Reforestation brings hope to Ethiopia’s Bale Mount

Environment and climate changeNature-based Solutions

Notes to broadcasters

Despite the progress the Ethiopian government has made in the last four years halting deforestation by planting 100 million tree seedlings each year all over the country, aiming to plant 20 billion seedlings within a four-year period, there are still a number of challenges. Illegal logging, a serious problem across the country, is the biggest barrier. At least 22,000 hectares of forest are cut down each year, according to the Ethiopian Environmental Protection Authority, which results in flooding, biodiversity loss, soil erosion, and water pollution. It also leads to the loss of fertile soil from upland watersheds and the buildup of silt and sludge in irrigation systems and reservoirs.

The conversion of forests into agricultural land is another difficulty. Compared to 10 or 15 years ago, Bale Mountain eco-region, which was an example of what is termed the country’s cold climate/afro alpine forest ecosystem, is shifting towards warmer weather. Due to tree cutting, red foxes, one of the area’s flagship species that was previously not seen near people’s homes are now being forced to live in areas with few trees and have even started breeding with local dogs. Animals like lions and hyenas are migrating to the far corners of the mountains’ forests because changes in the eco-system’s weather have shifted their habitat. Also, due to soil erosion caused by deforestation, the production of maize and sorghum has decreased by at least 10 quintals (one tonne) per hectare.

Even though there is still much to be done, local farmers are using paraffin to cook their meals rather than relying only on trees. The government and other partners are also educating farmers about the negative effects of tree-cutting, including decreased agricultural yield, increased temperature, and increased animal migration from forested areas. Raising awareness reduces the number of trees that are cut down, which has some positive effects on forest management and protection.

This script is based on actual interviews. However, due to the ongoing unrest in Ethiopia, it was risky to conduct in-person interviews, and all interviews were conducted by phone. The first guest, a farmer, talks about how he safeguards trees in his neighbourhood and the challenges he encounters in doing so. Our second guest talks about the causes, consequences, and potential solutions for Bale Mount’s deforestation and forest degradation.

You might choose to produce this script on your station, using voice actors to represent the speakers. If so, please make sure to tell your audience at the beginning of the program that the voices are those of actors, not the original people involved in the interviews.

If you want to create your own programs on deforestation and reforestation and their relationship to environmental and community problems, talk to farmers and others who are implementing reforestation on the ground, as well as experts who are experienced in the details of how to successfully reforest areas, and experts who understand the environmental benefits of reforestation. You may wish to ask them questions like the following:

  • What local problems are your reforestation efforts designed to address?
  • What tree species at what spacing are you planting, and what is the purpose of each species?
  • What environmental benefits have been experienced from reforestation?
  • What community benefits have been experienced from reforestation?
  • What challenges have you encountered and how have you tried to address them? Have these efforts been successful?

Estimated duration with music, intro and extro, is 25 minutes.


Hello, dear listeners. We sincerely hope you had a great weekend. In today’s program, our guests and I will discuss the consequences of deforestation and forest degradation in Bale Mount, as well as some potential remedies.

Deforestation is one of the world’s most pressing environmental issues right now. It is the process by which wooded land loses its tree cover due to human activities such as illegal tree cutting and bush fires.

Globally, 10 million hectares of forest are lost each year, according to the UN. The growth of new forests is around five million hectares per year, making up for half of this loss.

According to government figures, forests make up 14.7% of Ethiopia’s land area, and woodlands and shrubland make up another 44.7%. Forests are defined as areas where tree cover is dense, while tree density is sparser in woodlands. But there are pressures in certain parts of the nation to decrease forest cover. The main pressures include shifting agriculture, expansion of agricultural land, illegal settlements, the search for fuel wood, illegal logging, mining, and pressures to convert forests and woodlands for residential and commercial use and other kinds of development.

Continued illegal tree cutting has impacted the country’s climate, water cycle, soil quality, and biodiversity, making it more vulnerable to extreme weather events. Promoting tree planting outside of forests and sustainable forest management techniques are a few steps that can be taken to limit the rate of deforestation.

One of the mountain ranges in Ethiopia where deforestation is a major issue is the Bale Mountains eco-region. The Bale Mountains are in southeast Ethiopia, in Oromia Region, and are part of the Ethiopian Highlands.

According to Global Forest Watch, Bale Zone had 439,000 hectares of tree cover in 2010, more than 8% of its area. In 2022, it lost 1,000 hectares of tree cover, which resulted in 532,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions.

We will be speaking with a farmer and an environmental expert from Goba, a town and woreda situated in the Bale Zone.

Haji Kemal, a prominent figure in Goba and a champion of the region’s forests, will be our first speaker. We will then speak with Awake Shitaye, environmental expert at the Federal Ethiopia Environmental Protection Authority. Finally, Muzyin Quanna, a specialist from the Oromia Environmental Protection Authority based in Bale, will be our final guest.


Could you explain what forests mean to you?

Haji Kemal:
As a farmer who has lived in the Bale Mount region for more than 53 years, starting from the time I was born, I am familiar with what it means to live in a forest. You see, trees not only provide us with clean air, but they also support our livelihood. I use the trees’ fallen branches and leaves as fuel to cook meals for my family. When there are trees around, there is less possibility of soil erosion. My eight children know that if we cut down the trees around us, soil erosion will cause us to lose our agricultural productivity. And if the grass does not have good soil to develop, our cattle cannot have grass and fodder to eat.

Do you believe the farmers in your area fully understand how important it is to preserve forests for both their agriculture and the environment?

Haji Kemal:
Though many people have a good understanding and a great deal of knowledge about trees and depends on them for their daily sustenance, they do not necessarily evaluate the impact of their actions when they cut trees. Rather, they are just focusing on their own survival. They say that the weather is getting warmer, that agricultural yields are falling, and that bee populations aren’t as large as they were ten years ago. They also say that the temperature is rising.

But they are unaware that the more trees they cut, the more they expose themselves to an uncomfortable environment, the more soil is degraded, and the more the soil loses its minerals, which lowers agricultural production. Farmers have fewer crops to offer on the market, giving them less money to address their daily needs.

How are you protecting the trees around you?

Haji Kemal:
It’s a difficult task. My family is well aware of the risks associated with tree cutting, and we are doing a wonderful job protecting the trees in my neighbourhood. However, the area around Bale Mountain is large—possibly 60 square kilometers—and many people should undertake similar efforts. I am aware that several families are preventing the cutting of trees. When I interact with farmers in my community and beyond in both formal and informal settings, I always advise them to protect the trees.

They are aware that the yield of agricultural products is lower than before, that bee populations are declining, that honey output is declining, and that they must go great distances with their cattle in search of fodder and water. I inform them that this is because of the removal of trees. Some people are learning from their mistakes, while others are continuously felling trees.

What challenges have you had so far in trying to persuade farmers not to clear trees?

Haji Kemal:
There are a lot of people with limited vision. Of course, they knock down trees for firewood, but if their sorghum, wheat, and maize production falls and they are unable to feed their families, who is to blame? Some farmers, in fun, say “Bring us food for a year and we will not cut trees,” but they don’t realize that not cutting trees will enhance their food supply.

The government and NGOs are making progress implementing participatory forest management in the Bale ecoregion, though there is much more to do. There have undoubtedly been changes in some people’s attitudes towards protecting and conserving trees, but more has to be done.

What reasons do farmers and others have for harvesting timber?

Haji Kemal:
They cut down trees for fuel—that is the main cause. There are no electric lights in the majority of rural households. Some people cut trees in order to sell them and purchase something for their family. And some cut down trees to clear land on which to build homes.

You said that farmers cut down trees for fuel, and I see that you are also a farmer. What do you use as fuel while you cook?

Haji Kemal:
Given the limited options for fuels available close to villages, it might make sense to use trees as fuel.

But you wouldn’t use trees for fuel if you knew that doing so causes you to lose agricultural yield. We use fallen leaves and branches for fuel in addition to getting paraffin from a nearby town.

We understand that if agricultural output rises, so will our ability to buy paraffin. And by boosting output, I can feed my family and make extra money. One of my children bought a minibus and now generates money by providing public transport as part of our family’s endeavour to diversify our household incomes.

Have any other farmers adopted your methods after hearing you speak?

Haji Kemal:
Yes, many other people use the same approach as me. But some farmers claim that their agricultural output is so meager that they should be permitted to cut trees. We use our own experiences as examples and enable them to make honey in specific areas of the forests. They notice some positive improvements, start earning more money, and begin to appreciate the value of having trees.


We will now briefly speak with Awake Shitaye. Mr. Shitaye, what local problems would you say that reforestation efforts are designed to address?

The following issues plague reforestation efforts in relation to Bale mounts: First, a lack of coordination and awareness of the law among stakeholders, including government agencies and farmers. Second, the growing number of families means that people need to cut trees for a living. Third, the scarcity of kerosene and electricity forces people to chop trees for cooking. Also, people in the area are forced to cut trees in order to make money due to the lack of alternative sources of income.

What tree species is it recommended to plant at what spacing, and what is the purpose of each species?

In the Bale zone, Cupressus lusitanica and Juniperus procera are the species planted most often. Cupressus lusitanica has a moderate resistance to drought, but it needs deeply moist soils. This enormous species can grow to a height of 35 metres, and is a conifer with a straight trunk that is frequently but not always conical and widely-spaced branches. Most people in the community plant this species three to four metres apart in order to provide shade, live fences, firewood, poles, and wood for building and furniture. The spacing may vary based on the specific goals of planting and the species of tree. On the other hand, Juniperus procera is a valuable timber tree that is native to Ethiopia and grows from 1,500 to 3,300 metres above sea level, and is planted with 3×3 metre spacing, depending on the objectives. It is used for firewood, timber, poles, shade, and ornamental or and windbreak purposes. The tree is an evergreen that can reach a height of forty metres. Its trunk is straight and frequently fluted—in other words, it has many curves that go in and out.

Muzyin Quanna is an environmental expert who has spent the last five years working for the Oromia Environmental Protection Bureau and is our next guest. One of his primary responsibilities is to protect woods that have been cut down by people and to educate farmers about the need to safeguard the environment.

Mr. Muzyin, a farmer informed me that many individuals on Bale Mount and the neighbouring areas continue to remove trees for a variety of reasons. What is your response to that?

Muzyin Quanna:
The individuals who cut trees come from many places, but some are local farmers who cut trees to use as fuel. However, the majority of them cut down trees to sell to people who use them as fuel, or to furniture firms. Tree cutters are supported by brokers and dealers who hire them to cut trees in exchange for hefty payments.

What are the factors that cause people to cut down trees?

Muzyin Quanna:
The country’s deforestation is thought to be mostly caused by rising urbanization, expanding land use for agriculture, a growing population rate, and state forest policy.

The majority of people do not use fuels like petrol and kerosene oil because they are too expensive. We appreciate the farmers who have stopped cutting trees, but some have not. When we describe the detrimental effects of tree cutting, some farmers ask what options we offer in place of using trees to cook their food.

They say they are aware of the harmful impacts of tree cutting, but they do not have access to electricity or a cooking device. We advise them to use tree branches and leaves. And as more farmers hopefully get access to electricity, we believe that fewer trees will be felled because using electricity for cooking eliminates the need to do so.

Another factor that increases the loss of trees is unemployment. Other factors include population pressure, brokers who collaborate with farmers to illegally cut down trees and sell wood, overgrazing, greater commercial use of wood, and migration to wooded areas for survival.

Families have an average of six or seven members, and some have as many as twelve. These families start cutting trees to sell when they have trouble making a living from farming. Also, they cut down trees to build their homes. The locals rely on agriculture for their subsistence, and when that fails, they immediately turn to the area’s forest resources.

What are the effects of this deforestation?

Muzyin Quanna:
Bale Mountain’s surroundings have a reputation for being chilly, and people dress warmly. However, the area is becoming less chilly as time goes on. Some folks who formerly used thick clothing to stay warm in the cold weather are wearing lighter clothing.

The agricultural yields of maize, sorghum, and wheat have been declining in some places due to soil erosion. Farmers used to receive up to 40 quintals (four tons) on average per hectare, but now they are receiving less than 30.

Bees were prevalent, and many individuals kept bee colonies to produce honey. But the number of colonies is lower than it was 10 or 15 years ago.

Another effect on the area’s biodiversity is that some animals, like red jackals, are forced to relocate when the trees in their natural habitats are cut down. Plant eaters such as mountain nyalas avoid humans and migrate to the interior, deeper parts of the forest. When grasslands are used for farming, grazing animals struggle to survive. Also, traditional medicinal herbs are either not growing or yielding less.

What can be done to stop deforestation on Bale Mount?

Muzyin Quanna:
The majority of residents in the Bale Mount area depend on agriculture. But if they use more effective farming methods, including agroforestry, conservation agriculture, and better seeds and fertilizers, they can improve their income.

Another solution is to diversify peoples’ sources of income. The service industry, for examples, hotels and restaurants, and the government sector, is poorly developed. There is hardly any manufacturing here. As we can see in many other nations, the manufacturing and service sectors provide employment for a large number of people, especially youths. If we invest a million dollars, we can draw more tourists to Bale Mount, which is home to many unique animals.

Also, by using fallow, unused, and marginal land along roadsides, railway routes, on contours, avenues, and boundaries, and on land not best-suited for agricultural production, we can protect and stop encroaching on forested lands.

Promoting sustainable forestry techniques such as selective logging, replanting, and afforestation is another response. Last but not least, efforts can be taken to enhance law enforcement and combat corruption, which can aid in curbing illegal logging and other activities that contribute to deforestation.

What punishments are there for illegally cutting trees?

Muzyin Quanna:
Although the maximum term is three years in prison, because of how poorly law enforcement institutions function, legislation is not truly being enforced.

Witnesses to tree cutting are not always successful when testifying in court about illegal cutting. Procedures are complex and can sometimes seem biased against witnesses. As a result, few people who contravene laws are convicted.

There must also be prosecution of corrupt government officials and individuals in charge of the forestry laws and policies along with illegal loggers.

Anything you would like to add?

Muzyin Quanna:
Planting trees outside of forest areas relieves pressure on forests for timber, fodder, and fuel wood. Also, homestead woodlots can reduce pressure on the natural forest in the eco-region. These homestead woodlots can be used for household energy and as alternative sources of the household income. Furthermore, deforested areas must be reforested. Investment in research, education, and extension is immensely needed. Education and training help people understand how to prevent and reduce the negative environmental effects of deforestation and forestry activities, and to take appropriate action when possible. Research helps us to understand the problem, its causes, and possible solutions. But research lags behind due to a lack of funds and investment.

The general public lacks knowledge and information about forests and forestry. Forest managers and policy makers must be well-educated and understand the complexities of the interacting ecological, economic, social, cultural, and political factors.


Dear listeners, as you have heard, the growth of agricultural land is the main factor contributing to Bale Mount’s deforestation. With Bale Mount’s population growing, there is a greater need for food production.

This goal has resulted in the conversion of forests into agricultural land. The region’s high reliance on agriculture and the lack of economic diversification in the area are two major reasons why people cut down trees.

But the removal of trees results in soil erosion and lower crop yields. Also, the red fox, lion, monkey, and other wildlife that were living in the region are now migrating in search of a secure environment due to the increasingly changed climate.

The most important tools for reducing deforestation in the area is increasing awareness and diversifying income by boosting the service and manufacturing sectors. Actions to protect Bale forest are required, and all parties—governmental bodies, businesses, individuals, and the media—have a role to play in reducing deforestation.

We sincerely appreciate you listening to our broadcast. We are really grateful to our guests for sharing their wisdom and expertise with us. Until we cross paths again, goodbye.


Contributed by: Tesfaye Getnet, Editor at

Reviewed by: Adane Kebede, Project Manager, Program for Climate Resilience,

Addis Ababa University, Horn of Africa Regional Environment Center and Network


Haji Kemal, farmer, Goba, Sept. 2023

Muzyin Quanna, environmental expert, Goba, Sept. 2023

Awake Shitaye, environmental expert, Ethiopian Environmental Protection Authority, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Sept. 2023