Protecting the natural vegetation and redressing the natural environment through reforestation programs has been Eritrea’s priority to ensure a sound ecosystem for all — human beings, animals and plants. The overall aim of environmental protection is to make sure that land and marine biodiversity are protected.
The Forestry and Wildlife Authority held a workshop on 26 April that is aimed at reinforcing reforestation and preserving wildlife through the collective efforts of all partners.
In the immediate aftermath of Eritrea’s independence, in 1994, Eritrea launched Summer Work Program mainly focusing on soil and water conservation activities as well as reforestation programs across the country. To speed up the reforestation programs, the National Greening Campaign was also launched in 2006.
These campaigns have brought about significant change in preserving the natural environment. But the threat of global warming has been worsening, leading to desertification and causing unforeseen environmental hazards. To deal with the threat, Eritrea has embarked on new mitigation programs that involve collective efforts of all nationals and new strategies that help in speeding up reforestation activities and protecting wildlife corridors.
Soil and water conservation, as well as reforestation programs, have been extensively carried out to bolster the impact of forests and generally expand vegetation coverage to ensure a sound ecosystem and preserve wildlife and sustain biodiversity.
In an opening speech at the workshop held on 26 April at the conference hall of the National Confederation of Eritrean Workers, Mr. Tesfay Ghebreslasie, Minister of Land, Water and the Environment, said that reforestation programs should be carried out through new approaches that give responsibility to all citizens. In the same way, as citizens have the right to live in a healthy environment and make use of the natural resources, they have an obligation to work in reforestation programs and campaigns aimed at protecting the natural environment.
Some of the main topics discussed at the workshop include protected areas and the enhancement of national parks as effective ways of redressing the natural environment, expanding the availability of grazing lands, and protecting wildlife corridors.
Mr. Tesfay stressed the importance of planting indigenous trees in reforestation programs, as well as the need of strict controlling mechanisms in land and sea entry, points to get rid of an infestation of plant diseases that may occur from imported species. In connection with land leases for commercial agriculture, Mr. Tesfay emphasized that the necessary environmental assessment procedures should be made prior to the implementation of any project.
Mr. Arefaine Berhe, Minister of Agriculture, gave a tentative plan of integration and collective efforts that need to be developed by all partners for better outcome of environmental protection and reinforcement of reforestation programs. To address the issue at the grassroots level, Mr. Arefaine highlighted the need for the establishment of nursery stations at the village level and emphasized that priority needs to be given to indigenous plant species. He said, as an example, that the planting of saline water-resistant species needs to be extensively practiced across the coastal areas and islands.
Mr. Arefaine further stated that the role of local governments in the administrative areas is very decisive in the implementation of the programs and that exemplary soil and water conservation as well as reforestation practices and experiences witnessed at Emba- Derho, Central region, should be imitated by all administrative bodies across the country.
Mountainous areas in villages and semi-urban areas should be included in uplifting afforestation through active participation of families for good results. According to the plan, every household will have a plot for planting trees, including fruits, animal feed, and bee hives.
Mr. Arefaine suggested the need for the integration of partners in reforestation activities and environmental protection through the active participation of the ministries of Local Government, Education, Energy and Mines, Forestry and Wildlife Authority, Agriculture, Marine Resources, and Information as well as the National Confederation of Eritrean Workers, National Union of Eritrean Women, and National Union of Eritrean Youth and Students in raising public awareness about the importance of environmental protection, reforestation and wildlife conservation.
Experiences gained from earlier projects show that the introduction of an improved energy-saving stove has alleviated the consumption of firewood to the lowest level. Mr. Arefaine reiterated that for a better outcome all households in villages should have Adhanet — an improved energy-saving stove — by 2025.
Reinforcing the national greening campaign is also another main issue that was extensively discussed at the workshop.
Taking the role green clubs in schools play in planting trees and the effectiveness of planting trees within the premises of public and private institutions, religious institutions and households, the participants of the workshop agreed that such initiatives need to be taken across the nation.
On his part, Col. Kinfe Habtom, manager of Forestry and Wildlife Authority, said that reforestation and treatment of watersheds and soil and water conservation activities have been major national concerns, and popular participation needs to be ensured through pragmatic and new approaches and thorough collective efforts of all partners.
Eritrea’s Forestry and Wildlife Authority was established in 2012 under the umbrella of the President’s office with objectives to protect the natural environment, protect wildlife, and ensure soil and water conservation through active involvement of all partners and wide participation of communities. Col. Kinfe highlighted that major works have been done in reforestation programs, and he called on all partners to enhance their contribution in protecting the environment, redressing the natural environment with vegetation, boosting wildlife, and promoting the efforts through public awareness-raising programs.
Mr. Mussie Robel, of the Forestry and Wildlife Authority, presented a paper on the objective situation of forests and wildlife and efforts made in environmental protection while Mr. Michael Berhane, of the Ministry of Agriculture, presented a paper that highlights the correlation between agricultural activities and deforestation. Both presenters maintain that the expansion of agricultural activities and unwise use of land have been worsening the impacts of deforestation. Climate change, overgrazing and over-browsing, erratic rainfall, outbreak of new pests’ infestations and depletion of underground water have also been major environmental challenges.
Mr. Mussie emphasized that increasing the size of protected areas and national parks will bring an immediate transformation to the natural environment. He cited the reforestation program in Guritat, Central region, as a very good example of redressing the environment with green vegetation.
Mr. Mussie said a total of 13 potential national parks were identified in a research conducted in 1997 and effective works have been done in four national parks – Buri (Ayrori), Hawakil, the national elephants’ corridor park in the Gash-Barka region as well as Dahlak Island park.
On his part, Mr. Michael highlighted the efforts made to address the effects of environmental degradation and desertification that include the construction of terraces, the introduction of natural compost to increase soil fertility, and the construction of water reservoirs.
Following the presentations, participants of the workshop, who come from 26 ministries and other organizations, had discussions in groups on various measures to address the issue of deforestation, on finding ways and means of promoting reforestation and combating climate change and its dire consequences.
Other issues the participants discussed were: alternative renewable energy sources and harnessing their potential to the maximum level possible; expanding the use of energy-saving stoves and making use of diversified energy-saving improved tools in all environments, and the role of partners and the integration of efforts in addressing environmental issues as well as enhancing community-based reforestation programs.
It was underlined at the workshop that communities ought to be encouraged to develop a sense of ownership in all protected areas and all areas identified for reforestation programs for the outcomes of the concerted efforts to be sustained.