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The 12th Greening Campaign

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.

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