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Forestry for Life: Ethiopian project builds sustainable communities through agroforestry

Forestry For Life is a nonprofit organization operating an agroforestry project among the Gumuz ethnic group in Ethiopia. Since energy for domestic use in rural areas has been derived mostly from firewood and charcoal in the region, this has led to a serious depletion of forests and soil erosion. With agriculture comprising half of the country’s gross domestic product, the importance of planting trees to replenish wood resources has been the project’s key goal.

Historically, the Gumuz people are traditional hunters and gatherers who have suffered slavery and oppression over the centuries. Their age-old practices were causing detrimental damage to the environment, resulting in a chronic shortage of food, high mortality rate, and increased poverty. Starting with one model farmer, our project has succeeded in overcoming any resistance among the Gumuz to embrace our vision resulting in running streams instead of dry beds, and lush jungles in place of barren hills.

Over a period of eight years our project has succeeded in planting 2,000,000 trees including thousands of fruit trees, training model farmers to improve their agricultural practices, and bring about significant environmental change.

The project’s successes include:

• Planting more than 30,000 trees in 2017 with 100,000 seedlings ready to be planted in 2018
• 45 model farmers involved in the planting of seedlings for fruit trees
• Informal training for women and children
• Supporting educational opportunities in the area by providing 750 students with school materials
• Raising the average income to 200 birr ($9.44 CAD) per day when the average income in the area is only $1.00-1.33 CAD per day
• Expanding our focus and implementing our vision in the North Shoa zone of Ethiopia, achieving in one year what it took four years to accomplish with the Gumuz
• Setting up a demonstration and training centre
• Supplying water to 2000 households through piped water via gravity feed

The project’s next steps include:

• Implementing a Village Savings and Loan program to target rural towns and villages in North East Ethiopia
• Fund a cattle project to provide an additional source of income to farmers in these regions

Help us in our efforts to continue to improve the environment in this region and enable its people to learn to protect their land and build sustainable communities with opportunities for all. Our project is actively seeking volunteers to join our team and assist in expanding our venture.

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Author: Amita Asthana

Amita Asthana

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