Connecting youth and trees through experience, education and ownership

Connecting youth and trees through experience, education and ownership

General - 09 November, 2020

Together with the Ethiopian Orthodox Church’s Development and Inter-Church Aid Commission and the Konso Development Association, Plant-for-the-Planet Foundation has established a blueprint project for forest landscape restoration. This Plant-for-Ethiopia joint venture has developed a forestry management system and vocational training programme, with new forests providing materials and food, improving biodiversity and soil fertility, and reducing the impacts of climate change.

One youth group, which includes up to ten young women and men, planted 36,000 trees in its first years, and is raising approximately 70,000 seedlings for planting in 2021 in South Gondar. As Beru Birhan, a youth group member from Addis Zemen, said, “I have learned such a lot about how to protect the environment and get benefits from it, and am impressed by how degraded areas can be turned into life-supporting land.” A second group started in September 2020, with vocational training for all partners through its new tree-planting training facility in Konso, and a third group in Shoa is also forming.

Key success factors are the complementary experiences of partners, and the fact that youth groups are leasing plantation sites, giving them responsibility for their own forests. Plant-for-the-Planet brings strategic expertise and start-up funding through donations via its app (an open-source platform open to all reforestation projects; see, with Ethiopian partners working at the grassroots level. A high level of trust exists among all stakeholders, who have been integrated from the outset, including district and village administrations who establish a legal status for sustaining activities.

Through ownership and site-specific management, formerly landless youth are being transformed into tree planters and tree owners, with a new source of income. Nurseries and plantation management create further business opportunities while also building community and environmental resilience. The Ethiopian Orthodox Church is also well known for its ancient church forests, with more than 35,000 of them remaining, though these are under increasing pressure from livestock and cutting for firewood. As part of the project, plantations are planned as buffers, and as corridors to connect these church forests, using local knowledge. This has great potential for upscaling. Gender equality is a further priority and more discussions and enforcement are needed in order to involve women on an equal level.

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Peter Borchardt, Project Manager, Plant-for-Ethiopia, Nairobi, Kenya, Mitiku Ketema, Development and Inter-Church Aid Commission, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Kifle Worku, Development and Inter-Church Aid Commission, South Gondar Regional Office, Amhara Regional State, Ethiopia, Shibru Siku & Deresse Kochena, Konso Development Association, SNNP Regional State, Ethiopia & Maximilian Schmid, Plant-for-the-Planet, Tutzing, Germany.

Photo: Tree planting in Libo KemKem, South Gondar. Plant-for-Ethiopia

“This article was submitted for inclusion in the forthcoming edition of ETFRN News 60 - Restoring African drylands, due for release in December 2020”

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