An Irish NGO is playing its part in an ambitious plan to plant four billion trees in Ethiopia in one year.
Self Help Africa, an agricultural development organization, will complete the planting of 300,000 tree seedlings in Ethiopia this weekend.
The charity, which has worked in Ethiopia since 1983, has dedicated €20,000 to the planting and maintenance of fruit and bush tree seedlings in the Lake Ziway region.
The trees will rehabilitate land damaged by drought, boost soil quality and combat climate change by absorbing carbon dioxide. A fully mature tree can absorb 48 pounds of carbon dioxide per year.
Self Help Africa will also provide training to farmers’ associations to ensure that the seeds are able to grow to maturity, under the oversight of country director Dr Wubshet Birhanu.
According to Dr Birhanu, 35 members of the local community and 15 Self Help Africa staff took part on the launch day of the project, with hundreds of landowners expected to be involved in the later stages.
Ray Jordan, the chief executive of Self Help Africa, claimed the investment-based model was a sign that “the long game has entered the mainstream”.
Mr Jordan added: “What does it mean to be Irish? [In agriculture], it’s about knowledge and investment: applying our knowledge of agriculture and investing in viable and sustainable communities to link farmers to market places.”
The effort is aimed at supporting Ethiopia’s “Green Legacy Initiative”, under which an attempt was made last month to plant 350 million trees in a day.
The reforestation efforts, launched by reforming prime minister Abiy Ahmed, have been praised by climate scientists and received widespread media attention.
The launch of the initiative follows a well-publicised Swiss study, which found the world could accommodate an extra 0.9 billion hectares of tree cover, an area the size of the United States.
Increased tree cover would be the most effective means of combating climate change, the study stated, but reforestation must be accompanied by a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.
However, critics of the study have warned that indiscriminate tree planting could destroy local ecosystems and that indigenous groups must oversee reforestation efforts.
Ethiopia’s decision to plant groves of fast-growing, Australian eucalyptus trees in the 1970s destroyed local plants and led to soil erosion, compounding food shortages and drought.