The link between conserving nature and improving lives for rural communities… Reflections from Ethiopia

"Rural development is all about improving the living conditions of people living in the rural areas. Restoring degraded and deforested land makes a great contribution towards this end. I strongly believe that Forest Landscape Restoration (FLR) is key as natural resources play a central role in rural livelihoods," says Amanuel Shewa Toka, an assistant professor at the College of Agriculture in Arba Minch University, Ethiopia, upon completion of an online course developed by ‘Empowering People to Restore and Conserve Tropical Forests (ELTI)’ - Yale University in partnership with IUCN.  

Amanuel Shewa Toka

Tracking and scaling up Forest Landscape Restoration (FLR) activities in support of  AFR100  in selected countries’ is a project aimed at establishing a baseline for the restoration of degraded lands in the watersheds of Lake Chamo in Arba Minch, Ethiopia and Boeny and Diana regions of Madagascar. 

One major component of this project, is the capacity building for FLR stakeholders, through an online course developed by ‘Empowering People to Restore and Conserve Tropical Forests (ELTI)’ - Yale University in partnership with IUCN. 

Amanuel Shewa Toka, an assistant professor at the College of Agriculture in Arba Minch University completed the course in February 2020 and shares his experience and learnings:

Tell us about yourself

I am currently working as an assistant professor in rural development and Agricultural Extension as the College of Agriculture in Arba Minch University. Apart from being a lecturer, I conduct researches and deliver community service activities in my area of specialization. Before joining the university, I worked in the agriculture and rural development office, at the Ethiopian Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) for eight years. I got ample exposure to nature conservation and restoration

Amanuel Shewa Toka Photo: Amanuel Shewa Toka

 

What motivated you to work in conservation and nature?

Rural development is all about improving the living conditions of people living in the rural areas, and that is my passion. Restoring degraded and deforested land makes a great contribution towards this end. I strongly believe that Forest Landscape Restoration (FLR) is key as natural resources play a central role in rural livelihoods. 

What was your experience participating in the FLR online course?

FLR Online course - Ethiopia Photo: IUCN ESARO The online course was a great opportunity to learn and share my experience in integrated landscape restoration, bringing in all aspects of rural development, agriculture and forest conservation. I found it very helpful in my current role as I am engaged in development of restoration strategies. I listened to experiences from other countries such as Madagascar, Rwanda and Togo, how they are restoring their lands and how they fast track the progress towards their Bonn Challenge commitments.

 

 

How is the new knowledge helping in your work?

I am currenty working with the team conducting Restoration Opportunity Assessment Methodology (ROAM) for Lake Chamo catchment and the lessons learnt during the online course are substantially helping our effort starting from situation analysis, data collection through to focus group discussions and gathering secondary data to assess degradation factors and propose landscape restoration interventions to save Lake Chamo catchment and improve local livelihood.

Will the learnings add value to FLR work in Ethiopia?

Ethiopia has set ambitious targets for protecting and restoring cropland and grassland Photo: A. Davey CC2.0

The learning is helpful for Ethiopia: considering the FLR experience shared during the course and based on the agro ecological zones within the catchment, the team from Arba Minch University who participated in the course are able to provide technical support to IUCN to conduct the restoration opportunity assessment in Arba Minch. Later, this can be scaled up to other regions in the country. These restored forests landscapes will benefit the local population and the national economy in line with Ethiopia’s ambition to achieve a climate resilient green economy. 

Secondly, we learnt about the Barometer, a tool to track progress towards the Bonn Challenge commitments.  Ethiopia pledged to restore 15 million of its degraded and deforested land. FLR online course participants were from different organisations and institutions working in areas related to restoration. So, together with the aid of Environment, Forest and Climate Change Commission (EFCCC), the Barometer will help us to report our country’s achievement not only for Bonn Challenge but also for other international commitments.

 

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