Huddersfield expert’s plea over Ethiopian forests
Dec 18 2009 Huddersfield Daily Examiner
PEOPLE think of Ethiopia as a barren drought-hit land.
But a Huddersfield university expert is trying to convince the world there is another side to Ethiopia.
Prof Adrian Wood has prepared a presentation for the crucial climate change conference in Copenhagen to work towards developing Ethiopia’s rainforests.
Prof Wood, who has had links with the African nation since 1973, heads an EU-funded project in the forests of south-west Ethiopia.
It is already proving highly successful in enabling communities to improve their livelihoods from the rainforests without destroying trees.
The importance of the project is such that Prof Wood was asked to provide information and illustrations that have been included on an interactive on-line atlas that the EU’s international development agency – EuropeAid – commissioned for the Copenhagen meeting.
It meant that when government representatives from around the world gathered for the vital sessions, the environmental project spearheaded by the University of Huddersfield professor helped to show them the way ahead.
Environment ministers and their officials in Copenhagen aim to draw up a successor to the Kyoto agreement and devise ways that the industrial world can cut back on greenhouse gases.
A key aspect is that developing countries retain their rainforests as they play a massive role in absorbing carbon emissions.
Prof Wood said the Non-Timber Forest and Participatory Forest Management Project has been operational for six years in Ethiopia and at present has three years left to run.
Its current phase has attracted funding from the EU and other sources that amounts to 3.5m euros.
The project has a team of 25 on the ground, including eight Ethiopian specialists in fields such as forest management.
A major achievement so far, says Professor Wood, is that the regional government has reviewed its forest policy, restoring rights to local people, from whom the state-wrested ownership of the forests more than a hundred years ago.
“Once communities have their rights restored, local institutions are keen to manage their forests sustainably.
“Among the economic success stories in south-west Ethiopia is that a community trading company set up by the Non-Timber Forest Project is producing some 20 tonnes of honey every year.
“Another crucial development – which has special relevance to the Copenhagen conference – is that arrangements are being developed for Ethiopian rainforest communities to receive carbon offset payments, so that they will earn money for maintaining their forests and the carbon stored in them.”
Prof Wood is an Emeritus Professor within the School of Applied Sciences at the University of Huddersfield. Throughout his career he has been involved in a wide range of development projects in Africa and has had intimate knowledge of Ethiopia since 1973.
The region that he describes as ‘Green Ethiopia’ contrasts hugely with the drought-afflicted northern regions of the country.
The south west is a region that has tropical forest and two metres of rainfall a year. Its population density is low – about 20 people per square kilometre, compared with well over 100 in the north.