FAO in Ethiopia

FAO collaborates with the Government for national level forest inventory

A team of foresters conducting a national forest inventory in Ethiopia. Photo credit: © FAO/Dan Altrell

In collaboration with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change conducted a national forest inventory (NFI) at 631 sampling units in all regions of Ethiopia. The project began in March 2014 following the signing of a technical support agreement between the Ministry and FAO.

Studies indicate that millions of Ethiopians rely on forest resources for their basic needs, including food and constructing shelter. Forest resources also serve as a means of livelihood and income, source of traditional and modern medicines, as well as other valuable benefits. Equally important, the forest ecosystems maintain a proper functioning of nutrient and hydrological cycles and providing immeasurable ecosystem services that control and balance rain fed agriculture systems in Ethiopia. However, a lack of strong capacity of the forestry sector, coupled with lack of awareness about forest resources in the past years and ineffective forest policies, have caused destruction of the forests as a result of unchecked use and mismanagement of forestland for agriculture and other purposes.

Driving factors for the inventory

The NFI cooperation was founded to address insufficient amount of quantified information on the current status of forest cover and spatial information regarding forestry’s underestimated contribution to the economy. The cooperation was extended to strengthening the implementation of the National Forest Monitoring and Measurement Reporting and Verification (MRV) system. This supports Ethiopia’s initiative to “Reduce Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation” through satellite-based monitoring, measurement of emissions and removal of the emission level due to deforestation.

Basis for Ethiopia’s forest development

Important outputs were reached after conducting multiple steps of NFI and satellite image analysis. Emission factors, basal area, aboveground biomass(AGB), below-ground biomass (BGB), count of trees, shrubs and saplings, biomass of deadwood and litter were estimated from the NFI data at subnational level and the overall information will be released upon the completion of NFI. The extent of changes in forest cover and land use between 2000 and 2013 has been used as a reference level to measure changes in historical carbon emissions from deforestation. It is from this reference level that Ethiopia’s efforts in reducing atmospheric carbon dioxide will be measured by implementing REDD+ activities to get performance based payments. The NFI and mapping quantified how many forest resources were found and where, so that adequate information can be obtained for planning, management and utilization of forests. This information will help better quantify the forestry sector’s contribution to the national gross domestic product. The aggregated information from the NFI and spatial analysis can be used as primary baseline information for various decision-making processes in forest development, biodiversity and conservation studies and the formulation and assessment of forest policy, law and regulations. Above all, the country is creating a solid forest monitoring system by combining permanent networks of ground sampling units, which are periodically revisited, and remote sensing technology, which generates information about changes in forest coverage annually or biannually.

Provides consistent forest information The Ethiopian NFI is significant in that it provides valuable forest information for consistent and informed decision-making in forest development, conservation and utilization. The NFI is further strengthening the country’s effort in establishing a strong forest monitoring system for sustainable economic and social benefits. Globally, the outputs of the project contribute to the abatement of atmospheric carbon dioxide and greenhouse gas and reduction of the effects of climate change. The NFI ensures efforts in sustainable forest development, management and utilization; improves knowledge and builds capacity to fill the gaps in generating reliable information for different national and regional level forest resource related decision-making.

Stakeholders involved

Several institutions were involved during the training, the planning and designing of the NFI and preparation of forest map and activity data. These institutions include the Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Addis Ababa University, Wondo Genet College of Natural Resources, Ethiopian Mapping Agency, Forestry Research Centre, Institute of Biodiversity and Oromia Forest and Wildlife Enterprise (OFWE). Federal and regional experts from Amahara, Gambella, Oromia, SNNP and Somali Regions participated in NFI.

FAO supported the NFI in designing the inventory through scientific procedures and acquainted the field technicians with the necessary skills for field planning, resource mobilization, tree measurement, validation of field forms, quality assurance and control, NFI data entry, analysis and interpretation. Moreover, FAO supported the establishment of MRV system through devising methodology for land use and cover mapping, forest monitoring system using satellite imagery, and preparation of forest area change activity data using open source geospatial solutions.


*REDD+ reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation