Ethiopia

Ethiopia - 15 June, 2023
Koen KustersKoen Kusters

In Ethiopia, PENHA led the truly inclusive development of a national dryland restoration strategy that is widely supported across regions and government departments. This has inspired others to adopt a similar approach.

Ethiopia is 70% dryland, which is degraded and degrading, and which hosts the majority of the country’s 110 million people. A national dryland restoration strategy, endorsed by the Ministry of Agriculture, came into effect in December 2022. The strategy harmonizes restoration policies and practices across government departments and other stakeholders.

The Pastoral and Environmental Network in the Horn of Africa (PENHA), TBI’s partner in Ethiopia, facilitated the process leading up to the final strategy, in collaboration with CIFOR-ICRAF, and backed by the Ministry of Agriculture and Ethiopian Forestry Development (EFD), a federal institution. At the outset, community-level consultations were conducted across different regions with forest user groups, smallholders and pastoralists, women’s and youth groups, as well as the Abo Gereb (“fathers of the tree”), traditional leaders in the Tigray and Afar regions. PENHA also ensured the active participation and buy-in of relevant government agencies. In 2021–22, a series of workshops brought together national and regional government agencies, research institutions and NGOs to discuss the required elements and to reflect, review and revise the strategy. Dutch Embassy staff members contributed throughout the process.

The process involved around 50 participants from six regions. Task teams of 8 to 10 individuals were formed to work on four different themes: management, rights, markets, and institutional coordination. Three-day workshops allowed for in-depth discussions and informal exchanges. After each session, representatives returned to their home areas to gather feedback. After several months they reconvened to revise the strategy, based on input they had received. Through the back-and-forth between the national and regional levels, local perspectives were included, resulting in broad support throughout the country. The final strategy emphasizes the need to involve communities in restoration, including women, youth, and landless and marginalized people. It is a clean break from the government’s previous restriction of access to dry forests and pasture.

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These were highly turbulent years for Ethiopia, with Covid-19, locusts, drought, and a violent conflict in the Tigray Region. To those involved in the process, these crises brought about a spirit of unity. Participants shared a common objective, forging connections with each other through a sense of solidarity and trust. This was also crucial in the next stage, when regional governments started reviewing and adapting the strategy to their priorities and contexts. Those governments in Afar, Oromia and Somali regions have already approved revised strategies. Amhara, Tigray and Beninshangul-Gumuz regions will follow in 2023. Regional governments will then be responsible for implementation, and by following the strategy, they are well placed to receive federal funds. PENHA will help with pilot activities in selected landscapes, beginning in eastern Tigray and northwestern Afar.

EFD has adopted this approach in developing a new national strategy on humid forests, and is revising the National Forest Law to incorporate an emphasis on community rights and economic empowerment. Other organizations, including USAID, GIZ and Oxfam, have been inspired to pursue similar approaches in their dryland programmes. PENHA and CIFOR-ICRAF, with EFD, are now engaged in a consultation process to develop a national fire management system.

In Ethiopia, PENHA plays the role of “honest broker.” It facilitated an iterative process for the restoration strategy, actively involving local people and experts, with ample time to gather and review input, and without imposing its views. This truly inclusive approach provides a successful model for developing sustainable development policies and initiatives in other countries.

This article is part of the TBI Annual review 2022.