In Eritrea, May 15 is National Afforestation day. Last Tuesday, the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) convened a one-day workshop in Asmara to commemorate the12th anniversary of National Afforestation Day under the theme ‘Green Environment-Secured Livelihood’. On the occasion senior Government and PFDJ officials, religious leaders and other invited guests planted tree seedlings.
The Eritrean Greening campaign was launched in May 2006 under the theme “Vigorous Effort to Greening Campaign”. It started with the objectives of planting and replanting trees, establishing and administering national parks, forming green clubs in schools, religious places and other institutions, introducing Adhanet (a smokeless stove) as well as conserving soil and water with the participation of communities. Last year alone, more than 800 kilograms of seeds were planted to grow more than 54 types of trees including 22 native trees. Generally, three million seedlings were planted nationwide. There has been a 38% increase in the number of seedlings grown this year compared to the previous year. As a result, in the Northern Red Sea region 60 hectare of coastal area was afforested.
Moreover, establishing and administering the national enclosures is one of the campaign’s objectives. Up to now, around 371,339hectare of land has been administered as enclosure. This covers only 18% of the planned enclosures nationwide. According to the statistics of MoA, to date, nationwide, around 313,107 hectare of land is kept as a reservation. Up to 160,000 hectare has already been fenced and declared a national park.. Some 500,000 hectare of land has been proposed to enlarge the national park.
General Manager of the Forestry and Wildlife Authority, Mr. Abraha Garza, said that the last two years have been a challenge to the greening campaign, and this happened because of unforeseeable climate changes. He added that despite the challenge the authority believes that it needs to grow trees more than ever and that this requires a concerted effort.
Mr. Arefaine Berhe, Minister of Agriculture, said that the ultimate goal of the campaign is to build a green and fertile nation. Minister Arefaine further said that community-based agricultural and forestation activities should be developed to ensure the goal of “Cultivatable Land Fertile and Non- Cultivatable Green”. To further meet this goal, the Minster underlined that training and attainable goals should be organized. He indicated that vegetation coverage can be enhanced by planting trees and by making enclosures, and deforestation can be minimized with cultivation processes and strong inspection laws.
Deforestation is inevitable everywhere and a total of 5034 hectare of land has been deforested this year and requires intense attention in the future. Wild fire has been one of the main causes of deforestation, and last year the Gash Barka region alone, more than 3161 hectare of forest was turned into ashes. In easing the pressure of deforestation the smokeless stove has been instrumental. The stove was introduced in all regions. In the previous year a total of 3,361 smokeless stoves were made in all regions, and until now a total of 156,354 (30% of the implementation plan) smokeless stoves were constructed throughout the country.
High demand of fuel wood and lack of other alternative source of energy are the main challenge the authority is facing right now. For many people wood is the sole source of energy, which leads to massive cutting of trees. To limit the damage on trees, spreading the smokeless stove is one of the major targets of the greening campaign. As its name (the savior) suggests, Adhanet saves up to 50% household energy consumption, so its impact is crucial. The gradual introduction of renewable energy supply (Such as solar panels) will play a great role in saving trees from getting cut. The majority of the fuel wood for household consumption comes from the forests in Gash Barka region. To control illegal cutting in such a vast area, which is difficult, the Ministry is doing its best with the human resource at its disposal.
The Forestry and Wildlife Authority penalizes individuals engaged in illegal cutting and transporting of trees. It always strives to raise the awareness of the society through campaigns and community meetings to control some irresponsible individuals.
According to Mr. Futsum Hagos, branch head of the Wild Life and Cultivation protection authority, last year’s and the current amount of deforested land and greening campaign program are somewhat similar. Even though the figures differ by region, the general assessment of the implementation program of this year somehow was gauged low. This is said to be because other than in planting trees there was not much progressive in other activities. The greening campaign of this year has improved in some aspects, such as the impressive soil and water conservation programs the initiative of the military forces in the protection of trees and wild life and the introduction of nurseries in marine force centers.
When the greening campaign was launched in 2006, there was only one green club. In the years that followed, the number of green clubs started to flourish and after 12 years of campaign, today, the number has reached more than 28,000 members of 565 clubs.
The Forestry and Wildlife authority has managed to finalize the design of the reserved areas for wild life. It has relocated the farm lands on which particularly elephants moved around. The current status of wild animals in Eritrea is considered good since enclosures where these animals roam are being monitored.
Last year, the MoA concluded that the diversity of bird species in the nation remained undiscovered and unexploited. But this year, more bird species are being registered in the checklist, raising the number.
In terms of soil and water conservation, the Ministry works ceaselessly, to ensure fertile lands remain fertile and essential crops are grown to stabilize markets of the country. Until today, a variety of terraces have been made and maintained in many farms, mountains and fields.
As it has become a tradition, higher government officials planted trees on the Afforestation Day. Then after, every region presented its annual report of greening activities in the past year. This was followed by comments and recommendations by participants before the ceremony was officially closed. As part of the greening campaign’s incentives a total of 140 individuals and institutions whose roles were exemplary last year were given certificates and awards.
The Ministry operates with qualified personnel across all corners of the country. Periodically, on-the-job training programs are provided as needed in every sector, to improve skills and know-how in cultivating and maintaining productivity.
Some of the recommendations and suggestions forwarded by the participants of the annual workshop were like smokeless stove must be widely accessible to everyone, penalties forwarded by communal courts must be correctional and meet the amount of loses individuals caused, grass and dry woods should be utilized before exposed to wild fires. The Ministry plans to plant six million new seedlings, work on five more projects, establish and secure new national parks, create an environment for sharing experiences among regions and organize training for experts.