Highland Restoration - Northern Ethiopia

The EthioTrees project aims to restore land in the Tembien Highlands in Tigray which is suffering from land degradation due to drought, erosion of the steep slopes, and overgrazing. The project assists natural regeneration through native tree planting and setting up “exclosures” to prevent livestock grazing. In the process, they are improving biodiversity and connecting other important habitats such as the sacred Orthodox church gardens. The project invests 60% of carbon credit revenue in the local communities, installing crucial percolation ponds to improve water access and even providing life-saving food assistance during the Tigray War (2020-2022).

Cost

$ 24.2 /tonne

CO2 Tonnes
A view of an area in Ethopia
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Project information

EthioTrees

The project is located in the Tembien Highlands in the Tigray region of Ethiopia. The dryland ecosystems in the Ethiopian highlands are vulnerable to degradation because of their high livestock densities and steep slopes. On top of this, climate change and the loss of forest cover bring increased risk of drought. Drought and periods of social instability lead to increased deforestation and land degradation. 

The project is tackling these issues through a combination of grazing exclusion and planting indigenous trees within the exclosures. This sequesters a significant amount of carbon within the exclosures and also provides many ecosystem and social benefits. So far, the project has invested heavily in percolation ponds in the higher slopes to improve water access, made significant payments to communities and provided for food support during the Tigray War (2020-2022). Lastly, the project promotes lasting benefits through training in sustainable land management and improved production of non-timber forest products (NTFPs) such as frankincense and honey. 

project location on map

Intervention

Dryland restoration

Location

Ethiopia

Developer

EthioTrees

Standards

Plan Vivo

Methodology

Plan Vivo Standard 4.0

Sustainable Goals

  • no poverty
  • zero hunger
  • good health
  • quality education
  • gender equality
  • clean water
  • clean energy
  • economic growth
  • infrastructure
  • reduced inequality
  • sustainable cities
  • responsible consumption
  • climate action
  • life below water
  • life on land
  • peace justice
  • partnerships

Project performance

The Earthly Rating

The Earthly rating is the industry-first holistic project assessment. Earthly researchers analyse 106 data points, aggregating information across the three vital pillars of carbon, biodiversity and people. Projects in Earthly's marketplace all exceed a minimum score of 5/10.

EthioTrees received the Earthly Rating of 8.01, Carbon 7.7, Biodiversity 8.3, and People 8.4
Carbon

102,273

tonnes of CO2 sequestered since the start of the project

Biodiversity

41%

increase in the number of tree species

Social

$335,640

paid to participants since the start of the project

Project impact

Local Impact

EthioTrees

The image illustrates the changes in the Normalised Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) from 2018 to 2022. Normalised Difference Vegetation Index represents the health of the ecosystem within the project area. For instance, in a forested project, the greener the NDVI across time, the healthier or more protected the area would be. Assessing the health of vegetation using NDVI is a widely accepted practice in various ecosystems, including savannah and dry grasslands.

Sentinel-2 (2018-2022) modified

Project Area: Through Time

The Tembien Highlands (and many high elevation areas) suffer from the effects of climate change and land degradation. At the same time, many of these ecosystems support some of the world’s poorest people, and their degradation only exacerbates the problem. In the Tembien highlands in particular, poverty is magnified by the effects of lingering social and political instability, most recently the Tigray War of 2020-2022. The EthioTrees Project is addressing these issues and more, rooted in an intimate understanding of the social context and priorities of the communities.

Geospatial analysis reveals that deforestation and degradation have been evident in the area, occurring both before and after the project's initial commencement in 2016. However, a closer look at the years 2018 to 2022 reveals a significant improvement in vegetation health across most of the project regions. This improvement suggests that the project is effectively preserving its allocated forest areas, not only preventing further deforestation but also contributing to the enhancement of vegetation health.

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Good for Earth

The project generates several benefits for biodiversity. First, the project only plants indigenous/endemic tree species. In the first five year monitoring period, the tree species richness increased by 41% on average (from 70 to 99 species) and the total number of trees in the exclosures increased by 155%. Similarly, the Shannon index in the exclosures (a measure of biodiversity) increased by 20% over the first five years.

The project benefits water retention through the build-up of soil organic matter, leading to more groundwater and spring water availability and a decrease in runoff and erosion. The project is also increasing the amount of fodder available for livestock by allowing grass in the enclosures to be cut and fed to animals, reducing degradation of the surrounding grassland.

Lastly, the project improves connectivity between biodiverse and culturally significant church forests. Nearly half of the project areas are close to Orthodox church forests and unique rock churches, crucial oases for biodiversity in an increasingly degraded region.

Ethiotrees-people

Positive for People

The sale of carbon credits has been instrumental in improving the incomes of local community members, with 60% of the revenue from the sale of credits invested in the communities. This is particularly important in times of acute crises. When the Tigray War broke out in November 2020 (eventually leading to thousands of deaths over the next two years), it led to a severe famine in the region. The farmers enrolled in EthioTrees were able to use the money from the sale of credits to buy food, and 18 communities within the villages set up systems to allocate food and funds to particularly vulnerable people. This was only possible through the EthioTrees organisational structure, which negotiated with banks and community leaders to enable the delivery of money to communities. The project has then developed a direct cash-for-food support, with nearly 30,000 families benefiting from the program.

In addition to cash support, the project also invests in boosting production of non-timber forest products (NTFPs) such as frankincense and honey. The project also invests in improving water availability through the construction of percolation ponds on high slopes.

Lastly, the project is focused on underrepresented groups. 40% of project participants are women and the project focuses on supporting vulnerable groups such as those with HIV and those that have suffered from sexual violence.

Project collaboration

Developer Information

EthioTrees logo

EthioTrees is a combined Belgian-Ethiopian non-profit responsible for running the project in the Tembien Highlands. The Belgian organisation began as a result of a postgraduate project from one of the founders investigating the drivers of land degradation and climate change in Africa. The Ethiopian branch includes a local coordinator and several farmers from the region. The project also incorporates a scientific advisory board and regular communication with local communities.

Project gallery

Project Pictures

A view of an area in Ethopia
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