Morning Session, 25 November 2003
YOUR EXCELLENCE ATO AYALEW GOBEZE, SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE OF PARLIAMENT OF ANRS YOUR EXCELLENCE MR GEORGE MBURATHI, COUNTRY REPRESENTATIVE FAO ETHIOPIA DISTINGUISHED GUESTS AND WORKSHOP PARTICIPANTS, on behalf of the Amhara Regional Agricultural Research Institute and myself, I welcome you all to Bahir Dar. It is a special privilege for me to host this very important national Workshop that has many distinguished experts from many disciplines. The Workshop's main objective is to arrive at some consensus among you experts on project ideas on key areas of natural resources management that will be further elaborated and submitted for funding to the Global Environment Facility and bilateral and multilateral agencies.
The Workshop will try to develop a project concept on the restoration of the ecological balance of the Ethiopian highlands and improvement of the livelihood of the rural population that would be submitted for funding to the Global Environment Facility and other donors. The Amhara Region will be a testing ground for the pilot activities and lessons learned will be shared and transferred to other regions.
Let me take this opportunity to extend special thanks to Dr Alemneh Dejene of FAO who initiated the idea for this Workshop, developed the concept note for the potential project and worked hard to secure funds from various sources to make this Workshop happen. I would also like to thank the FAO Country Office in Addis Ababa for their support and cooperation. In addition, I would like to recognize and extend my thanks to the Swiss National Centre of Competence in Research (NCCR) North-South, University of Berne, Switzerland for their contribution and support. Last but not least, I would like to thank Dr Solomon Abate for co-organizing the Workshop. Finally, please allow me to introduce Ato Ayalew Gobeze, Speaker of the House of Parliament of ANRS who will officially open the Workshop.
Your Excellency Mr George Mburathi, FAO Country Representative to Ethiopia
Distinguished Guests and Workshop Participants, on behalf of the Amhara National Regional State and myself, I feel honoured to welcome you all to this important Workshop, which will deal on the improvement of the natural resources base of the Ethiopian highlands and the rural well-being of the community.
As you are well aware, the Ethiopian highlands are endowed with huge natural resources and are pillars of the country's economy. However, the management and utilization of these resources have been unsustainable and this resulted in serious land degradation and reduction of productivity. Because of this, famine and recurrent drought has long become part of Ethiopia's image all over the world.
Although the Government is trying its level best, cyclical incidents of famine have been taking human and animal lives in many occasions. The interval with which the crises happen in many parts of Ethiopia is also getting shorter and shorter and threatens the livelihoods of many rural communities in the country. A slight shock ends in a tragedy. The tragedy devastates the pillars that hold up the lives of the less endowed. So goes the cycle to entangle the country's population in a precarious living and deep-rooted poverty.
Distinguished Guests and Workshop Participants, the Ethiopian Government has gone to great lengths to deal with the most important challenge of Ethiopian life - that is poverty. The poverty reduction programme, the rural development strategies and policies were recently formulated with the participation of the different stakeholders. In all of these strategies lack of proper natural resources management was considered as one of the major reasons for the current level of poverty in the country. Thus, clear efforts were made to address natural resources conservation and management as a corner stone for all interventions in the future.
Implementation of these strategies, however, would certainly need collaboration of different partners. It requires focused capacity building at all levels including communities. It also requires genuine participation of communities in the decision-making processes. Strong functional linkage between research and development is the other crucial action that needs serious consideration.
Distinguished Guests and Workshop Participants, the Amhara Region has a complex environmental set-up and holds natural resources of global importance. Most of these resources, however, are under high pressure of human interference and are threatened by degradation. In this regard, initiation of pilot projects in the region like this one, which has direct impact on natural resources management, would certainly have both national and international significance.
Accordingly, the initiative taken by the Amhara Regional Agricultural Research Institute in collaboration with FAO and the Centre for Development and Environment of University of Berne, Switzerland, deserves appreciation. I expect this Workshop will critically review and identify key activities for the collaborative project and would clearly indicate what we should do to abate or even avoid the risk of natural resources degradation in the region and in the country at large.
Finally, wishing you a successful deliberation and hoping that it would be up to our expectations, I hereby officially declare the Workshop on "Improving the Natural resources base and Rural Well-being in the Ethiopian Highlands" open.
I thank you.
Mr President, Ladies and Gentlemen, Friends and Colleagues, it is a great pleasure and honour to welcome you to this important Workshop on behalf of the Food and Agricultural Organization of the UN (FAO). As you are aware, the fight against the deterioration of the natural resources base (land, water and forest resources) is one of the most fundamental and urgent tasks facing Ethiopia, as the survival and livelihood of an overwhelming number of the rural population depend on these resources. The natural resources base is also the engine for any agricultural growth, which for all its sluggishness and backwardness, contributes to over 50 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) and approximately 90 percent of the country's export earnings.
The Ethiopian highlands deserve utmost priority in this struggle to preserve the natural resources base, as they still remain the centre of the economic activity of the country despite being highly eroded and a large percentage of the population being recurrently affected by drought and famine. The highlands also provide basic ecosystem services that are of regional and global environmental significance. They also have a wide variety of fauna and flora and endemic crops important for biodiversity. The eminent threat to these resources due to soil erosion, deforestation, overgrazing, inadequate practices, policies and institutions are well known to you - I do not need to repeat the statistics.
Realizing the national and global importance of the Ethiopian highlands and the ominous threat they present for survival, FAO, together with the Government of Ethiopia, launched the Ethiopian Highland Reclamation Study in the 1980s. This was a watershed event in Ethiopia as the Highland Reclamation Study diagnosed the problems and identified diverse activities to address them, with the active support of the international community. The unacceptably high level of soil erosion estimated at 1.5 to 2 billion tons annually should be reversed. The fertility of the soils should be replenished if we are to attain food security in the country. The study generated one of the most reliable data on the nature and severity of degradation and remains the only source used at both the national and international levels. The findings of the Highland Reclamation Study and the solutions proposed should now be revisited as the political, social and economic conditions in Ethiopia have changed considerably for the better in the last twenty years.
Mr President, Ladies and Gentlemen, Friends and Colleagues, FAO's consultation with many partners in Ethiopia, including Government agencies, confirms that improved natural resources management, which is the thrust of this Workshop, should be one of the pillars in any effort to attain national food security in Ethiopia.
The Amhara Region serves as an excellent case for the urgent efforts needed by all stakeholders represented at this Workshop to preserve the integrity of the highland ecosystem. This Region is the most appropriate location to hold this Workshop as it is the home of the Abay river basin, the largest and the most important basin contributing to the Nile, and Lake Tana and the Simen Mountains - declared as a World Heritage site by UNESCO. This Workshop is also timely, as the Government, in its National Food Security Strategy, has recently indicated that the Amhara Region, with its favourable natural resources endowment, has the potential to be the breadbasket of the country.
FAO has ongoing activities in this Region that deal with food security and sustainable development. The activities include the integrated household food security and the nutrition project operating in two weredas; promotion of irrigation agronomy in three irrigation cooperatives; provision of recovery seeds to drought-stricken farmers, to cite only a few.
Mr President, Ladies and Gentlemen, Friends and Colleagues, unlike other Workshops, this Workshop has clearly stated that its main objective is to build a consensus among national and international experts in key areas for field-level action. It specifically aims to initiate or strengthen on-the-ground activities to improve natural resources, food security and rural well-being. It also examines policy and institutional issues affecting the local level. Furthermore, the multi-disciplinary thrust of the Workshop, as indicated in the diversity of expertise and representative institutions participating in this Workshop, draws attention to the global dimension of the problem and the need for the international community to join hands in national and local efforts in addressing this challenge. This is a laudable objective and an important first step. As one of the key sponsoring agencies of this Workshop, I would also like to reassure you that FAO would continue to play a major role in the next step that is, translating the ideas into actions and implementing projects and field activities with the full participation of local people. Restoring the ecological balance and reducing vulnerability in the Ethiopian highlands and the Amhara Region will require a long-term horizon, new resources and partnership with various stakeholders. In this respect, FAO looks forward to continuing to work with many of the partners represented at this Workshop, notably, the relevant Federal and Regional Government agencies, the Global Environment Facility, bilateral agencies, which could be involved in the co-financing scheme, UNDP, the World Bank, and local NGOs.
Mr President, Ladies and Gentlemen, Friends and Colleagues, in closing, I would like to express my gratitude to those who have made this Workshop possible. First, Dr Gete Zeleke, our host for this event and Head of the Amhara Regional Agricultural Research Institute (ARARI). He has enthusiastically supported the idea of the Workshop and provided able leadership. Second, Prof. Hans Hurni (not among us today) who was the first to support FAO's proposal for such an action-oriented Workshop in Ethiopia and committed resources through the Swiss National Centre of Competence in Research - North-South, University of Berne, Switzerland. Third, Dr Alemneh Dejene, FAO HQs staff member (Environment and Natural Resources Service), who initiated the idea, looked for resources within and outside FAO, and worked with many of you to make it a reality. Finally, I thank Dr Solomon Abate for his assistance and all of you for coming to this Workshop. I look forward to seeing its results not only printed in a document, but also on the ground.