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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 Fidelpost.com
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