Review of Opportunities, Challenges and
Future Directions of Forestry Development
Melkie Achenef Abate*
Department of Forestry, Debre Tabor University, Ethiopia
Submission: August 08, 2020; Published: August 17, 2020
*Corresponding author: Melkie Achenef Abate, Faculty of Agriculture and Environmneta Sciences, Department of Forestry, Debre Tabor University, Ethiopia
How to cite this article: Melkie A A. Review of Opportunities, Challenges and Future Directions of Forestry Development and Conservation in Ethiopia.
Agri Res & Tech: Open Access J. 2020; 24(5): 556286. DOI: 10.19080/ARTOAJ.2020.24.556286
This review paper basically focused on two main themes: firstly, to identify potential opportunities of forestry development and conservation in Ethiopia, secondly to identify major challenges and suggests future directions for better forestry development and conservation practice Ethiopia. Ethiopia hosts one of the richest flora resources in tropical Africa. Forest contributes to the livelihoods of millions of people in Ethiopia through provision of a great variety of timber and non-timber forest products. Moreover, it is a source of biodiversity with wide ecological values mainly as a major carbon sink regulating climate change, control erosion, maintain soil fertility, and reduce risk of natural disasters like flood and land slide. Despite the facts that forests, and trees have immeasurable values to human kind and to the environments where human beings are living, the rich forest biological resource and area coverage are highly depleting through time. Deforestation and forest degradation, overgrazing, an ever-increasing demand for forest products, forest fire and conversion of forest to farmland, etc are becoming the main challenges threating forest development and conservation efforts in Ethiopia. These challenges in turn results in other serious ecological consequences like loss of biodiversity, soil erosion, loss of soil fertility, food insecurity and poverty. This leads to instability of ecosystem and reduced availability of various forest products and services. In other words, these challenges make the agriculture sector more challenging since the agricultural sector, which forms the backbone of the economy, is primarily dependent on forest resources. However, to overcome these challenges, and improve the forest cover in Ethiopia, there are several potential opportunities including the existence of forest policy and strategies, afforestation and reforestation programs, best enclosure practices, agroforestry practices, the presence of large land size and diversified ago-ecology as well as potentially available indigenous and exotic tree species. Therefore, efforts should be made to address the existing challenges and apply those potentials opportunities entirely so as to develop and conserve the forest resources sustainably in Ethiopia.
The term “forest” has many definitions in different part of the world. The definition of forest is still ambiguous . However, when one contemplates about “the definition of forest”, there is one definition viewed as more official and universal, to which many national governments, institutions and other bodies and organizations adhere. This is the definition of forest developed by FAO, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. The definition of forest should take in to account a range of important country specific value among which minimum area, crown cover and tree height are the commonest one. According to FAO  forest is a minimum land area of 0.05-1 ha with tree crown cover more than 10-30% and tree height of 2-5m at maturity. FAO  defined forest as “Land spanning more than 0.5 hectares with trees higher than 5 meters height and a canopy cover of more than 10 percent, or trees able to reach these thresholds in situ”.
It does not include land that is predominantly under agricultural or urban land use. According to FAO  young natural stands and all plantations established for forestry purposes which have yet to reach a crown density of 10 percent or tree height of 5m are included under forest, as are areas normally forming part of the forest area which are temporarily un stocked as a result of human intervention or natural causes but which are expected to revert to forest. Forests are determined both by the presence of trees and the absence of other predominant land uses. The trees should be able to reach a minimum height of 5 m. In Ethiopia, forest is defined as land occupied with trees (natural and planted, including bamboo) attaining a height of more than 2 meters at maturity, canopy cover of more than 20% and covering an area of more than 0.5 ha, with a minimum width of 20 meters. Therefore, forest includes natural forests and forest plantations. The term includes forests used for purposes of production, protection, multiple-use or conservation (i.e. forest in national parks, nature reserves and other protected areas), as well as forest stands on agricultural lands (e.g.
windbreaks and shelterbelts of trees with a width of more than
20 m), and rubber wood plantations and cork oak stands. The
term specifically excludes trees planted in agroforestry systems
as well as stands of trees established primarily for agricultural
production, for example fruit tree plantations. Forestry is the
science of establishing, cultivating, and managing forests and
their attendant resources . According to the SAF net dictionary,
forestry is defined as “the science, art, and practice of creating,
managing, using, and conserving forests and associated resources
for human benefit and managing in a sustainable manner to meet
desired goals, needs, and values” . The science of forestry is
practiced in plantations and natural forest stands. Generally, the
modern concept of forestry embraces a broad range of concerns,
in what is termed as multiple-use management including the
provision of timber, fuel wood, wildlife habitat, natural water
quality management, recreation, landscape and community
protection, employment, aesthetically good-looking landscapes,
biodiversity management, watershed management, erosion
control, and preserving forests as “sinks” for atmospheric carbon
dioxide. A practitioner of forestry is known as a forester.
The overall objective of this review paper is to compile
information on forest resources of Ethiopia, with particular
a. To review the contribution of forest development to food
security and poverty alleviation in Ethiopia.
b. To review the potential opportunities of forestry
development and conservation in Ethiopia.
c. To review the challenges encountered towards forestry
development and conservation in Ethiopia and thereby to indicate
future direction for promoting sustainable forestry development
The Contribution of Forest Development to Food Security and
Poverty Alleviation in Ethiopia
Peoples in mountainous areas rely heavily on forest resources
for their livelihood and welfare . With more than 90 million
inhabitants) , living in rural areas Ethiopia is primarily an
agrarian country. In Ethiopia, many rural communities have for
centuries lived in and around vegetation areas and they make use
of timber and non-timber forest products in their livelihoods .
Forest provides people with food, shelter, oxygen, recreation and
timber and non-timber forest products. They are the source for
more than 5,000 commercially-traded products .The main
contributions of forest development is that it provide various
types of forest products that can make to the livelihoods of the
rural poor though increasing incomes, improving food security,
reducing vulnerability and enhancing well-being . Forestry
can play significant contribution in local and national economic
development in an agrarian society like Ethiopia . In fact, the
contribution of forestry to Ethiopia GDP has been very low as a
proportion of the whole economy and in relation to agriculture.
According to CSA , the mean contribution of the forestry
sector to the national GDP over the last ten years (2002-2011)
was 4.5%. Its contribution to the GDP has been gradually declining
from 6.3% in 2002 to 3% in 2011. However, a separate estimate
of the contribution of the forestry sector to the national GDP puts
it at 9% . The economic contributions of forest products and
services are underestimated in the national economic accounts of
the country . Partially this is due to the data gap on the actual
quantities and values of timber underestimation in the national
accounts statistics. On the top of this, other indirect contributions
of Non-timber products such as bamboo, wood fuel, construction
wood, gums and incenses, thatch grass, wild coffee and medicinal
plants, etc might have not been accounted properly. Furthermore,
the contribution of forestry’s to employment generation in
Ethiopia is undocumented. The forestry sector can also provide
quite a large employment opportunity, formal and informal,
as well as environmental protection services that support
other economic sectors, such as the agriculture, construction,
tourism and energy sectors, to operate in a sustainable manner.
Most forestry operations are undertaken in rural Ethiopia and
a large number of laborers are required for forest nursery
operations, afforestation, reforestation and for the construction
and maintenance of roads. This is a major source of income for
the rural people. People also profit from forestry employment
through firewood, charcoal collection and sales, incense and
gum collection . Fuel wood production is by far the largest
employment generator accounting for nearly 50% of the total
forestry employment, followed by afforestation contributing
for about 34%. Forest industry employment amounted to about
2.2 % of the total work force in the country and contributed 2.8
% to employment in the agricultural sector in 1988/1989 .
Local communities especially the youth are being benefited
from production and sale of seedlings of certain forest species.
In different regions of the country, many small holder farmers,
youth, women and other private seed dealers/nursery operators
are engaged forest germplasms business.
Studies conducted in many parts of Ethiopia indicates that
forests have contributed about 27 % of total household annual
income in part of Tigray, 39 % in central Shewa, 34 % in Bale area
(Table 1). These studies demonstrated that contribution of forests
to the day to day lives of rural people in Ethiopia is valuable and
significant. Their role in food security and poverty reduction is
increasingly recognized in some part of Ethiopia. According to
the study of Mamo et al., , forest income was more important
than all other income sources combined for the poorest 40%
of households and contributed more income than agriculture
for 65% of the surveyed households. This forest income also
reduced income inequality by 21%, thus, has an important income
equalizing effect among rural households. Similar roles of forests
in poverty reduction have been reported from wider geographical
regions across the country such as southwest, eastern parts and
In Ethiopia the contribution of forests to local livelihoods
and the national economy as a whole is significant but is
largely unrecorded and hence unrecognized . Forest play
indispensable role in the conservation of an environment which
in turn facilitates sustainable development. Forest resources of
Ethiopia can serve for economic, ecological and social purposes.
Their biodiversity plays a vital and diverse role to ensure food
security, and sustainable livelihoods for millions of households
throughout Ethiopia. Ecosystem services provided by the forest
biodiversity include provisioning, regulating, supporting and
In Ethiopia, there are several potential opportunities
for better forestry development and conservation practice.
These opportunities includes: Existence of forest policies and
legislations (the development and promotion of CRGE; watershed
protection; increasing demand for organic forest products;
involvement of NGOs and donor support for in situ conservation of
biodiversity), the presence of large land size and diversified types
of agroecology (extensive area for forest development (identified
and demarcated), best practice on area enclosure, afforestation/
reforestation program, the presence of potential plantation
species, agroforestry practices, payments for environmental
services such as carbon financing from REDD+; Participatory
forest management are some of them. In order to minimize various
forms of threats to vegetation cover, the country has been striving
for different conservation strategies like, watershed management,
afforestation, and reforestation, restoration, and rehabilitation
programs. These practices were found crucial to achieve better
vegetation cover and contribute to improve livelihoods of local
Over the last two decades, the Ethiopian government has
put in place a number of policies, strategies and laws that
are designed to support sustainable development . More
specifically, Ethiopia has policies and strategies that support the
development and utilization of forest resources in a sustainable
manner. The following list provides the policies, strategies and
legal instruments that are closely related to the forest genetic
resources conservation and sustainable utilization: National
forest policy, National Forestry Law (Act), National Environment
Law (Act) ; Forest Development, Conservation and Utilization
Policy (2007), Forest Development, Conservation and Utilization
Proclamation No 542/2007, Environment Policy of Ethiopia
(April 1997). The policies are reflected under various sectors
including environmental protection, development of the natural
resources and diversification of the domestic and export
commodities. Moreover, Ethiopia is signatory to a number of
multilateral agreements that have bearing on the sustainable
development efforts of the country. Some of the signed and/
or ratified international conventions and protocols includes:
The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change
(UNFCCC) (1994), The Convention on Biological Diversity (1994),
The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification in those
Countries Experiencing Serious Drought and/or Desertification,
particularly in Africa (known as the Desertification Convention
-adopted in 1994), The Cartagena Protocol on Bio-safety to the
Convention on Biological Diversity (known as the Bio-safety
Protocol – adopted in 2000) .The country also has developed
policy and a guide line for intellectual property rights protection
of traditional medicine. These policies encourage and promote the
appropriate use and protections of forest resources in Ethiopia
taking in to account its potential benefit to the communities and
the country at large. A wide variety of policy statements and
legislative and regulatory measures have been established to
protect forests in the country but need to be effectively enforced.
The Government of Ethiopia launched a Climate Resilient and
Green Economy Strategy (CRGE Strategy) in 2011 with the goal
of achieving middle-income status for the country by 2025 while
following a carbon-neutral growth path . The CRGE strategy
focuses on four pillars that will support Ethiopia’s developing
green economy. Among them, increased GHG sequestration in forestry, i.e., protecting and re-establishing forests for their
economic and ecosystem services including carbon stocks is the
one (REDD+ implementation) . Furthermore, some regional
governments made efforts to make forestry as a viable economic
sector. For instance, the Oromia regional state and the Amhara
regional state have established forest enterprises in 2007 and
2011 respectively. Besides, two UNESCO Biosphere Reserves
have been established in 2010: the Yayu Coffee Forest Biosphere
Reserve in Oromia)  and the Kafa Biopshere Reserve in SNNP
regional state . These biosphere reserves represent the
montane forest areas in southwestern Ethiopia. In addition, Sheka
(2012), Lake Tana (2015) and Majang (2017) are others recently
established biosphere reserves . Therefore, all these efforts
will contribute significantly in satisfying the demand for forest
products, protecting and conserving forest genetic resources
in general and forest resources in particular, and reducing soil
erosion and protecting soil fertility thereby increasing agricultural
production as well as sustainable development in the country.
Ethiopia is located in the horn of Africa between 3º and 15º N
latitude, 33º and 48º E longitude  and covers approximately
1.12 million km² (472,000 square miles) land surface area with
variety of climate, topography and vegetation supports high
endemic flora and fauna of the country that enables to attracts
regional and global tourists . In land area it is the ninth largest
country in Africa. Ethiopia is a country with different landscapes
and one of the countries with the widest cultural diversities in
eastern Africa . The country has a diverse ecological altitude
ranging from the desert of the Dankil Depression (the lowest dry
land points on earth at 116 m below sea level) to Ras Dashen
Mountain (the second peak and roof of Africa) at 4543 m above
sea level . These diversified topographic features made the
country to be covered by the richest forest cover in tropical Africa
. Moreover, Ethiopia is a tropical country with varied macro
and micro-climatic conditions . The influence of high altitudes
modifies mean temperatures and leads to a more moderate
Mediterranean type climate in the highlands. The country is
broadly divided into three major climatic zones: Cool highlands
(> 2300 masl); temperate highlands (1500-2300 masl) and hot
lowlands (<1500 masl) The rainfall distribution is seasonal and
governed by the inter-annual oscillation of the surface position
of the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) that passes over
Ethiopia twice in a year . Mean annual rainfall patterns range
from below 200 mm to above 2800 mm. with the South western
region receiving the heaviest annual rainfall that goes above 2800
mm in some areas. The central and northern central regions
receive moderate rainfall that declines towards northeast and
eastern Ethiopia. The southeastern and northern regions receive
an annual rainfall of about 700 mm and 500 mm, respectively.
diversified topography, geology, terrain and variation in climatic
conditions make the country an important center of diversity
and endemism . Ethiopia holds one of the largest and most
diverse plant genetic and wildlife resources in the world owing
to the extreme diversities in climate, terrain, soil, topography etc.
and comprising most ecological systems. Due to its large land size
and diverse topography and agro-ecological zones, the country is
comprised of various natural and man-made vegetation types that
fulfill the definition of forest. The richness and endemicity of the
floral biodiversity have been reported by many researchers .
Mainly due to Ethiopia’s diverse forest ecosystems, the country
is one of the top 25 biodiversity-rich countries in the world 
and hosts two of the world’s 34 biodiversity hotspots, namely
the Eastern Afromontane and the Horn of Africa hotspots . A
significant amount of forest resources with high biodiversity and
tourism importance are designated as protected areas. It is also
among the countries in the Horn of Africa viewed as major center
of diversity and endemism for several plant species. According to
EARO  the flora of Ethiopia comprises about 6500-7000 species
of higher plants out of which 12% are endemic. Another author
also estimated to possess about 6000 species of higher plants, of
which about 10% are considered endemic [40,41]. Woody plants
constitute about 1100 species , out of these more than 300
are trees. Historical sources indicate that, on the basis of potential
climatic climax, high forests might once have covered some 35%
of Ethiopia’s land area. If the savanna woodland is included, twothirds
of the country was probably forest or woodland. Currently,
about 12 major natural vegetation types have been identified in
the country .
The idea of area enclosure involves a protection system
and exclusion of the degrading agents to allow the lands to
restore itself through natural self-repairing process. Thus, area
enclosures can be defined as degraded lands that have been
excluded from human and livestock interference for rehabilitation
[43,44]. Among the various rehabilitation techniques used, the
predominant is probably area enclosure . Degraded lands
that almost lost their production potentials are set aside for
nature-based rehabilitation. These areas, if properly managed and
rehabilitated through enclosure system, allow native vegetation
to regenerate . Different studies revealed that establishing
enclosures has emerged as a promising practice in different parts
of Ethiopia. There is strong argument that Tigray region has
become greener in the last few decades through area closure, soil
and water conservation and tree planting activities. Successful
rehabilitation and restoration activities have been also conducted
in Amhara, SNNP and Oromia regions. Ecological restoration of
degraded habitats is regarded as an effective response to check
and reverse the negative effects of habitat loss, degradation,
and fragmentation on native biological diversity and ecological
processes . Restoration of degraded lands reduces the loss
of biodiversity. Biodiversity, which plays a critical role in overall
sustainable development and poverty eradication, is essential to
the human well-being and to the livelihood and cultural integrity of people. Among the various way of overcoming environmental
degradation, loss of biodiversity and deforestation problems in
Ethiopia, enclosure is the most crucial and determinant measure
. This practice has also become very common and an important
strategy for the rehabilitation of degraded areas, especially in the
highlands, due to the remarkable improvement of productivity
and reduction in soil erosion . Studies in different part of
Ethiopia indicate the presence of higher species richness of woody
plants in enclosures than adjacent open areas. At Biyo-kelala,
about 58 woody species were recorded inside enclosed areas as
compared to only 25 recorded in an adjacent open area; at Tiya
31 species are recorded in the enclosure compared to 15 species
in the open area (Table 2). Similar roles of enclosure practices
have been reported from wider geographical regions in Ethiopia.
This indicates that enclosures can play a paramount role for the
recovery of native woody species and can change the vegetation
coverage of degraded areas in a relatively short period of time. In
general the higher species richness, density and diversity value in
the enclosures rather than in the open area, indicate the potential
of enclosures for the recovery of woody species within a short
period time of protection [50,51].
Since the 1970s, Ethiopia has been implementing large
scale plantation programs aimed at meeting the ever-increasing
demand for industrial wood and other forest products. Moreover,
Ethiopian farmers in the different agro ecological zones has been
planted and continued to plant different tree/shrub species for
various purposes such as fuel wood, transmission poles for income
generation, construction material and for their own use . As
a result, fast growing exotic species were introduced mainly for
plantation development and as a means for restoring the longlasting
deforestation of natural forests of the country . There
are huge gaps between the demand and supply of wood in Ethiopia
as a result of ever-increasing human population, accelerating
deforestation. In order to feel the present gap of demand for fuel
wood and construction materials, plantation forest development
is the only way to overcome deforestation and secure sustainable
utilization . In Ethiopia, there are a number of potential
indigenous and exotic tree species and seed inputs that are
suitable for the different agro-ecological zones. These species can
satisfy the ever-increasing demands of forest and forest related
products in the country. Ethiopia has one of the longest forest
plantation histories in Africa. Forest plantations in Ethiopia are
mainly monocultures of exotic species, such as Eucalyptus globulus,
Eucalyptus camaldulensis, Eucalyptus citrodera, Eucalyptus saligna,
Eucalyptus tereticornis, Eucalyptus grandis, Cupressus lusitanica,
Casuarina cunninghamiana, Pinus patula, Pinus radiata, etc and the
native species Juniperus procera. According to  excluding small
scale tree plantations by local people, planted forests in Ethiopia
are estimated to cover around 230,000 ha. These plantations are
mainly composed of the two exotic species such as Eucalyptus
species (59.3% of industrially planted area) and Cupressus
lusitanica (20.6%), followed by the indigenous Juniperus procera
(5.7%). However, according to other source WBISPP 
Eucalyptus species (58%) and Cupressus (29%) are dominant
plantation species in Ethiopia. Other species include Juniperus
procera (4%), Pinus species 2% and others 7 %. According to the
same source today, tree plantation covers approximately 500,000
ha; out of which 133,041 ha were established as community
plantation between 1978 and 1989. Among the exotic tree species
Eucalyptus is more dominant. There are about different available
species of Eucalyptus in Ethiopia, most of which are widely spread
in many regions of the country, mainly in central highlands where
there are higher population density. Planting Eucalyptus has been
expanding from state owned forestry enterprises and projects to
community woodlots, household and farm field boundaries .
Eucalyptus globulus dominates the Ethiopian afforestation and
reforestation programs connected with ever increasing demand
for construction, fuel wood and industrial wood production
purposes. Nowadays, Eucalyptus plots and stands are seen all over
of the Ethiopian highlands covering the range of highly sloppy
and degraded areas. Eucalyptus tree should not be considered
as ecologically hazardous species against other plants as far as
proper site selection and management strategies are put in place
Some research findings revealed that an increase in forest
cover in Eucalyptus growing areas that could contribute for a slow
but increasing forest covers . Therefore, the use of fast-growing
plantation species such as the Eucalyptus is foreseeable as they are preferred to other species, because of their fast growth and useful
products . Many exotic species like Eucalyptus species have
been introduced in Ethiopia for satisfying the growing demand of
wood for fuel, construction material and to reduce the pressure on
the remaining natural vegetation .
There is a growing recognition that deforestation and forest
degradation should be reduced. In response to deforestation
and ever-increasing demands for forest products afforestation/
reforestation program began in Ethiopia over a century ago. During
the PASDP implementation (2004/05-2009/10) alone, the forest
cover of the country increased from 4.1 million ha (3.56%) to 8.8
million ha (6.0865) of the total area . The Climate Resilience
Green Economy strategy in Ethiopia focuses on four pillars that
will support Ethiopia’s developing green economy . Among
these, the Government of Ethiopia identified the forestry sector
as one of the pillars of the green economy. This pillar basically
focused on increased GHG sequestration in forestry, i.e., protecting
and re-establishing forests for their economic and ecosystem
services including carbon stocks. According to  in Mulugeta
and Habtemariam  the government also set the following
major targets for the forestry sector: afforestation on 2 million
ha, reforestation on 1 million ha and improved management of
3 million ha of natural forests and woodlands. Through proper
management of 5 million ha of forests and woodlands, Ethiopia
hopes to achieve 50% of its total domestic greenhouse gas (GHG)
emissions abatement potential by 2030. Ethiopia since 2007
undertakes massive tree-planting campaigns in different regions
of the country. Most of the tree planting campaign was made
in connection with the celebration of its unique Millennium in
2008. According  in Ethiopia, the four regions i.e. Oromia,
SNNP, Amhara and Tigray claims planting in total close to 2.21
billion seedlings in 2009. The four regions had planned to plant
over 7 billion seedlings in 2010 . Recently, Greening Ethiopia
Initiative plants 200 million seedlings on a single day, the nationwide
reforestation program, also popularly known as green legacy,
is aimed at recovering the trees and forests that have been lost
over the years . On the other hand, afforestation/reforestation
activities through small-scale plantations are re-greening
practices initiated and run by farmers themselves. Small-scale
plantations mainly on degraded lands have become important
particularly since the mid-1990s, while industrial plantations are
still project-based state initiatives. The government continues to
encourage industrial and peri-urban plantations to meet national
industrial, construction and fuel wood demands. Small-scale
plantations have expanded, especially since the 1970s when the
number of farming households planting trees began increasing
significantly . A limited number of species from four genera
(Eucalyptus, Cuppressus, Pinus and Acacia) account for the majority
of plantation forests in Ethiopia. Eucalyptus, in particular, covers
more than 90% of the total planted forest area in Ethiopia .
Typical biological attributes that attract farmers to Eucalyptus
include fast growth, coppicing ability, ease of management (such
as non-palatability to cattle), established market demand for its
wood, its ability to grow well even on degraded landscapes and
its better growth performance than most indigenous tree species
Agroforestry is not a new concept in Ethiopia. It is an age-old
practice whereby farmers maintain trees in croplands . The
most common agroforestry practices in Ethiopia includes home
gardens, parkland agroforestry (scattered trees on the farm land),
hedgerow intercropping, woodlots, farm boundary practices,
trees on grazing lands, riparian zone vegetation, enclosures and
natural regeneration of species in woodlands and pasture, live
fence and road side plantation, etc . A common characteristic
feature of all forms of agroforestry is that a tree component is
deliberately grown or retained in an agricultural setting .
Population pressure, environmental degradation, particularly loss
of biodiversity, calls urgently for conservation, or planting of the
right tree species at the right place for the appropriate purpose
, along with management of remnant tree resources in the form
of on-farm trees, other forms of agroforestry trees in rangelands
and the like . Agroforestry practices have evolved overtime
in the world, capturing a lot of international attention as a viable
alternative to many traditional land use systems . In these
traditional land-management practices, trees are deliberately
retained on or around farmland, to support agriculture and other
livelihood systems . There is enough evidence to indicate
that trees and shrubs, if managed properly, can make significant
contributions for maintaining biodiversity, improving fertility and
overall productivity of soils in agro-ecosystems . Despite the
overall diminish in the extents of biodiversity of the natural forests
in the highlands of Ethiopia; traditional tree managements in the
form of agroforestry have given refuges for a considerable number
of native woody species. It could be possible that these native
tree/shrub species are still preserved as farmland tree resources
and serve as major sources of biodiversity rehabilitation in the
future. Parkland agroforestry (scattered on-farm tree system)
is one of the most noticeable traditional practices across most
agro-ecosystems in the highlands of Ethiopia. In these systems,
farmers deliberately preserve several native tree/shrub species
for a variety of purposes such as protection of crops and workers
from the sun heat, for the supply of fodder, fuelwood or fruits and
to improve soil fertility. For instance, floristic study made in the
Sidama traditional agroforestry system showed the existence of
more than 80 native woody species on and/or near farmlands
. Other study conducted by Biruk  on the diverse
traditional agroforestry practices across different agro-ecological
zones of southern eastern Ethiopia, have hosted a large number of
indigenous (72 tree/shrub species) and exotic (16 trees/shrubs
species) woody species (Table 3).
As a form of reforestation, the human component is essential
for the successful functioning of agroforestry systems. The
majority of agroforestry in Ethiopia is carried out on agricultural
land. In this sense agroforestry would be in addition to other
reforestation efforts, greatly expanding the total area which could
potentially be put into trees. The findings of these different studies
certainly revealed that not only natural ecosystems but also human
managed ecosystems can be used for conservation and sustainable
utilization of biological diversity, especially floral diversity. In
fact, the different traditional agroforestry systems vary in their
potential to accommodate woody plant diversity (Table 3). Besides,
it can also provide benefits in the form of direct output like wood,
food, income and services watershed protection which enables
people to secure stable and adequate food supply. Agroforestry
permits the diversification of products and integration of trees
in farms and rangelands that sustain production for augmented
social, economic and environmental welfares , and thus play
a significant role in solving deforestation and land degradation
problems. The existing allocation of land to agriculture and
forestry play significant role to meet the demand for food, timber,
fuel, fodder, and other minor products .
Despite the potential opportunities, there are a number of
challenges in development and conservation of forest resources
in Ethiopia . According to Ensermu et al.,  and Edwards
 habitat and species are being lost rapidly as a result of the
combined effects of environmental degradation, agricultural
expansion, deforestation and over harvesting of species and this is
further enhanced by human and livestock population increase thus
hastening the overall rural livelihood impoverishment and loss
of the biological diversity in Ethiopia. The decline of vegetation
cover is one of the most serious challenges facing humankind
today . The forest resources in Ethiopia have been declining
from time to time both in size as well as quality. These problems
are challenging the forestry sub-sectors. Deforestation and forest
degradation, livestock and free grazing system, forest fire, an
increasing demand for wood and wood products, etc. appear to
be the major challenges to forest development and conservation
in Ethiopia that this review focused on it. Such challenges pose a
significant threat to the future wellbeing of the human and animal populations that have for generations, relied on these resources to
combat various ailments.
It is estimated that in Ethiopia, 40 percent of the land area was
covered with forests at the beginning of the 19th century .
Despite the rich biodiversity resources and the potential benefits
from biodiversity including forests, today’s threats to species
and ecosystems are the greatest recorded in recent history .
Ethiopia currently faces a number of environmental challenges.
The forest resources in Ethiopia are depleting due to deforestation
and forest degradation . One of the major challenges
facing Ethiopia in its struggle for agricultural development is
environmental degradation, which is the process of progressive
deterioration of biological (flora and fauna) and physical (soil,
water, micro-climate, etc.) resources of the land, as well as loss of
biodiversity . Deforestation is the conversion of forest to an
alternative permanent non-forested land use such as agriculture,
grazing or urban development . Deforestation is a primarily
concern for developing countries in the tropics as it is shrinking
areas of the tropical forests  causing loss of biodiversity
and enhancing the greenhouse effect . Deforestation and
conversion to permanent cultivation is the primary cause for
declining tropical biodiversity in Ethiopia and the practice has
already threatened a number of plant species, including the gene
pool of wild populations of Coffee arabica L. . The National
Conservation Strategy of the Federal Democratic Republic of
Ethiopia (FDRE) identifies deforestation as a major problem, not
only in the forest sector, but also as it affects other sectors such
as crops, animal husbandry, water resources, and wildlife habitat,
as a result of which people are suffering from poverty and food
insecurity. A significant deforestation rate (160,000 to 200,000 ha
yr-1) in the country has resulted in shrinkage of high-forest cover
from 16% in the 1950s to 2.7% in the early 1990s . According
to FAO , Ethiopia lost over two million hectares of forest, with
an annual average loss of 140 000 hectares between 1990 and
Different studies show that land and forest degradation, often
caused by deforestation, is a severe problem in Ethiopia. This
degradation virtually are largely caused by directly or indirectly
from human activities and mismanagement , aggravated by
rapid population growth and the consequent increase in the need
to exploit the natural resources unsustainably . The forest
degradation in Ethiopia is closely linked to the ongoing population
growth. Biodiversity in Ethiopia is being negatively impacted by
human activities . It is estimated that 83% of endangered
plant species loss is primary caused by human activities .
More people generally lead to an increasing demand on land
for living and for agricultural production. Forests have become
depleted at a large scale as a result of expansion of agriculture and
settlement areas . Population growth in highlands exerts great
pressure on the natural forests. As a result, northwestern highlands
of Ethiopia have only fragments of natural forests scattered &
confined to inaccessible and sacred places , which suggested
that the highlands were once covered by high forests. With more
than 90 million inhabitants, Ethiopia is the most populous nation
in Eastern Africa and the second most populous country in all
Africa after Nigeria  with 93% of the population living in
rural areas and are mainly engaged in agriculture dependent on
smallholder agriculture including livestock production as main
economic activity. Only about 17% of Ethiopians live in urban
centers and nearly half of these live in the capital, Addis Ababa.
In Ethiopia, the majority of the tree plantings operations are not
successful either due to technical and other constraints. Declining
standard of livelihood or poverty of the farming communities and
their close dependence on forests have led to clearing/burning of
the forest resources for subsistent farming, cutting of trees/shrubs
for fuel wood and charcoal production (both for consumption and
sale). Similarly, increasing demand and rise in market value of
forest products such as office and household furniture resulted
in selective harvesting pressure on some forest trees particularly
indigenous species such as Cordia africana and Hagenia abyssinica.
Therefore, the impacts of human activities on forests have been
significant, with average annual deforestation rates estimated at
85,000 ha per year . The forest resources of Ethiopia’s are
increasingly under threat as the growing population requires
more fuelwood and agricultural products, which leads to farmland
expansion. Road, energy and water infrastructure construction
is also accelerating deforestation and forest degradation in
Ethiopia. Projections indicate that unless action is taken to change
the traditional development path, an area of 9 million ha might
be deforested between 2010 and 2030 . Forests in general
have reduced from covering 65% of the country and 90% of the
highlands to 2.2% and 5.6% respectively . Deforestation is
major problem in Ethiopia as the people rely on biomass energy
for cooking. However, large scale forest destruction at the national
level is not the only change, rather major land cover changes have
also occurred at the local level . These local level changes
play a pivotal role in affecting the health and existence of forest
Deforestation takes place in both forests and farm woodlands
and is recognized as the most severe environmental problem
in Ethiopia . Human interference, mainly for subsistence
and economic reasons, is the most chronic force for the fast
depletion and serious degradation of the forest resources in
Ethiopia. Forest devastation in turn has brought adverse effects
on land productivity, availability of wood products, biodiversity
resources, and the tourism industry of the country . The
problems are causing bio-physical land resource degradation
and hence hampering agricultural development in the country
. The problems of land degradation and low agricultural
productivity in Ethiopia, resulting in food insecurity and rural poverty, are particularly severe in the central highlands where
the average soil loss from farmland was estimated to be 100 tons
ha-1yr-1 [43,106]. Moreover, deforestation coupled with improper
crop production practice on the mountainous topography that
dominates the highlands of Ethiopia is considered to be the root
cause of the excessive soil erosion in the country . In general,
reduction in forest cover has number of consequences including
soil erosion and reduced capacity for watershed protection with
possible flooding, reduced capacity and loss of biodiversity .
This leads to instability of ecosystem and reduced availability of
various forest products and services  as well as threat and
decline in number and distribution of many plant species .
Agriculture is the foundation and dominant sector of
Ethiopian economy accounting for 52% of the GDP , over
80% of the total export revenue, supplies around 73% of raw
materials requirements of agro-based domestic industries 
and employs about 85% of the labor force . Livestock is
the integral component of the agriculture on which 83% of the
population depends . Ethiopia has the largest livestock
population in Africa with 52.1 million heads of cattle, 24.2 million
sheep, 22.6 million goats and 44.9 million poultry [117,118]). In
developing countries like Ethiopia, livestock play an important
role in most small-scale farming systems. Majority of the rural
people keep livestock as a means of livelihood or to use livestock as
inputs for various activities. They provide draft power to cultivate
fields, manure to maintain crop productivity, and nutritious
food products for human consumption and income-generation
including insurance against risks ). However there are many
constraints in livestock production in Ethiopia. Among constraints
of livestock production, inadequate livestock nutrition is a major
factor affecting the development of viable livestock industries
. Livestock production in the tropics (including Ethiopia)
is mainly sustained on free grazing as a major feed source .
75% livestock population is concentrated and grazes in the
highlands. The remaining 25% graze in the rangelands. Livestock
feed sources in Ethiopia, ruminants and equines are mainly (80-
85%) natural grazing. Animal husbandry is largely constrained by
feed quality and availability due to an imbalance between animal
population and pasture size and productivity. The availability
of browse to animals, especially in the dry seasons is essential
when grass and herbaceous legume forages are scarce .
In Ethiopia, livestock density and unfettered grazing patterns
lead to overgrazing. Since animal yield is low due to genetic and
managerial problems the natural reaction of farmers has been
to increase their herds. Overstocking and overgrazing associated
with poor livestock management, mainly based on the free grazing
system causes biological and physical resource degradation.
Overgrazing is believed to be the most important cause of soil
degradation worldwide , sharing about 35.8% of all forms
of land degradation. This showed that heavy grazing pressure
significantly increased surface runoff and soil loss and reduced
infiltration capacity of the soil which in turn undermines suitability
of sites for germination . The natural regeneration of the
forest resources is difficult due to high populations of grazing and
browsing livestock within the forests . Livestock can compact
soil, exacerbate erosion, consume and trample tree seeds, seedlings
and browse saplings, and thereby preventing forest regeneration.
Though the magnitude of the reduction depends on the tree
species involved , livestock grazing affecting regeneration of
tree species  and healthy population forest structure .
The free grazing system has a negative effect on the conservation
efforts, as trampling animals often damage planted seedlings in
open fields as well as physical conservation structures such as
stone terraces and soil bunds. According to Alemayehu 
forests grazing clearly had a strong negative effect on germination,
seedling survival and growth of seedlings although species effects
are different to some extent. The lack of regeneration for a number
of tree species can be related to the negative grazing impact .
Therefore, to achieve indigenous tree species regeneration in
natural forests and plantation establishment efforts controlling
livestock pressure is mandatory.
Fires are a major tool used in clearing the forest for shifting
and permanent agriculture and for developing pastures. Fire has
been a constant companion of humans; we have used it to our
own benefit and been threatened by it . This means that
fire used responsibly can be a valuable tool in agricultural and
forest management but if abused it can be a significant cause of
deforestation. Forest fires have varied causes, but the majority
is due to human influences, while few are due to natural causes
such as lightening. The traditional practice of using fire as a means
to prepare land for agriculture and the enormous demographic
growth intensify the impact of forest fires. In the highlands of
Ethiopia, where there is rapid population growth, fires are used
as the major tool to clear forest land and convert it to agricultural
use. Smoking out wild bees in order to gather honey is also another
cause of forest fires. Both wild and deliberate fire are frequent in
some parts of the country (e.g. North Gondar, Bale, Benishangul
Gumuz Regional State) and are causing serious damages on forest
genetic resources . More than 90% of forest fire is caused by
human activity. As FRA  indicates, over 16,000 ha of forest
area was affected by fire in Oromia Regional State alone. On the
other hand, cigarette-caused fires mostly occur in areas where
there is a large amount of traffic on roadsides, particularly along
main trucking routes or in forest areas that must be crossed on the
way to major town markets. Ethiopia is still not prepared and does
not give adequate attention to efficiently protect its natural forest
resources . Many other fires have been caused by negligence
and carelessness of those people who permit agricultural burns
to get out of hand or where control burns in forests have escaped
from the burn area. Fire is a major hazard to a natural forest stands
especially during the dry season. When forest’s litter (dead leaves
and small branches on the ground) and dead stems and other grasses are flammable, hence the forest becomes susceptible to
fire. It is known that Ethiopian farmers have been using fire as a
means of production or as a farming tool for a long time. Every
year, just before the short rainy season, when farmers start
preparing their land, it is common to see deliberately set fires.
Most of the fires are attended, managed and controlled by the
community members who set it. There are also fires set recklessly
or accidentally. Despite inherent potential risks with fires, farmers
consider it as the cheapest and most common tool used for a
variety of production activities. However, there have been times
when fires have broken out on a large scale and brought about
serious economic, political, social and environmental shocks
and devastation. Historical evidence indicates that high forests
of Ethiopia remain victims of war, conflict and forest fires. Yodit/
Gudit (849-897 A.C.) ordered her army and the local people to
set fire to forests stretching from Tigray to Gonder and Wello in
suspected hiding grounds for the soldiers of Emperor Dilnaad.
Similarly, Gragn Mohamed (1527-1542 A.C.) ordered his troops to
clear and burn all the forests stretching from the eastern lowlands
to the central highlands to make access to battlefields easier and
to destroy strategic hiding grounds of the soldiers of Emperor
Libne Dingil and clergies . Prior to the forest fires in 2000,
the last major outbreak was in 1984 when the fires damaged
approximately 308,200 ha of forests .
In 2012, the Ethiopian economy is estimated to be the
third fastest growing economy in the world and the first fastest
growing economy in Africa . The country has registered such
encouraging economic performances through formulation of
policies and implementation of programs and putting in place
appropriate institutional arrangements. Demand for wood product
is growing fast in Ethiopia mainly due to population and economic
growth. The construction sector boom, growth in urbanization
and urban population, and growing middle class is driving rapid
growth in demand for wood and other forest products .
Biomass is the major source of energy  accounting 97 % of total
domestic energy consumption in Ethiopia, out of which woody
biomass covers 78% . According to FDRE  the demand
for industrial wood will increase significantly. Large sized logs
will be in short supply and there will be a shift to softwood logs.
However, supplies of wood products are decreasing significantly
. The declined and continues decline in domestic supply of
wood products is due to deforestation and low level of investment
in plantation forests. Unsustainable harvest from natural forests
and woodlands has reduced the supply of woody biomass, further
widening the gap between supply and demand . At national
level, there is huge gap between demand and domestic sustainably
produced supply of wood products . This has triggered
two economically unfavorable outcomes. First, it is driving
unsustainable extraction of wood from the natural forests, and
hence the degradation of forests and loss of biodiversity. Second,
this forces the country to depend heavily on imported wood
products for its wood-based industries. This in turn creates an
additional challenge for a country struggling to increase its foreign
currency earnings. For instance, in 2010/11 Ethiopian Fiscal Year
alone, the import bill for wood products reached Birr 1.8 Billion
or US$ 115 million . Other similar works also stated that in
2015 alone, Ethiopia imported 3.006 million m3 RWE of various
industrial wood products worth ca. USD 182.53 million, and the
trend of importation is increasing . In fact, it is more than
doubled between 2007 and 2015. On the other hand, as supplies of
wood and other products from natural forests decline, trees grown
outside forests on homesteads and communal lands become more
important . According to the same source, the projected
demand for wood fuel based on assumed per capita requirement
is on the increase and is expected to be over 202 million m3 in
2030. Trends indicate an overall increase in the demand for wood
fuel of about 3% a year. The potential of the forest resources to
supply fuelwood on a sustainable yield basis is very low and there
is an imbalance between required rural energy and the supply
capacity of the forest resources. The demand therefore, is fulfilled
through over exploitation of the woody vegetation. Unless actions
are taken rapidly, the situation will drive further degradation of
the natural forests and affect the foreign exchange reserves .
Reduce demand for fuelwood via the dissemination and usage of
fuel-efficient stoves and/or alternative-fuel cooking and baking
techniques (such as electric, LPG, or biogas stoves) leading to
reduced forest degradation .
Ethiopia is one of the centers of biodiversity in the world and
it relies on its diverse biological resources mainly on forests for its
national and local socio-economic development. However, these
resources are now under severe pressure and the socio-economic
contribution of the forestry sector is still lowest amount and not
as it is expected in the country. This can be attributed to the fact
that, with the focus being mainly on timber production, there is a
lack of data and information derived from the informal forestry
sector. This makes the contribution of the forestry sector to the
national and local economy has been undervalued. Indeed, it is
very difficult to get a reliable estimate on forest cover and forest
cover change in Ethiopia, due to limited and conflicting data
sources. In Ethiopia, there are a number of potential opportunities
and challenges in forest development and conservation efforts. To
increase the contribution of forestry sector for Ethiopian economy
and ensure the successful implementation of sustainable forest
management, appropriate understanding of the present forest
resource development challenges and proper implementation
of its opportunities are indispensable. Therefore, it needs
continuous commitment to reduce the different challenges and
use its potential opportunities so as to boost the socio-economic
and ecological contribution the forestry sector in the country.
The following future strategic directions are proposed for
overcoming the challenges and addressing the identified issues for the proper conservation and management of forest resources
of Ethiopia: (1) Establish forest information data base since there
are no reliable, consistent and comprehensive statistics about
forest. (2) Improving the effectiveness of policies, regulations
and agreements that are important for the development and
conservation of forest resources, (3) Rehabilitating and restoring
degraded ecosystems and promoting the recovery of threatened
species vis scaling up best area enclosure practices, agroforestry,
afforestation and reforestation programs (4) promoting forest
education and training for raising awareness of local communities
on the value of forest resources and ecological consequences of
deforestation (5) Sustainable protection and management of the
existing natural forests needed through the collaborative effort of
the government, NGO and the local community for reduction of
tree cutting and production of charcoal.
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