Addis Ababa is the capital and largest city in Ethiopia and hosts the headquarters of two important international organizations: the African Union and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa. The city is sometimes known as the “political capital of Africa.”
In Addis, the River Basins and Green Development Agency is the department most directly engaged with Cities4Forests. The agency undertakes green development in river areas, medians and vacant green areas to create appealing and people-centered natural spaces. The agency’s goal is to increase the city’s green area per capita (especially through public parks and river buffer zones) and mitigate climate change through sustainable green development.
River Basins and Green Development Agency is pursuing several goals through its involvement in Cities4Forests. These include capacity building, experience sharing and engagement in different initiatives that share knowledge on how to enhance urban green development. The agency seeks to benefit from access to databases that identify the most vital tools, initiatives and research. The agency seeks to use this information to better make the case for conserving and expanding green spaces and to advocate for resources for urban green development. The city hopes to learn about best practices for communications and community engagement including messaging, digital media, photo exhibitions, educational material and other outreach tools. Finally, the city hopes to benefit broadly from collaboration with other cities in the Cities4Forests network.
“Forests are the lungs of our city. We depend on them for clean air, and they play an important role in our plan for a greener Addis.”
Mayor of Addis Ababa
The Agency is interested in using urban trees and forests to provide multiple health benefits for the residents of Addis, to sustain water resources, to combat climate change and to protect global biodiversity. The city seeks to use trees and other green infrastructure to clean the air, moderate the temperature, and support human health and wildlife. The city is also interested in how green vegetation can generate rain for urban farm projects, provide a wealth of useful products, and support those individuals engaged urban agriculture.
The Agency also seeks to explore how trees in the city’s watershed areas can better contribute to clean air and drinking water, reduced flooding, soil conservation, shade and recreational services, job opportunities and escape from hectic urban life for more natural recreation activities.
At a national level, Ethiopia has committed to restore 15 million hectares of degraded and deforested land by 2025, equivalent to 1/6 of the country’s total land area. Cities4Forests partner WRI works with the national government to build and utilize the Tree-Based Landscape Restoration Atlas of Ethiopia in order to analyze how restoration might affect water security. Cities4Forests provides an opportunity to link Addis to these national efforts around the world.
An immigrant tree that put down roots
At the end of the nineteenth century, Emperor Menelik II introduced eucalyptus plantations from Australia to the new capital of Ethiopia, Addis Ababa, as a response to deforestation around the rapidly expanding city. Today eucalyptus can be found throughout Ethiopia. It is used as a raw material in construction, composite products, and for fuel. The great advantage of this tree is that grows fast, requires minimal care, and is resistant to environmental stress and diseases. However, there are widespread concerns about its impact on native vegetation, soil erosion and water scarcity. Nonetheless, the plantations of eucalyptus reduce the pressure on the country’s natural forests, and contribute substantially to Ethiopian households: on average at least 26% of total family income came from eucalyptus plantations. Better education and forestry practices are needed to rebalance the development of eucalyptus plantations with the native trees. The eucalyptus has significantly contributed to Ethiopia’s development; eradication is not a solution.