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3.4 Country paper: Ethiopia


Reality and perspectives

Ethiopia Country Paper
Written by
Kidane Mengistu
P. O. Box 25948/1000
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia



Reality and perspectives
In collaboration with ICRAF and CIFOR
Nairobi, Kenya, 9-13 December 2002


The forests of Ethiopia dwindled at an alarming rate in the past few decades. At present, around 2.3 million ha of largely disturbed forest is believed to remain from the vast areas of natural forest which once covered the country. Even these remnant forests and woodlands are under continuous pressure as a result of high population growth. The larger portions of the existing forests are secondary, due to the widespread human influence, which occurs everywhere. Three types of secondary forests are identified. The post extraction secondary forests and rehabilitated secondary forests occur mainly in the high forest areas. The post fire secondary vegetation developed under the influence of frequent fire, and largely found in the woodland and bushland areas.

Besides their ecological importance, the forests serve as a source of various wood and non-wood products. They are widely used by local communities for grazing and for collecting fuelwood and construction material. They also provide various minor forest products. Government's effort to manage these forests concentrated on the identification and establishment of 58 most important natural forests as National Forest Priority Areas (NFPAs), within the high forest areas. The NFPAs were established in 1988, with their areas totaling about 4.8 million ha, out of which 2.8 million ha were natural forests, 0.1 million ha industrial plantation and 1.9 million ha open and agricultural land. The objective was to implement an integrated management system. Boundaries of the majority of these NFPAs were demarcated, management plans were prepared for eight NFPAs, and two plans are under implementation.

However, on the whole, the measures so far taken to conserve and manage the country's forest did not bring about the expected results, and the process of deforestation has continued. The major reasons for the failure of the past and ongoing efforts are absence of good forest policy, lack of an appropriate institutional setup, and lack of legal status of NFPAs. It will thus be imperative that these constraints are solved in order to introduce and implement sustainable management of the forest resource.


Historical sources indicate that about 40 per cent of Ethiopia's land area was originally covered with high forest of mainly coniferous and broad-leaved types. Another 26 per cent consisted of the savanna woodlands. At the beginning of the 1950s, high forests were reduced to 16 per cent of the country's total land area (EFAP, 1994). In the 1980s the estimate for land areas covered by forests was 3.65 per cent (IUCN, 1990). At present this resource has dwindled to an estimated 2.6 per cent or less. The major force behind the loss of the forest resources is lack of proper policy framework and population pressure, which lead to expansion of agricultural land, overgrazing, indiscriminate felling for fuel wood and construction material.

The consequences of the continuous deforestation are the growing scarcity of fuelwood and construction wood. The increased run-off, soil erosion and hence declining soil fertility have lead to low agricultural productivity. It is estimated that the country is losing over 2 billion tons of soil every year as a result of soil erosion (FAO, 1986). Thus, a substantial area of the highlands has already been taken out of agricultural production as a result of severe degradation.

Most of the remaining natural forests are located in less accessible and/or less populated areas of the southern and southwestern parts of the country. Even the remnant forests are continuously threatened by human activities such as agricultural encroachment, unplanned exploitation and fire. The human interferences are almost everywhere and all the existing forests including woodlands and bushlands are highly disturbed. Their structure and species composition often witnesses disturbance in the past. Thus, almost all the existing forests are secondary.

In general, the current trend indicates a decline in forest resources and an increase in degradation. The annual loss of the high forest area is estimated to be at the range of 100,000 - 200,000 ha. If the current trend of forest destruction is allowed to continue, the country will lose all its natural high forests within the coming few years.

Therefore, appropriate management systems must be introduced in order to save, protect and develop these resources so that they make maximum contribution to soil and watershed protection and conservation of ecosystems. They should also be managed to produce increased volumes of industrial wood, fuelwood, fodder and other minor forest products on a sustainable basis.


Ethiopia, located in the Horn of Africa, covers an area of about 901,000 km2. Its population is estimated at 63 million in 2000 (MEDaC, 2001), with annual growth rate of 3 per cent. Of this population, 88 per cent live in the highlands, which accounts for about 44 per cent of the country's total land area. The population is expected to double by the year 2010, and this high growth is driven by a high fertility rate of about 7.5 children per woman (EFAP, 1994).

Agriculture is the mainstay of Ethiopia's economy that generates 50 per cent of the GNP, and employs over 85 per cent of the population. The sector provides over 60 per cent of all production and accounts for more than 90 per cent of all exports. More than 60 per cent of the country's export earnings are generated by coffee, followed by hides and skins and export of live animals. The country has the largest livestock population on the continent, which is estimated to be about 35.1 million. This sub-sector accounts for 15 per cent of the GDP and 30 per cent of the agricultural output. About 66 per cent of its land area is estimated to be potentially arable, but only 22 per cent is estimated to be presently under cultivation, and about 95 per cent of the cultivated lands are situated in the highlands. The country has contrasting physiography and altitudes with attending diverse ecological zones. The highlands are part of the vast mountain massif situated in the heart of the country with an altitude of above 1500 m.

The forest resources, including woodland and bushland, is estimated to be around 27.5 million ha, of which 2.3 million ha is natural high forests, 5 million ha is woodland, 20 million ha is bushland and the remaining 0.2 million ha is plantation. Most of the important high forest areas are grouped/organized into 58 National Forest Priority Areas (NFPAs) for management purposes. The total area of these NFPAs (including open lands) in 1993 was about 4.8 million ha. There are also 9 National Parks (covering 2.3 million ha), 4 Wildlife Sanctuaries (1 million ha) and 8 Wildlife Reserves (3 million ha), which are officially designated as wildlife conservation areas. These areas are situated in both highlands and lowlands, and some of them are overlapping with NFPAs. Two National Parks (Awash and Semien) are gazetted.

The existing natural high forests are located in the less populated southern and southwestern parts of the country. Over 70 per cent of the high forests are considered as heavily disturbed while the remaining portion as slightly disturbed. In fact the major portion of the existing high forests and almost all the woodlands are highly disturbed.

This paper concentrates only on the secondary forests, giving their current situation including their characteristics and extent, socio-economic and ecological importance, management and administration. It provides also government policy and institutional framework that affect these resources and their management.


Major categories of secondary forests in Ethiopia are: Post extraction, Post fire and rehabilitated secondary forests.

3.1 Post extraction secondary forests

These forests regenerate and develop largely through natural processes after a significant disturbance of the original natural stand by commercial utilization and other human activities such as cutting for fuelwood and construction materials and clearance for cultivation. They occur in the areas of the three major high forest formations of Ethiopia: moist evergreen montane forests, dry evergreen montane forests and moist evergreen lowland forests.

3.1.1 Moist evergreen montane forests

Secondary forests in the moist evergreen montane forests are found in the south and southwestern parts of the country, within altitudinal range of 1100-2700 m. The annual rainfall varies between 1200 mm and over 2000 mm. The rainfall distribution varies from clearly bimodal (in the south) to distinct monomodal (in the south west). The forests in this area are normally the richest in species and have the best stratification. Aningeria adolfi-friedericii is often the only emergent tree species that forms the highest non-continuous stratum of the forest. Hence the term "Aningeria forest" is sometimes used. A transect through Aningeria forest is shown in Appendix 1 (Friis et. al, 1982).

However, past exploitation (selective felling) in these forests has removed the best trees from the stand, leaving the defective and misshaped trees behind. Apparently, the exploited forests (Belete Gera, Sigmo Geba, Bonga and Sylum W.) are missing mostly the well-developed upper stratum and emergent trees. Thus, a discontinuous stratum at about 15 - 30 m height with around 20 different species forms the upper stratum. The main trees are: Albizia schimperiana, Celtis africana, Ekebergia capensis, Cordia afrcana, Croton macrostachys, Polyscias fulva, Schefflera abyssinica, Syzyguim guineense, Octea kenyensis, Sapium ellipticum and Trichilia spp. Below this, another discontinuous stratum with small trees occurs at 5-10 m height. The species in this stratum include Apodytes, Brucea, Milletia, Allophylus, Coffea, Teclea, Galinera and Nuxia. Climbers are still common in some open areas and along forest edges, where more light is penetrating. The herbaceous stratum on the forest floor is rich in species. Several species of ferns, seed plants and broadleaved grasses occur.

Another type of secondary forest with different structure and species composition also occurs within the same forest formation at a higher altitude of above 2000 m, where the original forests were rich in conifers. These are found on the southern escarpments of the Bale mountains (Delo Mena and Angetu forests) and on the southern highland (Anferara, Magada, and Munessa Shashemene). Podocarpus falcatus is mostly the dominating species that emerges above the canopy, often reaching a height of up to 40 m. The more frequent species in the canopy are Warburgia, Olea and Polyscias. The less frequent trees species are Cordia, Celtis, Croton, Diospyros, Syzygium and Mimusops. The canopy of medium sized trees and the lower strata of woody plants in these forests are poor in species.

3.1.2 Dry evergreen montane forests

The other post extraction secondary forest is found in the area of dry evergreen montane forests, which once covered an extensive area of the Ethiopian highlands (De Vletter, 1989; EFAP, 1994). They occur at higher altitude between 2300 - 3200 m, in areas with more or less pronounced dry period of up to 5 months and annual rainfall of around 1000 mm. Due to the relative dominance of Juniperus procera, these forests are also called Juniper forests. Good examples are Adaba Dodola, Kubayo, Menagesha suba, Wof Washa, Chilimo and Arbagugu. Here, most of the undisturbed secondary forests are dominated in upper storey (30 m) still by Juniperus trees, occasionally mixed with Podocarpus falcatus.

A study made on Adaba Dodolla forests (2400-2700 m), showed that the natural regeneration in logged-over (secondary) forests is higher than in the closed forests, indicating that the two dominant species are responding positively to canopy opening (Anon, 1991). Apparently, it is suggested that Juniperus may require full light exposure for good growth, whereas Podocarpus is a more shade tolerant (opportunist) and does not require direct sunlight in its juvenile stage. The open areas are dominated by pioneer species (which do not grow to tree size) such as Carissa, Dodonea, Calpurnia, Euclea and Rhus. The understorey stratum of shrubs and small trees in most matured forest is poorly developed. At higher altitudes (above 2700 m), Juniperus is rather associated with Hagaenia abyssinica and some smaller trees of the sub-afroalpine vegetation such as Hypericum revolutum, Erica arborea and Rapanea spp. Podocarpus does no longer appear at higher altitudes.

Secondary Juniperus forests can also be found in the lower altitudes of 1400 - 1600 m, especially in Borena zone. Examples are the Mankubsa, Arero, Yabelo and Burji forests. Most of these forests are over-aged and unproductive. Loggers have removed all trees with good quality stems. Thus, they have a relatively open canopy of up to 25 m high Juniperus procera trees, and a discontinuous lower stratum of sclerophyllous species. Other tree species that can be found in these forests includes Olea, Euclea, Barbeya, Cussonia, Pistacia and Acokanthera. Surprisingly, there is no regeneration of Juniperus in these forests.

3.1.3 Moist evergreen lowland forests

The post extraction secondary forests are also found in the moist evergreen lowland forest areas, in the eastern parts of Gambella region, within the catchments of the Baro and Akobo rivers. They occur at altitudes between 450 and 1400 m, in areas with a single wet season lasting between 5 and 8 months, and the annual rainfall ranging from 1300-1900 mm. They comprise largely the Godere and Yeki forests and partly the Akobo-Gog forests. The latter are characterized especially by the presence of tree species that are widely distributed elsewhere in Tropical Africa but do not occur in Ethiopia at an altitude of above 1400 m and east of approximately 36 E longitude (Chaffey, 1979). Floristically, they are closely related to the rainforests in southern Sudan and Uganda (De Vletter, 1989).

They have a more or less closed canopy at 15 m height, and largely composed of Baphia abyssinica. Tree species that emerge above this canopy are Alstonia boonii, Celtis gomphophylla, Antiaris toxicaria, Milicia excelsa, Lecaniodiscus fraxinifolius, Diospyros spp. and Malcantha alnifolia. Other less common trees are: Cordia africana, Albizia gummifera, Morus spp., Anogeissus leiocarpus, Dombeya goefzenii, Mimusops kummel and Trichilia emetica. Smaller trees below the canopy include Acalypha neptunica, Tapura fischeri and Erythroxylum fischeri. There is also a distinct layer of shrubs and woody herbs such as Argomuellera macrophylla, Alchornea laxiflora, Oxyanthus speciosus and Mimulopsis solmsii. On the whole, the secondary high forest is estimated to cover around 2 million ha.

3.2 Post fire secondary forests

The post fire secondary forests occur largely within the woodland and bushland. The lowland woodlands are largely restricted to the agro-pastoral and pastoral areas. They are distributed over large areas in the rift valleys, Borena plain, South Omo, Somali, Gambella, and Benshangul regions, within the altitude range of 1000-2000 m. Woodlands are estimated to cover around 5 million ha, and bushlands 20 million ha. The major tree species are various Acacias (incl. A. mellifera, A. tortilis and A.senegal), Combretum, Terminalia, Balanites, Commiphora, Boswellea, Croton and Dodonea. The ground layer is mostly covered with perennial grasses and shrubs.

The lowland woodland areas are intensely used for grazing by nomadic tribes. Fire (natural or man-made) is the major tool being used by the local people as means of pastoral land management. Hence, the present vegetation of the woodland has developed largely under the influence of fire. The tree stands are much depleted and the vegetation is composed of sparsely distributed fire adapted tree species such as Combretum, Acacia and Terminalia. In general, tree height ranges from 5 - 20 m, and canopy cover varies from 0-30 per cent. Thus, the average woody biomass (stock density) of the woodlands is estimated to vary between 5 and 30 m3 / ha. The ground is covered with a more or less continues layer of perennial grasses growing as high as 2 m. A recent study in Gambella plain showed that fire has a strong effect of promoting the dominant species (grasses) while suppressing the less frequent woody species, thus changing the dense forest to "open wooded grassland" (Minassie, 2000).

Secondary vegetation of woodland is also found at higher elevation (2300 - 3400 m), in the mountain woodland areas. Their physiognomy is more or less similar to the lowland woodland, but their species composition is different. Here, poor and stunted Juniperus trees occur. The other major species include Acacia abyssinica, Hagenia abyssinica, Protea spp, Cussonia spp, Erica arborea, Hypericum, Rosa, Maesa and Maytenus spp. Fire is not frequent, and the development of secondary vegetation is largely due to various forms of human pressure.

3.3 Rehabilitated secondary forests

Rehabilitated secondary forests are found in the northern and central highlands, where some relic areas of high forests were selected and designated as National Forest Priority Areas (NFPAs) for protection and improved management. They are located in the Dry evergreen montane forest areas, between 2000 and 3500 m. Junipers procera is the dominant tree species, which forms the non-continuous upper storey at the height of up to 40 m, in well-protected areas. The ground floor in the lower altitudes often consists of shrubs and a fair regeneration of Juniperus and/or Podocarpus in closed areas. Most of these forests are located in quite inaccessible areas. Their total area is about 22,000 ha, and comprises Des-A, Gumburda Grakaso, Yegof-Erike, Wof washa, Menagesha Suba, Chilmo-Gaje and Yerer-Zuquala state forests. A considerable size of plantations of exotic species mainly Eucalyptus globules, E. camaldulensis and Cupressus lusitanica has also been established within and around these forests.


Forestry's contribution to GDP in 1991/92 was estimated to be less than 3 per cent (EFAP, 1994), but this does not show real importance of this sector to the country's economy. There have been no systematic survey of the various wood and minor forest products to show the economic value of the country's forests, and therefore also the secondary forests. If all the tangible (major and minor forest products) and intangible (watershed protection, soil conservation, wildlife habitat, etc.) benefits enter into calculation, the sector's contribution to the GDP could be well above 10 per cent.

In Ethiopia, wood is the main energy source for urban and rural people. Wood is also widely used for construction, fencing and making farm implements. The estimate for annual wood production in 1990 was about 4 million m3, out of which 90 per cent is utilized as fuelwood, 7 per cent for construction such as local house, fencing and local furniture and the remaining 3 per cent (about 120,000 m) are processed into industrial wood products such as lumber, plywood, fiber board and particle boards. The wood required for fuel and construction purpose mainly comes from the secondary high forests, woodlands and bushlands. Wood for fuel and construction comes also from trees planted on farms, and plantations. In highly deforested areas of the northern highlands, crop residues and cattle dung have replaced firewood to a considerable extent. Hence, in areas where they persist, the natural forests provide the much-needed firewood for cooking, heating and lighting, thereby releasing agricultural residues and cattle dung to be used in soil improvement to increase agricultural production.

Almost all the industrial round wood comes from the secondary high forests. Sawmillers get cutting permits from the regional Agricultural Bureaus. The permits are issued mostly on auction basis. Pitsawers also do felling illegally. In general, the harvesting operations in both cases are not conducted properly, thus causing wastage and damage to the regeneration and saplings. In addition to the major forest products, the high forests also provide a large number of non-wood products such as ginger, cardamum, cinnamomum, wild honey and medicinal plants. They also provide shelter and food for a variety of wildlife (including large mammals and birds). This clearly illustrates the importance of these forests to the nation.

The secondary high forest areas are used by both the state (government) and the local people. The local communities living within and around these forests use them for cultivating crops in clearings, grazing, fuelwood, construction materials and the minor forest products mentioned above. The government selected and designated some 58 National Forest Priority Areas (NFPAs) within these forest areas. The major objectives are protection, conservation and commercial utilization. Each NFPA has natural forests, plantations, open areas and cultivated lands. So far, the government established an estimated 100,000 ha of industrial plantations within the NFPAs. However, local communities mostly consider the establishment of such state forest areas within the forests to be an encroachment on their forest resource and land. Thus, faced with stark poverty, they encroach on all natural forests including the NFPAs, and cut trees illegally.

The state conservation and protection goals are therefore in conflict with the immediate consumption needs of growing local populations. The major challenge is to find systems of management that will minimize destruction of these forests (EFAP (1994)), balancing protection objectives (preserving ecosystems and genetic resources) with production interests of the state and local communities.

Similarly, secondary `forests' in the woodlands and bushlands are important sources of fuelwood, construction materials and fodder for local communities. They also provide a number of other valuable products for rural daily livelihood needs, , and preserve the soil and local climate. The "Acacia-Boswellia" woodlands have great importance for production of gum Arabic, incense, gum myrrh, honey and oppoponax products. Most of these minor forest products (natural gums) are exported while about 50 per cent of the incense products are consumed locally. The gum producing species are Acacia senegal, Commiphora myrrha, C. abyssinica and C. erythrana, and incense is produced from Boswellia papyrifera, B. boranensis, B. ogadensis and B. rivae. The gum and incense production and marketing business are run mainly by a government operated Natural Gum Processing and Marketing Enterprise (NGPME) and few private entrepreneurs. The products are collected through contract labor or bought from local people. A total of 4820 ton was collected in 1996. In the same year, the NGPME exported 2838 ton of gum and earned about US$ 2.5 million.

Unlike the secondary high forest area, the government (forestry service) has not yet actively intervened in the management and administration of the woodlands and bushlands. The lowland woodlands are intensively used by nomadic tribes and some settled communities/pastoralists for grazing and cultivation. Fire used in pastoral land management, and an open access to tree felling for fuelwood and charcoal production, have led to gradual degradation of the natural vegetation.

There is no accurate information on the extent, land use situations and users rights of the secondary woodlands and bushlands. Pastoralists are generally the traditional users of most of the lowland woodlands and bushlands. Due to their movement, this group lacks the ability to prevent other groups from cutting trees. On the other hand, the interests of grazing and wood production are mostly held by different groups. Yet, there is no adequate information on the traditional management of the concerned areas. All these issues pose difficulties in designing a feasible and sustainable management of these resources.


Currently the management of secondary forests is not considered different from the management of the forests and woodlands in general. The discussion that follows will therefore address the knowledge, experiences and current practices in the management of the natural forests in Ethiopia.

5.1 National forest priority areas

Though the history of government's involvement in the management of natural forests dates back to the 1880's, organized effort to conserve these resources was started at the beginning of the 1970s.The first reconnaissance forest inventory was then carried out to identify the existing natural forests. Following the result of the inventory, the newly created Forestry and Wildlife Development Authority (FaWDA) launched a natural forest management program in 1977. With the aim to introduce integrated forest management system, five natural forest areas namely Munessa Shashemene, Tiro-Boter Becho, Menagesha Suba, Dindin and Megada state forests were selected as pilot projects. The management activities included detailed inventories, road construction, improved logging techniques and testing of various silvicultural operations and systems.

Another strategy to conserve the country's forest resources in the high forest zone was designed at the beginning of the 1980s. The concept of pilot projects was changed to National Forest Priority Areas (NFPAs). The most important high forest areas were selected and incorporated into 58 NFPAs. Their size ranged from 10,000 to 300,000 ha. Their location is shown in Annex 3. The original objectives behind the establishment of NFPAs were to protect and develop the remaining natural forests, allocate available resources on these areas and introduce integrated forest management, with an ultimate goal that each NFPA becomes a self financing enterprise. While controlling resource use to combat genetic erosion, a management plan was to guide the development and subsequent utilization of the resources. The natural forests in these NFPAs are estimated to be around 2.3 million ha, with over two-thirds heavily disturbed while the rest are lightly disturbed. There are also about 100,000 ha of plantations and around 1.9 million ha of open and agricultural lands within NFPAs. NFPAs, which were established prior to 1989, are listed in Annex 2. The boundaries of 42 NFPAs with a total size of about 2.2 millions ha were demarcated on the ground with concrete pillars, during 1980-1992. The demarcation (establishment of the boundary) was carried out in cooperation (agreements) with the representatives of the adjacent farmers' associations (PAs). In the same period, management plans were prepared for about seven NFPAs, with technical support of SIDA and GTZ. However, not all NFPAs are yet gazetted. This contributed much to the creation of an open access situation where these forests continued to be threatened by illegal cutting and encroachment. Another 13 important forest areas were identified after 1992 by the regional agricultural bureaus to be conserved and managed as NFPAs. This brings the total number of NFPAs to 71.

In addition to the government-funded programs, there are a number of externally supported projects involved in forest management. The Adaba Dodola Integrated Forest Management Project is under implementation by GTZ. Its mission is to develop a feasible approach for conservation of natural forests in the Oromia region. The Bonga Forest Conservation and Development Project and the Chilimo Joint Forest Management Pilot Project are run by FARM-Africa (an NGO). Both projects are developing forest conservation approaches, which encourage local communities to take responsibility for protection and management in return for legal access to products and other benefits from the forest. Another NGO, the SOS Sahl is also implementing the Borana Collaborative Forest Management Project. The WWF Project is also involved in conservation, management and sustainable utilization of the forest and wildlife resources in Bale Mountains National Park and Mena-Angetu NFPA.

The administration and management of NFPAs falls under the jurisdiction of the Agricultural Bureaus of the concerned Regional States. In most cases, the management of these forest areas is run with little or no participation of the local communities. However, the local people, through their local organizations (Peasant Associations or PAs), have the mandate to conserve and manage small forest areas (natural forests and plantations/ community woodlots) outside the NFPAs. The PAs also have the responsibility to collaborate with the government forestry service in protecting the conservation areas of the state, such as NFPAs and National Parks, from fire, illegal felling, poaching and any other activities that are harmful to these areas.

Presently, except for four NFPAs (Munessa Shashemene, Tiro-Boter Becho, Adaba Dodola and Menagesha Suba), all the others have no administrative status. The small numbers of Forest guards have no appropriate legal power to stop illegal felling. Although most of the NFPAs are demarcated, they are not yet gazetted or legally registered, i.e. the legal framework is not established. The forestry services at national and regional level, lack clear legal titles to these areas. This has contributed to the creation of an open access situation, where these forests continued to be encroached by local people.

On the whole, the natural forest management program did not bring about the expected results. Most NFPAs are occupied by farmers who claim residual right in these areas. On the other hand, the forestry service did not make any significant efforts to manage the other forest areas outside the NFPAs, including the woodlands and bushlands. Little is known about the potential and productivity of these resources. Local knowledge and experiences on management of secondary forests (both in high forests and woodlands areas) are not available. In another words, there are no known indigenous or traditional management practices which local people apply to manage natural forests. There is however some related cases with different objectives, where local people practice traditional agroforestry, such as keeping some shade trees (Cordia africana, Albizia gummifera, etc.) on coffee farms and in some areas, where local communities are interested to retain or protect the natural forests for production of spices like cardamom and for traditional bee keeping.

There is no organized management program for woodland areas in Ethiopia.

5.2 Management planning

Management plans had been prepared for eight NFPAs namely Munesa Shashemene, Tiro Boter Becho, Menagesha Suba, Jelo, Yegof, Wof Wash, Des-A and Belete Gera. Preparation of a plan is done on the basis of an inventory of the forest resources and socio-economic survey of the concerned forest areas. This program was originally supported by SIDA and GTZ. In particular, the ex-GTZ Forestry Project has prepared a management plan for Yegof and Jelo NFPAs. These plans include computerized data banks where the compartment and other data can be updated as needed. SIDA has stopped its support to this program in mid 1990s, while GTZ is still involved in management of one NFPA (Adaba Dodola).

Due to lack of funds, the forestry service could only partially implement two of the prepared plans (that of Munesa Shashmene and Tiro Boter Becho). The major objective of managing these forests, as stated in the two plans (documents) is to ensure optimum protection, conservation and utilization of natural forests on a sustained yield basis. The short-term (five years) objectives were to aim at even annual yields of various forest products, to build up the growing stock of valuable species in the natural forests, and to improve the infrastructure and socio-economics of the forest area. The long term objectives (25 years) were to:

For management purposes, both forest areas were divided into various working circles: Protection working circles, afforestation working circle, selection working circle, shelterwood working circle and nature reserve working circle (for Tiro Boter Becho) and natural forest improvement working circle (for Munesa Sheshemene). Details of the management objectives, methods and operations to be carried out in each working circle are given in the relevant management plan documents.

Implementation of the two plans was constrained by several factors. Some professionals, including Visanen (1992), pointed out that the proposed silvicultural methods (operations) are not feasible, since they are not proved by research. They suggested that all plans should be modified so that they would be technically and economically feasible. On the other hand, since the plans gave more emphasis on rehabilitation of the concerned forest areas, this necessitated high investment on infrastructural facilities, clearing and improvement operations. These factors together with low royalties (stumpage fees), due to government-controlled prices set by the previous regime, resulted in the low profitability of natural forest management. Royalties from sale of timber and other revenues collected from the NFPAs are sent to state treasuries, but very little or no funds are made available for management of these forests.

At present, exploitation of forests is regulated through the harvesting license issued by the regional Agricultural Bureaus, on an auction basis. Timber exploitation is conducted mostly without planning or pre-harvest inventories. The cutting permits indicate the allowable quantity of logs to be harvested and the name of the NFPA or forest area from where the given volume has to be harvested. The sawmiller/concessionaire selects only the best stems from a relatively large area, and utilizes only the best parts of those stems. Usually, only very few species with high market value (such as Juniperus, Podocarpus, Cordia and Aningeria) are utilized (the felling of the first three species and Hagenia was banned in 1994). Hence, potentially usable species, and often even merchantable species are not utilized. From a standing volume (commercial) of between 50 - 80 m3 per ha, only 8 - 12 m3 per ha is actually felled. The felling is done mainly by locally made axes, and crosscutting with two-men cross-cut saws. No enrichment plantings or other improvement operations are undertaken after logging.

In addition to the legal exploitation, illegal felling (including pit-sawing) and other human pressure on all NFPAs are extremely high. The annual loss (deforestation rate) is estimated to be 150,000 - 200,000 ha. The forestry service has little or no means to protect these forests.


6.1 Forest and Land tenure policy

Ethiopia has no forest policy as such. Instead, forestry proclamations have been serving as a policy basis for forest conservation, development and utilization. Thus, the regulatory framework, which governs management of the forest resource, is the Forest Conservation and Development Proclamation of 1994 (No 94).

Prior to 1975, over 75 per cent of the country's forests (natural and manmade) were owned by the private sector. In 1975 the Public Ownership of Rural Land Proclamation (No 31, 1975) had resulted in nationalization of the land, and ownership of land was transferred to the state. This proclamation also abolished private ownership of forest, and the government became the sole administrator of all forests covering more than 80 ha. The then established PAs (farmers' association) became responsible for forests less than this size. According to this proclamation, which served until 1991, no person was allowed to own or hold land in private. The law also prohibited the sell, lease, exchange, rent or mortgage of land.

After the collapse of the previous Marxist regime (1991), a new Rural Land Proclamation was formulated, and came into force in July 1997. With this proclamation the land ownership has not changed much. The policy is that all land belongs to the state, and farmers are entitled to life long inheritable and transferable rights to the use of land (Federal Rural Land Administration Proclamation No 89/1997). It is stated (Part Two, No 4) "Land is a common property of the Nations, Nationalities and peoples of Ethiopia and shall not be subject to sell or to other means of exchange". The regional states thus administer land according to or based on the general provisions of this proclamation.

At the same time, the forestry legislation was critically revised. A major policy change was made, especially with regards to forest ownership, tree tenure right and forest product pricing and marketing. According to the present Forestry Proclamation (No 94/1994), there are three types of forest ownership: State forest, Regional forest and Private forests. The new proclamation encourages the involvement of private sector and the local communities in the development and management of forests. It also recognizes the need to ensure that communities residing within the state and regional forests benefit from development of the forests. Implementation of this proclamation is however constrained due to delays in establishing operational rules and clear guidelines on some important issues such as identification of the state forests and regional forests as well as production and protection forests. There are also excessive delays in establishing the legal status of the state forests (NFPAs).

It should however be noted that the issue of tree/forest ownership is inseparably linked with that of land ownership. Hence, even if the issue of forest/tree tenure is addressed through the mentioned forestry proclamation, the problem related to deforestation is unlikely to be resolved without dealing with the question of land ownership and legal status of NFPAs.

6.2 Institutional framework

Since its establishment in 1945, the forestry administration in Ethiopia has mostly been working as a subordinate division or department within the Ministry of Agriculture. The exception is a short period of about 6 years (1977 - 79 and 1980 - 84) during which it was allowed to work as semi-autonomous organization (Forestry and Wildlife Conservation and Development Authority). Currently, the sector is working as "Forestry and Wildlife Conservation and Development Team" within the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA), which is mandated among others, to formulate land-use policy and draft laws and legislation on conservation and sustainable utilization of the country's forest and wildlife resources, at central level. At regional level, the regional Bureau of Agriculture is responsible for the management and administration of forests. The exception is in the Oromiya region, where an independent and autonomous organization (Rural Land and Natural Resources Administration Authority), established in August 2002, is responsible for the forestry sector.

A number of other institutions are also, directly or indirectly, involved in forest resource management and related activities. These include: Ethiopian Agricultural Research Organization (engaged in forest research activities), Institute of Biodiversity Conservation and Research, Ethiopian Wildlife Conservation Organization, Environmental Protection Authority, Wondo Genet College of Forestry, and some NGOs such as FARM Africa, Menschen fur Menschen, SOS Sahl and WWF.

In general, there has been no appropriate institution responsible for the forestry sector. Again, there had been lack of stability of the organizations, which had been mandated to administer and manage forest resources in the past. For instance, in the past 20 years alone, there had been seven structural changes in the institutions concerned with forest administration and management. The last reorganization in the Ministry took place in 1997, when the sector was reorganized to work as a Team within the Natural Resources Management and Regulatory Department of the MoA. Similar reorganization took place in regional states.

Thus, the institution responsible for the sector has been in a state of continuous flux, lacking stability and sense of direction. This resulted in discontinuity of planning and implementation of development projects and programs, misallocation of resources, and financial constraints. In general, the lack of an appropriate structural setup for implementation of programs, and the absence of a monitoring system seriously affected the development of the forestry sector.

6.3 Main constraints and issues in policy, institutional and legal framework

The major constraints and issues in a policy, institutional and legal frameworks are:


In general, little has been done on the management of secondary forests in Ethiopia. In addition to the major reasons cited above (par. 6.3), the lack of extensive knowledge on the dynamics and silvicultural requirements of indigenous species and the lack of financial resources are the main constraints to the introduction and implementation of sound forest management. In fact, natural forest management and establishment of plantations with indigenous species were not considered attractive due to the slow growth of indigenous species. Management of plantations of exotic species such as Eucalyptus and Cupressus was considered to be easier and cheaper. Apparently, concerned government authorities and donor communities gave much more attention and priority to plantation establishment than natural forest management.

However, a number of striking disadvantages are observed among the industrial plantations, which were established in different parts of the country during the past three decades. Plantations in some NFPAs showed poor performance due to a lack of appropriate tending. Some introduced species like Cupressus and Pinus, established in the east and central highlands, showed die back due to unknown diseases. In addition, products from these plantations are quite inferior to that of natural forests in terms of both commercial value and physical properties. Besides their advantage of being a source of high quality industrial round wood, the natural forest also provide a wide range of social and ecological functions and services which could not be rendered by plantations. The other important point is that a huge sum of financial resources was involved to establish these plantations of inferior wood quality, while the natural high forests of over 2 million ha can be developed, managed and utilized with relatively low cost.

As noted earlier, the rate of plantation development has not kept pace with the increasing demand for forest products. Even if, for instance, the ongoing fuel wood plantation development is expanded much, the higher yields achieved in practice, can only meet a small proportion of the country's fuel wood needs, for at least the coming 20 years. Hence, if the country's problems in supplying fuelwood and building poles are to be solved, much of the woodlands and bushlands have to be brought under permanent management (de Vletter, 1989). This shows that the country has to rely on proper management of its natural forests for the satisfaction of a wide range of material and non-material needs for a long time to come.

Yet, the natural forests are continuously cleared to provide agricultural land, fuelwood and construction materials for increasing population. The ongoing management measures have not been able to control or stop the loss of forests. The rate of deforestation is estimated to range from 100,000 - 200,000 ha per year. If the present trend of deforestation is allowed to continue, the larger portion (over 90 per cent) of the existing high forests will be transformed into agricultural land within the coming 10-15 years. Therefore, an appropriate management program and strategy have to be designed immediately to protect/save at least the officially designated NFPAs, and at the same time meet the basic interest and needs of the local community residing within and around these forests.

In conclusion, the major constraints, which hindered the introduction of sound natural forest management, can be summarized as follows:

The massive destruction of natural forests in the recent years has raised the concern of the government. Thus, it has become apparent and recognized by the government that sustained development of the forestry sector remains dependent on the formulation and adoption of appropriate policy, and the establishment of an effective institution for implementing the policy. A draft forest policy document has already been developed by professionals and submitted to the MoA in 1996, for review and ultimate submission to the Council of Ministers. Hopefully, this policy document may get approved and come into force in the near future.


The success in the introduction and implementation of a sound forest management system in Ethiopia will greatly depend on the government's measure to immediately issue a clear forest policy and to establish an appropriate institution responsible for the forestry sector. In particular, the key issues, which require policy statements include:

As suggested by EFAP (1994), of the existing secondary high forests, about 1.2 million ha can be set aside for protection, while the remaining 0.8 million ha could be used for wood production. The protection areas should include those forests on steep slopes (over 35 per cent) and separate areas to be retained to preserve the natural flora and fauna and ecosystems. Therefore, logging or any other human interference should not be allowed in these areas.

As regards to production forests, the lack of experience or research information in the field of natural forest management may pose obstacles to immediately introduce and implement appropriate management practices. But this should not prevent the immediate commencement of management planning in these forests. Thus, until research provides information for development of appropriate silvicultural systems, management work can start with selective cuttings followed by assisted natural regeneration in slightly disturbed forests, and improvement cuttings with enrichment planting in heavily disturbed forests. In the mean time, a well-designed research work should start in the major high forest areas of the country. Such research work will give reliable results (within a period of 5-10 years) on whether these silvicutural systems are feasible or not.

The ongoing program of NFPA development has to be expanded also to the woodland areas, with the objective to utilize the resources on a sustainable basis. Since there is no information on the indigenous use or scientific/modern management of woodlands, a research program has to be started immediately on management systems that would be relevant to woodland management. All development activities should be carried out on participatory basis. As also suggested by EFAP (1994), the responsibility for administration and management of the concerned areas should be given to the local communities or pastoralists, while government's responsibility should be limited to research operations and development of suitable management systems.


1. Anonymous, 1991. Ethiopia. Integrated Forestry Management Project Dodola Adaba. Feasibility Study. Final Report Volume I. Prepared for the Government of Ethiopia and GTZ Germany. Hamburg May 1991 GFA.

2. Chaffey, D.R., 1979. South West Ethiopia Forest Inventory Project. A Reconnaissance Inventory of Forest in South West Ethiopia. Project Report 31. Overseas Development Administration, UK.

3. De Vletter, J. 1989. Some Aspects of Natural Forest Management. State Forest Conservation and Development Department and GTZ. Training Document No 10. Addis Ababa.

4. Ethiopian Forestry Action Program (EFAP) 1994. Final Report Volume II - The Challenge for Development and Volume III - Issues and Action. Ministry of Natural Resources Development and Environmental Protection, EFAP Secretariat, Addis Ababa.

5. Food and Agriculture Organization of the U.N(FAO) 1986. Ethiopian Highlands Reclamation Study. Final Report. Rome.

6. Friis, Ib, Finn N. Rasmussen and Kaj Vollesen, 1982. Studies in the flora and vegetation of southwest Ethiopia. Opera Botanica 63, Copenhagen.

7. International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) 1990. Ethiopian National Conservation Strategy. Phase 1 report. Based on the Work of Adrian Wood and Michael Stahl.

8. MEDaC 2001. Ethiopia: Development Framework and Plan of Action 2001-2020. Presentation of the GFDRE on the 3rd UN Conference on the Least Developed Countries, Brussels, 2001. Ministry of Economic Development and Cooperation, Addis Ababa.

9. Minassie, G. 2000. Survival Strategies and Ecological Performances of Plants in Regularly Burnt Savannah Woodlands and Grasslands of Western Ethiopia. Proceedings Round table Conference on Integrated Forest Fire Management in Ethiopia, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Pp 19-20.

10. Ministry of Agriculture 1998. Monitoring of Forest Resources in Ethiopia. Report compiled by Matthias Reusing, GTZ, Addis Ababa.

11. Vaisanen, U. 1992. Forest Management Technical Report. Ethiopian Forestry Action Plan. Addis Ababa.


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