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Development of a concept for the provision of forest reproductive material in Ethiopia

Ethiopia has embarked on one of the globally most ambitious programs of forest landscape restoration (FLR) with a commitment to restore more than 20 million hectare of degraded forest landscapes within the next 20 years (15 million hectare were committed by the Ethiopian government under the Bonn Challenge and AFR100; an additional seven million hectares were committed under the New York Declaration on Forests).

In 2013, Austria adopted an international climate finance strategy and established a new inter-ministerial working group dedicated to climate finance. On behalf of the Austrian Ministry of Environment, Kommunalkredit Public Consulting (KPC) manages a portfolio of climate finance projects, funded by Austria’s contribution to bilateral climate finance projects. All the projects are aligned with the strategic criteria contained in the national climate finance strategy including (1) a balance between adaptation, mitigation, and REDD+ activities, (2) consistency with Official Development Assistance (ODA) reporting, (3) maximizing synergies with other policy objectives, (4) efficiency, effectiveness, and transparency of the use of funds and (5) compliance with quality-assurance systems.

Coordinating institution and partners

The project idea is initiated by the Austrian Research Centre for Forests, Natural Hazards and Landscape (Bundesforschungs- und Ausbildungszentrum für Wald, Naturgefahren und Landschaft, BFW) with two partner institutions. The overall project is being managed by the Austrian Research Centre for Forests (BFW), Department of Forest Biodiversity and Nature Conservation, in full coordination with the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) and the Ethiopian Environment and Forest Research Institute (EEFRI). This project is funded by Austrian Ministry of Environment. The project span was initially fixed to two years (September 2018- September 2020). However, due to the COVID-19 it is now extended until end of October 2021.

The project is embedded in and aligned with a larger programme, “Provision of Adequate Tree Seed Portfolios” (PATSPO) implemented by the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) and the Ethiopia Environment and Forest Research Institute (EEFRI). This cooperation is expected to ensure sustainability and the alignment of activities in the tree seed sector in the country.

Representatives from coordinating institution and all partners

Project purpose and the need for forest landscape restoration (FLR)

The purpose of this project is to strengthen the national tree seed sector of Ethiopia in providing suitable and regionally adapted tree planting material for forest landscape restoration (FLR). Restoration of forest landscapes contains a broad spectrum of objectives and approaches to maintain or restore the provision of ecosystem services. Depending on local priorities and needs, FLR approaches can range from exotic plantation forests to maximize timber production, over soil stabilization measures to avoid erosion and protect infrastructure, to biodiversity rich forests of native tree species.

A major challenge of tree-based restoration work is that it generally requires the use of many tree species at the same time. Where restoration is based on natural regeneration, it would thus require the presence of healthy and diverse seed sources and/or soil seed banks. When planting is necessary, whether for replenishment or enrichment, the supply of a broad spectrum of genetically diverse, healthy and productive tree species is generally not easily available. Traditional supply programs focus on relatively few species, most of them of unknown genetic quality and often with insufficient knowledge on adaptation to site conditions and adaptability to climate change.

Our project focuses on one of the native tree species in Ethiopia called Juniperus procera. This tree is also known by its common English name “African pencil cedar”.  It is one of the key tree species in Afromontane forests in Eastern Africa and especially in Ethiopia. It is adapted to high elevation climate with low precipitation and can reach dimensions for use as sawn timber. Within the current strategy for reforestation of the Ethiopian highlands Juniperus procera has an important role as a native tree species which can be commercially utilized. Nevertheless, important data and information on the species are currently missing. Little is known about the national distribution, intra-specific diversity, quality, reproductive system and regional adaptation to different climatic conditions.

Distribution of Juniperus procera across Ethiopia and study sites

The study encompasses 19 populations from 19 provenances (natural forest sites)/ across the country. However, the species is dominantly distributed in many high lands of the country. The populations are assumed to be representatives and from each population 25 individual trees are included for the morphological study.

Distribution of Juniperus procera across Africa                                  
Distribution of Juniperus procera
Across Ethiopia and selected sites

Project objectives, outcomes, and beneficiaries

The overall aim of the project is to close these knowledge gaps and to develop a tangible strategy for the utilization of forest reproductive material for the species in a sustainable and efficient way. In addition, the project shall also help to build capacity related to the provision of forest reproductive material in Ethiopia in general.  Students, forest managers and other forest professionals are going to be benefited from the capacity building during implementation of this project.

Thus, the specific objectives of the project are:

  • To identify variation in the species related to traits associated to regional climate
  • To map the current distribution and identify populations that are apt for the collection of reproductive material
  • To study the reproductive system of the species in selected populations
  • To develop a concept for sustainable use of forest reproductive material in the species
  • To build capacity on forest genetic resources, provenance research and the provision of forest reproductive material

The project outcome is expected to equip policy makers with arguments on the importance of improved tree seed production and its financing. It further helps for proper planning and policy making on how to conserve forest genetic resources.

The long-term beneficiaries will be Regional Forest Enterprises as well as farmer cooperatives and individual farmers gaining access to improved tree planting material.

Discussion on how to collect reproductive material with project partners, Jan,2020, Addis Ababa