Previous PageTable Of ContentsNext Page


The Natural Resources Management and Regulatory Department
Ministry of Agriculture
Addis Ababa

1. Background

1.1. Economy and Economic Policy

Agriculture is the dominant sector of the Ethiopian economy accounting for 46% of the GDP. It is the main source of domestic food supply and foreign exchange earnings accounting for 90% of total exports. In spite of its high activity, the agricultural sector potential is presently far under-utilised.

Past inappropriate government policies, ineffective approaches to economic development, small farmers lack of access to improved agricultural technologies, ineffective marketing and distribution systems, environmental degradation, and high population growth are a few of the several factors that are attributed to the poor performance of agricultural sector. Currently, the Ethiopian Government is giving due attention to overcome the drawbacks and promote the agricultural sector through appropriate policies.

Ethiopia has established a macro-economic policy and strategy framework and has taken measures to liberalise the economy. Environmental sustainability is recognised as a key prerequisite for success both in the National Economic Policy and the Constitution. The economic development policy is making agriculture the driving force of the economy in generating employment and income for the poor. It will serve as a spring board for the development of other sectors.

Agriculture-led Industrialisation (ADLI) is used to describe the interrelationship of agriculture and industrialisation which envisages an annual growth rate of 5.7 % in GDP 1996/97 (HSDP, 1998). Main objectives of the ADLI strategy:

Attain food self-sufficiency through increased agricultural production, both in terms of quantity and quality;

Improve in the quality of life of the rural population through such measures as employment creation, poverty reduction and improved nutrition; and

Reverse the rapidly expanding ecological degradation.

The ADLI relies, among other things, on promoting small scale crop and livestock production, intensification and diversification of farm enterprises, strengthening rural institutions, enhancing the availability of rural credit, intensive grass roots participation and establishing community awareness for the role of women in agricultural development.

Forestry industry employment accounted for approximately 2.2% of the total work force of the country and contributed 2.8% to employment in the agricultural sector.

1.2. Political Situation: The Structure of the Federal Government

Ethiopia assumed a new administrative structure following a change in government in 1991. Regions were formed based on the different nationalities in the country. There are 9 National Regional States and 21 Administrative Councils. There are two legislative houses i.e. The Council of Peoples Representative (CPR) with a maximum of 550 members elected for five years from different districts and the Federal Council which is composed of representatives of nations, nationalities and peoples. Each nation nationality and people is represented by at least one member in the federal council who serves a five year term. Nationality is the basis on which Ethiopia's Regions have been defined with the result that regions vary enormously in size and population. The constitution provides an explicit right to self-determination from the federation.

The regions have been given extensive legislative and executive powers, and the constitution expressly provides that the country has nine member States. Following regionalization, many tasks and responsibilities which previously belonged to the central government were handed over to the regional administration. Similarly, many tasks and responsibilities of forest conservation and development were handed over to regional bureau's, including responsibilities for managing forests and wildlife. The Ministry of Agriculture at the Federal level is responsible for policy issues and technical assistance to the regions for forest and wildlife management. There are 14 line ministries with relation to the Regional Executive Organs to assist, advise and initiate polices to ensure enforcement of laws, regulations and directives of the Government.

1.3. Social and Human Context for Forestry

To overcome the challenges and meet the growing demand for forest products while conserving bio-diversity and protect soil and water resources, new management modalities have been developed to ensure the needs of the rural poor who place intense pressure on forest lands. The current management practice of forests has taken into account the social implication of the distribution of benefits from forests. There is an increasing concern on how to meet the needs and respect the rights of indigenous people who are forest dependent.

NGOs both local and international are advocating different participatory forest management, however, it is still at the infant stage. In addition, access rights have been recognised for the local communities supported by the current draft forest policy. Efforts are also being made to develop a platform for the opinions of the local communities in decision making.


2.1. Land Ownership and Land Use

The land area of Ethiopia is estimated at 1.1 million km2. About one third of the land area is hilly and mountainous plateau between 1,500 and 3,500m. Ethiopia's arable land area (areas with more than 90 days growing period and suitable soils -excluding vertisols) has been estimated at 34 million ha (27% of the total area).

Arable land on steep slopes (i.e. over 30 %) adds another 6 million ha (or 5% of the total area), bringing the area of potentially arable land to 47 million ha (38 % of the total area). There are 65 million ha (51% of the total) of grazing and browsing land and forest, woodland, bush and shrub land of 27.3 million ha (26.5% of the total area). All land belongs to the State, and farmers are entitled to lifelong, inheritable and transferable rights to the use of land and trees planted.

2.2. Forest Resource Base

The available information on the forest resources of Ethiopia is very limited. There is inadequate information on location, extent, volume of the standing growth stock, annual growth rates, or depletion rates. The current rate of deforestation can only be roughly estimated because there is no comprehensive data base to monitor changes. It is estimated that accessible forests and other woody vegetation are disappearing at the rate of 150-200,000 ha annually. The rate of plantation development is insignificant and stagnating. Plantation establishment is estimated to be 2000 ha per year.

The two most recent national surveys of land use and forest and woody vegetation are those of FAO (1984) and CESEN (1986). Both surveys used lands at imagery. Because of extensive deforestation over the last decade, their results are now outdated. A subsequent review based on field inspection, and a critical examination of available information concluded that the remaining area of natural high forest was between 2.5 and 3.0 million ha (de Vletter, 1989). This contrasts estimates by the previous State Forest Conservation and Development Department (SFCDD, 1990). The estimates indicated the natural high forest cover to be 3.5 million ha. The estimates of FAO, CESEN, and SFCDD do not provide a consistent data base, partly because they use different classifications for the vegetation types and land cover. In 1992, the Ethiopian Forestry Action Program (EFAP) estimated the area of forests and other woody biomass resources as shown in Table 1 below.

Table 1. Estimates of the Area, Growth Stock, and Incremental Yields in 1992



Growth stock

Annual incremental yields

Forest resource

million ha


per unit area (m3/ha/y)


million m3

Natural Forest




- slightly disturbed





- heavily disturbed




















Source: EFAP, 1994

Of the estimated 200,000 ha of planted forest resources, 95,000 ha are industrial plantations, 35,000 ha are peri-urban plantations, and 70,000 ha are community woodlots. Woodlots comprise 20,000 ha of community woodlots and 50,000 ha of catchment/protection plantations.

Little information is available regarding community and catchment plantations. The areas actually planted and survival rates of seedlings are unknown. Estimates are based on the number of seedlings produced in the nurseries, or on seedling production targets set by central planning agencies. Similarly, there are no records of areas lost due to encroachment and illegal cutting.

For the industrial and peri-urban plantations limited inventory data is available regarding the area, volume and present conditions. Nevertheless, it is known that poor management, encroachment and illegal cutting have reduced the growing stock to well below the desired level. Therefore, the annual yields (mean annual increment) are 60% of what would be expected under proper management.

The on-going Woody Biomass Inventory and Strategic Planning Project (WBISPP) is, however, expected to provide up-to-date and reliable information on the woody biomass resources of Ethiopia. WBISPP has successfully covered a quarter of the country so far. The project has been extended to cover the rest of the country over the next five years.


3.1. Production (and Consumption)

The contribution of forestry to the national income has not been surveyed systematically.

Although precise figures are not available, it is estimated that about 24 million m3 of wood is produced annually, of which 10% is used for industrial and building purpose and the remainder for fuelwood and charcoal. Estimated consumption demand of fuelwood for energy varies around 49 to 64 million m3 annually, indicating a shortage in supply.

The major categories of forest products include fuelwood, industrial wood and construction wood. Table 2 provides the amount of wood products supplied in 1989 - 1993.

Table 2: The Amount of Wood Products Supplied in 1989 - 93

Type of Products






Industrial Timber












Construction Poles


















The three principal types of primary industrial wood products are sawn wood, wood-based panels (including plywood, fibreboard and particleboard, and paper. Table 3 provides production (consumption) statistics at the national level from 1996 and 1997.

Table 3. Forest Products Production (1996-1997)

Forest Product




sawlogs, veneer logs








other industrial roundwood








particle board




hard board








other printing and writing




other paper and paper board




wrapping and packaging




Source: Forestry and Wildlife Regulatory and Technology Team

Ethiopia industrial wood production (and consumption) per capita is one of the lowest in the world. The low level of production and consumption reflects the fact that the country's limited forest resource base has been and continues to be primarily exploited for fuelwood.

3.2. Trade

Data on the export and import of forest products is also scarce. The value of exports of forest products is minuscule compared to total imports. Forest products amount to 1% of the country's total imports. Table 4 provides imports of selected forest products for 1996 and 1997.

Table 4: Imports of Selected Forest Products (1996 and 1997)

Forest product




Veneer sheets




wood pulp


- mechanical




- chemical




Wrapping and packaging




Source: Forestry and Wildlife Regulatory and Technology Team


4.1. Wood fuels and Wood Energy

The energy sector in Ethiopia remains heavily dependent on woodfuel. Over 90% of Ethiopia's energy is derived from biomass fuels which are almost entirely used in household cooking. EFAP (1994) estimated that wood provided 78%, with dung and crop residues providing 16%. The annual demand for fuelwood is estimated at 42 million m3 or far in excess of present annual supply. Table 5 summarises the household consumption estimates of fuelwood equivalent and percentages.

Table 5: Estimates of Energy Consumption

Energy Sources

Urban (%)

FW equiv. kg

Rural (%)

FW equiv. kg

FW equiv. of total energy consumption (kg/day/capita)





% of FW and charcoal





% dung





% agricultural residue





% kerosene










% electricity










Source: EFAP, 1994

4.2. Wood Supplies from Non-Forest Areas

The wood supply from non-forest areas is mainly derived from 2 major sources: (a) farm forestry production, and (b) unmeasured woody vegetation patches. Farm forestry in Ethiopia is a major supplier of fuelwood in the rural areas (pruning trees in compounds and fields - primarily the acacias, crotons, cordias). The total area under the farm forestry production is not known.

The supply of fuelwood from farm homesteads is conservatively estimated at 80,000 tones per year, based on an estimate of five mature trees per rural household. There are nearly 9.2 million rural households in the country, therefore the total farm compound trees is nearly 46 million trees. Assuming a space of 3,000 trees per hectare, the trees will be equivalent to a plantation of 15,000 ha, producing an average of 15 m3 per ha per year of wood, 50% will contribute to the supply of fuelwood, (80,000 tones per year).

In addition to the measured natural forests in Ethiopia, there are 140,000 ha of woody vegetation in patches less than 200 ha. The estimated annual fuelwood supply of these patches is nearly 100,000 tons per year.

4.3. Non-Wood Forest Products

Ethiopian forests provide a wide variety of non-wood products such as gum Arabic, incense, medicinal plants, foodstuffs, honey, etc. However, no organised and reliable production and trade data exists on these products.

Gums and incense were important export products, but Ethiopia has not performed very well as a supplier because of the dwindling raw material supply. Average annual production between 1978 and 1991 was about 1,500 tons, with peaks of over 4,200 tons. Recent production has been very low. Sustainable annual production could be increased tenfold from the 1,500 tons average.

About 1,500 tons of gums and incense is sold annually through official trading channels; nearly 50% of the produce is exported. The demand for incense exceeds the supply, and the prices are increasing.

There is an ancient tradition for bee keeping in Ethiopia. The density of hives is estimated to be the highest in Africa. An estimated 4-10 million traditional beehives and some 10,000 modern box hives are believed to exist in the country.

Each traditional beehive is estimated to yield about 8 kg of honey annually. This translates to 32-80 million kg of honey per year. As noted above, the main products from the bee keeping industry are honey and wax. The honey is almost exclusively used for local consumption, while a considerable proportion of the wax is exported. The annual turnover of the apiculture industry is estimated to vary between US$ 26-64 million.

The potential economic value of medicinal plants is not yet recognised, partly due to lack of knowledge. The indigenous population has been using these plants extensively, many of which offer opportunities for commercial development. The importance of non-wood forest products has generally been underestimated in relation to local economy and consumption, and to forest-based small-scale enterprises.

5. Forestry Policies, Legislation and Institutions

5.1. Forest Management Law and Policy

Forestry sector policies include the regulatory framework for the management and development of public forest lands and the utilisation of public forests; policies governing the pricing and marketing of forest products; polices concerning the management of public enterprises and the development of private sector forestry. Significant progress has been made in reorienting forest polices and strategies which help to lay the foundations for sustainable forest management.

Policy and policy related issues are the most important factors constraining the achievement of forest management objectives of both the private and public sectors. There has never been a forest policy nor are there any policies for land use. What is available is proclamation No. 94/1994 a proclamation to provide for the conservation, development, protection and utilisation of the forest resource.

This proclamation recognises three types of ownership of forest land: State forests, regional forests and private forests. It is the responsibility of the state and regional governments to designate, demarcate and register state, regional and protected forests. State and regional forests are utilised in accordance with management plans. Cutting of trees, grazing of domestic animals, bee-keeping activities and harvesting of any other forest products require a written permit from the appropriate regional government or ministry. The proclamation also specifies that forest development should be conducted in a manner that local people benefit from it. It is generally prohibited to cut, utilise the products or perform activities in forests which are designated as protected forests. Various development programs were designed and implemented to promote the development of the forestry sub-sector. However, the results achieved were unsatisfactory as these development programs designed were not executed with the right types of approaches, due to lack of forest policy.

Nevertheless, to preserve the remaining natural forest, protect the environment for genetic reserve and as sources of raw material for the forest industries, 58 NFPAs covering an estimated area of 3.6 million ha have been selected. However, protection of these NFPAs could not be ensured because of deforestation done in search of new land for agriculture and for fuel wood.

5.2. Investment in Forestry and Forest Products

Due to the comparative long-term nature of investment in forestry, private investors are less willing to invest. On the other hand, the private sector is involved in the harvesting, processing and marketing of forest products.

Understanding the problems of land degradation, and in view of future development perspective of the country, the Government of Ethiopia has developed related policies that encourage and attract private investors in the forestry sector. They encourage the private sector in forestry and related activities by leasing land outside the possession of farmers and give land to individual investors that contribute to the improvement of the environment and the people.

5.3. Institutional Strengthening and Capacity Building

There have been fundamental changes in the forestry sector as a result of change from a centralised to a market economy and decentralisation of decision making and regionalization. As a result, Ministries at national and regional levels have been restructured which affected forest management. The Ministry of Natural Resources Development and Environmental Protection dissolved in 1995 and the forestry sector was moved to the Ministry of Agriculture. At the regional and local levels, there are agricultural development bureaux and within them two departments. The Regulatory Department and the Extension Department in which forestry is managed by experts organised in forest conservation and development teams which fall under the regulatory department.

The forestry sector is confronted by problems related to macro-economic situations and other factors like the reorganisation of forestry institutional systems. Forestry currently falls under a large Ministry, MoA; and has a lower hierarchical profile. Budget allocations and staff resources are often inadequate to monitor forest resources effectively and to ensure sustainable management.

The trend towards decentralisation and devolution of forest management responsibilities to the local governments cannot be effective due to low capacity of the sector.

5.4. Environmental Issues

Sustainable Forest Management: Given the high degree of dependence that Ethiopia had to place on its natural resources and environment in order to achieve economic and social development and regarding the magnitude of the process of environmental degradation, there is a clear and urgent need to integrate environmental protection and sustainable forest resource management with development polices, strategies and their implementations.

Beyond this proposal, there have been no measures to evaluate the impact of past forest management interventions in the country. The sector is lacking the capacity to compile data and information on the status and trends of the forest resources which could be an indicator for the sustainable management of the resource base.

Bio-diversity and Ecosystem Sustainability: The size of the Ethiopian flora is estimated to range between 6,500 and 7,000 species of higher plants of which 1.2% is considered endemic. Though it is believed that the country has one of the largest floras, rich both in species diversity and endemic, the information on species abundance and diversity is lacking. The diversity is not yet properly conserved and sustainability used. They are forced with a serious threat of genetic erosion and irreplaceable loss.

Most of the conservation works have been associated with protected areas consisting of protected forest, national parks, wildlife reserves, and controlled hunting areas. Out of 10 national parks, only 2 are legally listed in the Gazette.

The inadequacy of organisational arrangements and the poor integration of bio-diversity conservation in forest management are some of the problems facing the sector.

Soil and Water Conservation: The mechanisms promoting soil degradation in Ethiopia are much the same as elsewhere in Africa. Forest clearance and soil exposure, poor crop cultivation including cultivation on steep slopes, removal of crop residues and the burning of dung, and overgrazing all contribute to soil loss. Indirect causes include poverty, insecure land tenure, population growth and economic policies which do not encourage good husbandry of land resources.

The most systematic study has estimated that in the Ethiopian Highlands over 1.5 million tones of soil are lost every year which is equivalent to 35t/ha/year. However, rates of soil loss vary from almost zero on grassland to over 300t/ha/year on steep slopes.

The extent of erosion is massive affecting about half the area of the highlands, some 27 million ha is significantly eroded and over 25% (14 million ha) is seriously eroded. Over 2 million ha of farm lands have reached a point where economic crop production cannot be sustained. The forecast is that, in addition to the 2 million ha of farm land with irreversible degradation, 7.6 million ha will have deteriorated to the same status by the year 2000. Only 20% of the area (10 million ha) can be said to be free from serious erosion risks.

5.5. Indigenous Peoples Issues

Agricultural development and other forms of development has resulted into the conversion of indigenous forests, woodlands and bushland to farm lands and grazing lands which thus reduced the area under natural vegetation. This has affected the traditional practice of the indigenous people who are dependent on these natural ecosystems. Due to the high demand for forest products and lack of alternatives to replace the traditional ways of life, there is a growing conflict between the forest dependent people and the forestry institutions.

6. Conclusion

Ethiopia is poor in the generation and management of natural resources information. The absence of policy and institutional arrangement for information collection are among the major constraints for the sustainable development of forest resources. Shortage of qualified manpower in the area of information management, absence of inter-institutional linkages for promoting collaboration in information exchange and management and lack of independent operational units are among the limitations for the sustainable use and development of forest resources in Ethiopia.


Cesen-Asnaldo/Finmeccanica Group. 1986. Biomass energy resources. Ministry of Mines and Energy. Addis Ababa.

Ethiopian Forestry Action Program (EFAP). 1994. The Challenge for Development, vol. II. Addis Ababa. MoA.

Ethiopian Forestry Action Program (EFAP). 1994. Issues and Actions, vol. III. Addis Ababa. MoA.

Food and Agriculture Organisation of the UN 1984. Land use, production regions and farming systems: Assistance to land use planning. Technical Report no. 3. Rome.

SFCDD. 1990. Study on Forest Resource Base: Identification, Conservation and Rational Use in Ethiopia. Internal Report. Addis Ababa.

Vletter, Jaap de. 1989. Some aspects of natural forest management. MoA. Unpublished Report. Addis Ababa.

  Includes industrial, peri-urban, community, woodlots and catchment and/protection plantations

Previous PageTop Of PageNext Page