EWNRA’s forestry engagement through REDD+ Participatory Forest Management in South-West Ethiopia
Project Funding Agency
The project is implemented by Ethio-Wetlands and Natural Resources Association (EWNRA). EWNRA is the first Ethiopian NGO to focus on forest and wetland issues. It is one of the key actors in forest conservation and Community development in the south western Ethiopia. It has worked with most of the donors in the country and has run projects
Project Implementing Partners
The forests of South Western Ethiopia
Forest of southwest Ethiopia is one of the two remaining relatively intact montane moist forests in the country that extends over four regional states (Benishangul, Gambela, Oromia and Southern Nations and Nationalities People’s Regional State). It has significant importance for local and global communities as it plays role in supporting rural livelihoods and contributing to poverty reduction, climate stabilization, and hydrological moderation, hosting biological diversity and generating several other ecosystem services of economic and environmental values. For instance, the Baro-Akobo Rivers which rise in these forests provide half of the flow of the White Nile at Malakal in the South Sudan. This system, together with the Blue Nile (Abay) and Atbara contribute 86% of the Nile water entering the Aswan High Dam of Egypt (Elias Ashbir 2009). Regulating the quality and quantity of water discharged from this area is also important for power generation from the series of dams constructed at Gojeb-Gibe river system (Gibe I, II and III hydropower dams).
Forests and woodlands in the southwest Ethiopia also sequester some 300 million tons of carbon dioxide /year, (ENTRO, 2007). The presence of 1.4 million ha of wild coffee forest in the area makes greatest genetic variability and genetic base of coffee in the rest of the world (Kassahun Tesfaye Geletu, 2006 and Tadesse Woldemariam, 2003). The presences of over 300 diversified NTFPs (Tadesse Woldemariam et al., 2004) contribute in varying ways to the livelihood of forest dependent indigenous communities and socio-economic groups.
Despite its global, national and local importance, the forest landscapes of southwest Ethiopia are among those areas where deforestation and forest degradation continued at an increasing rate. A number of specific studies conducted in the past and provided some important information about the rate of deforestation in the southwest. The studies conducted by WBISPP in (2001 and 2003) in the Baro-Akobo basin, Gambela, Oromia and SNNP regional states, using 1987 as a reference year estimated that on average 28,916 ha of high forest area was cleared annually between 1985 and 2010. The 1987 baseline data of forest cover was 1.77 million ha in the Baro Akobo Basin; this amounts to an annual loss of 1.6 percent forest area.
The causes for deforestation and forest degradation in the southwest are numerous, but the main one is insecure forest tenure that opened the path for:
- Forest targeted small- and large-scale investments,
- Community members losing the will to invest in forest management and behaving irrationally in converting the forest to agriculture.
- Weak institutional, legislative and policy elements along with financial and technical limitations
The REDD+ PFM project
The link between deforestation and climate change is well known; however, strategies to address deforestation have continually found ineffective due to initiatives tackling symptoms rather than underlying causes and competing interests of various stakeholders. EWNRA with a financial support from NORAD through the Development Fund (DF) of Norway has been running a project entitled “REDD+ Participatory Forest Management in South-West Ethiopia (REPAFMA-SW Ethiopia)” for the last eight years. This project promotes the practice of Participatory Forest Management (PFM) in the forests of southwest Ethiopia with the intention to reduce the occurrence of deforestation and forest degradations in the area.
For achieving the purpose, EWNRA together with its partners and through action research on the ground through trial and errors has developed and fine-tuned a multi-faceted approach to achieve sustainable management of forested landscapes., The approach developed by the project includes policy backing for securing tenure to community members over forest resources, increasing sustainable returns from forest management through forest based enterprise development, enabling community rights to be enshrined in legislation and strengthening community voice through strong community based organizations with the ultimate goal of creating sustainable environmental management and improved livelihoods for forest dwelling communities in the southwest Ethiopia
Project Location and Target Groups
The REDD+ PFM project was started in 2013 and was implemented in five woredas (Masha, Andracha, Gesha and South Bench in Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples Regional State (SNNPRS); and Nono Sele woreda of Oromia regional state. The current project REDD+ PFM phase two is a continuation of the phase one, which was under implementation for five years (2016 to 2020) across three regional states (Gambela, Oromia and SNNPRS). The project included 11 woredas (one in Gambela and five each in Oromia and SNNPRS) and targets about 400,000 hectares of forest landscape which is inhabited by 35,000 households close to 157,000 people to be under PFM. The other target groups of the project were: federal, regional and local government institutions and their officials, CSOs working on areas of forest management and international institutions and forums working in areas of climate change in general and those involved in REDD+ initiatives in particular. All these have vested interest on the project.
Project achievements so far
This Phase two project has entirely build on the activities that were started in REDD+ PFM phase one project and scaled-up the applications of PFM from 240,000 ha to 440,701 ha forested landscape across the three regional states (Gambela, Oromia and SNNP). With this regard the following specific results are achieved:
- In SNNPRS; strengthened three woreda level forest management umbrella associations in Gesha, Masha and Anderacha woredas that constitute a total of 128 Forest management Groups (FMGs) within 38 kebeles. Further two new woreda level forest management umbrella associations in Bita and Sayilem woredas established and legally registered. The two newly established forest management associations constitute a total of 39 Forest management Groups (FMGs) within 15 kebeles. This makes a total of 167 FMGs that have signed PFM agreements with local government and are managing 148,470 ha of forested landscape of which 80,239 ha is natural forest.
- In Gambela regional state; one new woreda level forest management umbrella association in Gambela Zuriya woreda established and legally registered. The newly established forest management association constitute a total of 11 Forest management Groups (FMGs) within two kebeles. All of the 11 FMGs have signed PFM agreements with local government and are managing 60,441 ha of forested landscape of which 58,275 ha is natural forest.
- In Oromia regional state, strengthened 20 kebele level forest management cooperatives in Nonosele woreda that constitute 45 FMGs. In addition, 27 new kebele level forest management cooperatives in Ale, Becho, Didu and Halu woredas established and legally registered. The newly established forest management cooperatives constitute a total of 66 Forest management Groups (FMGs) within 27 kebeles. All of the 47 kebele level forest mangment cooperatives have signed Joint Forest Management (JFM) agreements with local government and are managing 231,791 ha of forested landscape of which 188,451 ha is natural forest.
All these specific results make the overall project achievement 440,701 ha (Gambela 60,441 ha, Oromia 231,791 ha and SNNPRS 148,470 ha) of forested landscape becoming under PFM arrangement of this 326,964 ha (Gambela 58,275 ha, Oromia 188,451 ha and SNNPRS 80,239 ha) is natural forest. This area will then be part of the total area where REDD+ is implemented in Ethiopia.
The implementation of PFM in the project intervention woredas brought behavioural change towards sustainable forest management in more than 28,000 households close to 126,600 people. This has resulted in securing forest dependent community’s rights on forest, reduce deforestation and increase carbon storage capacity of the forest.
In light of integrating the implementation of PFM with the local REDD+ models, the project has fine-tuned methods for implementation of Community Based Measurement, Reporting and Verification (CBMRV) systems, with particular emphasis on social and environmental safeguards.
The rationale behind the CBMRV is developing a locally based monitoring system that could help forest condition assessments economically viable and practical across large areas of forest, and could be an important element in national REDD+ monitoring, reporting, and verification (MRV) systems. Permanence of emission reductions is also more likely if local communities are empowered than if they are alienated from the carbon stocks.
For the practicality of CBMRV; firstly the project designed spatial database to analyse the historical forest cover situation in the project area from 2005 to 2016. The design and implementation of the database considered the practical use of the data by the future users (woreda, zone and regional level local government staff). Its principle is the use of open source data and software. The selected software and the method of data management follow the principle of sharing data and resources. It should allow an ease information generation from data collected at lower level should be aggregated without additional effort at zonal and regional level.
The forest cover change assessment was performed using the two methods: the wall-to-wall and the sample based methods. The former was applied to assess the land cover change from 2005 to 2015, whereas the sample approach was applied to assess the forest cover change from 2011 to 2013 and from 2014 to 2016.
As per the wall-to-wall method; the 2016 natural forest cover in the project intervention area was estimated 573,772 hectares which was 67% of the total area. Around 74,000 hectares of natural forest was converted to non-forest land from 2005 to 2016. This corresponds to 13% of the 2005’s natural forest cover. The deforestation rate, therefore, was nearly 1% per area per year.
Table 1: Forest cover change from 2005 to 2016 based on the wall-to-wall approach
As a second step, national level workshop was also organized for participants drawn from national REDD+ secretariat office, national MRV unit, Oromia REDD+ coordination unit, SNNPRS REDD+ coordination unit and representatives from NGOs like Farm-Africa, GGGI etc.; on this workshop good feedback have been obtained from the participants on how to make the CBMRV method compatible to the national MRV systems. Further general consensuses have been also reached with the national MRV unit on how to collect, analyse and report basic information on field with the participations of local community and government stakeholders. Basing on this consensus EWNRA has officially communicated the national REDD+ secretariat office, to officially recognize the CBMRV method and allow the required technical supports from the national MRV unit. A recognition was also obtained from the national MRV unit and following this Training of Trainers (ToT) were provided to local government representatives on data collection, data processing and data reporting for local representatives and key roles in the CBMRV system. After the ToT the following key activities were achieved:
• Provided measuring equipment for the Community and local government level inventory Teams (GPS, Tapes, Callipers, compass, clinometer, etc.);
• Undertook the requisite technical training for FMA’s, Forest management cooperatives and local government development agents accordingly they have undertaken collection forest inventory data that eventually help to analyse local carbon stock data Above Ground (AGB) and Below ground (BGB) and additional forest variables (non‐carbon data).
• CBMRV implemented across four woredas located in Oromia and SNNP regional states, a total of 129 gots and 159, 451 hectares of natural forest covered. A total of 434 community and 55 local government representatives involved respectively. Their involvement was a key point in a Community based MRV system for feasibility and sustainability purposes to strength local capacities and autonomy.
• Consensus reached with zonal and Woreda level experts in verification of the Community and local government development agent’s joint Inventory of the permanent plots; and in the establishment and maintenance of the Woreda GIS and REDD+ MRV Database. We hope that, this will be incorporated into the national REDD+ strategy through policy and lobby based on coordination and dialogue with national and regional authorities.
In addition to scaling-up of the applications of PFM; the project has also achieved the following results
- Facilitated issuance of communal forest land certificate to 131 FMGs in SNNPRS that cover a total of 63,395 ha of intact natural forest. This is the first practice of collective forestland certification ever in Ethiopia was initiated with EWNRA supported project in woredas in SNNPRS. Since 2013 collective certification for natural forests has been promoted with projects funded by Norad through DF in partnership with EWNRA. This has been taken nationally as one of the most promising model to ensure sustainable forest management and also for smooth implementation of REDD+ strategy. Yet, the collective forest certificates being offered for local communities cannot not be a legal binding document in the absence of legal framework supporting it. Thus, it has necessitated the federal government to recognize ownership rights of local communities over the forest they are managing through the issuance of collective forest area registration and certification.
- So far 15 Forest Products Marketing Cooperatives established of which three (two in SNNPRS and One in Gambela region) were established in the current project phase. Five cooperatives are fully owned by women and in the remaining 10 cooperatives women representation ranges from 45 to 50%. Leaders of Forest Products Marketing Cooperatives took training in market analysis and development (MA&D), business planning, financial management, leadership and team building and sustainable forest management.
These Cooperatives are supported to have their own coffee drying plots, warehouses and offices constructed, office furniture and equipment’s. They were also provided with a certain amount of funds as a business start-up and material supports in the form of coffee sacks and honey bags, weighing balance, refractometer, cashbox and printing vouchers and recording books. Market link created for the cooperatives with honey companies such as Beza Mar, Tutu and Her Family, Apinec, Yeri Kisho, and Sheka Nordic. Sheka Honey Union is now another market destiny while the cooperative in Nonosele is selling its coffee at ECX through the facilitation of Sorgeba Cooperative Union.
- Working on Women and Minorities empowerment to involve actively in forest management activities and decision making process
- Supporting Government sector to integrate PFM into REDD+ strategy by generating and sharing lessons
- Facilitating networking and information sharing among communities and stakeholders through the facilitation and support of woreda level PFM REDD+ forum.
• It takes time to build trust in the implementations of PFM. Several communities are suspicious, both because of rumours, negative experiences from the past, and pressure from different actors. Ethnic conflicts and insecurity also affect some areas, and has negative effects on trust and the follow-up of the groups. It is important with continuous follow-up and dialogue with the communities to build their confidence in the PFM process.
• Multi-stakeholders engagement in the PFM awareness and processes have been important not only to ensure inclusiveness in terms of membership but also to avoid potential conflicts over the access rights over the resources and boundary disputes.
• Community owned gender sensitive internal rule has been instrumental in improving the local forest governance system. More women have assumed leadership positions in all forest management institutions because of their gender sensitive rules.
• The annual General Assembly meeting of the woreda level forest management association has proved a legitimate and mandated forum where intensive dialogues and discussions possible leading to fruitful outcomes such as managing and solving forest boundary disputes, ensuring gender sensitive internal rules are in place and implemented by each FMGs, ensuring each FMGs have developed, revised and implemented its forest management plan, discussing contentious issues in regard to getting user rights respected through the ownership recognition over the natural forests the local communities are managing
• In the absence of secured ownership and well defined rights over community-managed natural forests, participatory forest management (PFM) has not been as strong as expected. Uncertainty in forest tenure has undermined positive gains and sustainability of the PFM. This is because the incentives for communities to actively engage in forest management are inadequate. Thus, full forest management responsibilities unlikely without legally secured ownership over the natural forest the communities are managing.
• Legal ownership recognition over the natural forests is a necessary step however might not be sufficient on its own to ensure positive forest preservation outcomes. More works are needed to ensure that the local communities are fully exercising their rights in developing and implementing their management plans, and in making important decisions in regard to what forest resources to use and to what extent. It also takes time for the local communities they realize the benefits of the legal ownership in terms of improved livelihoods.
• The woreda REDD+/PFM forum has proved a working modality in creating enabling conditions for the local government and community stakeholders to make important discussions and decisions about forest tenure insecurity and its negative consequences on the sustainability of the natural forests of the locality.
• CBMRV provided stronger capacities and incentives for local actors (community and government representatives) to perform the activities by their own. CBMRV data can be used as a building block for forestry related research and development activities and can create a standardized framework to test a variety of implementation options including incorporating suitable technologies and approaches and to integrate lessons from lower-level units to the regional and national level in a structured way.
Local Collaboration and Sustainability
The project aimed to ensure the sustainability of its work by focusing on the capacity building in the communities and the local level government organizations. There was a focus on supporting the development of existing and new institutions at the community level and strengthening them. In addition, links are being developed with private sector traders and cooperatives in order to better link producers to local, national and international markets. The intention was to ensure the local groups have the necessary skills and experience to be self-sustaining in the activities covered by the project in the long term and to obtain advisory support from the local government staff.