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Reversing the clock

Photo credit: IWMI-CGIAR

Hillside exclosures in in the Gomit watershed of the Amhara regional state, Ethiopia. Wolde Mekuria Bori

Ethiopian communities attempt to save biodiversity and livelihoods

Denuded slopes and landscapes sliced open by gullies are common sights in the northern highlands of Ethiopia where deforestation, erosion and loss of biodiversity are on the rise. For a population largely dependent on smallholder agriculture, environmental degradation is a significant threat to food production and livelihoods. But a recent study shows that exclosures – sections of communal land protected from grazing and crop production – could help communities turn back the clock before it’s too late.

According to the study, exclosures can restore degraded ecosystems, diversify incomes and support the livelihoods of smallholder farmers. However, setting aside these communal areas can increase pressure on other shared resources, such as fuelwood and grazing land. To address these trade-offs and support a balance between short-term and long-term needs, community participation and incentives are vital throughout the project.

Exclosure benefits

Exclosures promote the regeneration of native plants and trees, which help retain moisture and nutrients in the soil and prevent erosion. Exclosures also reduce greenhouse gasses, thereby lessening the consequences of climate change; during ‘carbon sequestration’, plants pull CO2 from the atmosphere and store it in their stems and leaves. Trees are particularly important for long-term carbon storage.

Read the full article: IWMI-CGIAR

See also:

Mekuria, W.; Langan, S.; Johnston, R.; Belay, B.; Amare, D.; Gashaw, T.; Desta, G.; Noble, A.;  Wale, A. 2015. Restoring aboveground carbon and biodiversity: a case study from the Nile basin, Ethiopia. Forest Science and Technology. [doi: 10.1080/21580103.2014.966862]

This work has been undertaken as part of the CGIAR Research Program on Water, Land and Ecosystems(WLE).

Published by

Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.