Harnessing Drylands Management for Ethiopia’s Development

10 Mar 2014

A high level policy forum on drylands management has helped create awareness of the economic importance of drylands, identify policy gaps for scaling up best practices, and share experiences on the benefits of sustainably managing and utilizing drylands in Ethiopia.

The event in Semara, Afar Regional State, was organised by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in partnership with the Afar Regional Government, and the Afar Environmental Protection, Land Administration and Use Agency (EPLAUA).

EPLAUA implemented the Afar Integrated Drylands Management Project (AIDMP), from 2010-2013 with the support of UNDP and the Norwegian Government, seeking to improve the livelihoods and coping mechanisms of the pastoral communities in five districts of the region.

Afar is inhabited mainly by pastoralists and agro-pastoralist and, has invested strongly in responding to climate change and hazards caused by it. However, droughts, floods, outbreaks of diseases and expansion of invasive species continue to reoccur and the extent of the damages is increase.

AIDMP has helped to build the communities’ adaptive capacity to climate change and improve and diversify local livelihoods and has made valuable contributions to the development initiatives throughout the Afar region.

“Given the size, economic importance and vulnerability of the drylands, the government of Ethiopia has given due attention to mainstream integrated drylands management in all its development interventions,” noted Mr. Bethan Solomon, Director of the State of the Environment, speaking on behalf of State Minister Kare Chawicha of the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF).  He also highlighted that the Government of Ethiopia welcomes recommendations of sound scientific research and best practices from the field.

Participants at the forum in Semera highlighted that as frontiers of desertification, mismanagement of natural resources in the drylands may negatively impact their contribution to the economy.

Representatives from academia, federal and regional government, and project districts, attending the policy forum noted that life in drylands requires pastoralists and agro-pastoralists to be continually involved in responding to their changing environment.

Engagement with these communities was said to provide a concrete opportunity to build resilience, apply local expertise and successfully foster development successful drylands management.

Challenges identified to be addressed through the next phase of AIDMP and similar projects included the communities’ seasonal movements in search of pasture and water; the scattered nature of the settlements;  low level of awareness on sustainable drylands management and the negative impacts of climate change;   and limited resources to execute project activities.  

‘’Given the extent and complexity of problems and development challenges that prevail in this region, the current interventions are not adequate.” said Vice President of the Afar National Regional State Awel Arba who added , “We strongly request continued and increased support from donors, government and non-governmental organizations’’.