National Forest Monitoring

Strengthening forest monitoring in Ethiopia through SEPAL's technical workshop


SEPAL team hosted a two-week workshop in Addis Ababa (Ethiopia) from the 16th to the 27th of October 2023 with national stakeholders to enhance their skills in forest monitoring using innovative approaches. The workshop, supported by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), focused on the ensemble Sample Based Area Estimation (eSBAE) method using the SEPAL platform, aiming to bolster Ethiopia's efforts in tackling climate change and moving towards a more sustainable forest and natural resources management. 
Ethiopia’s emission reduction target 

Ethiopia faces the pressing challenge of climate change, and forests are central to its low-carbon growth strategy to address half of the national emission reduction target by 2030. The forestry sector has been affected by deforestation and forest degradation due to agricultural expansion, livelihood diversification, and a growing need for fuel and wood for construction. Ethiopia has chosen Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) as a climate change mitigation mechanism for the forest sector.   
The National REDD+ Measurement, Reporting, and Verification (MRV) Capacity Consolidation and Strengthening project, led by FAO with support from the Government of Ethiopia, aims to fortify the country's ability to monitor and verify efforts to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation. Significant strides have already been made, particularly in establishing a robust National Forest Monitoring System and enhancing MRV capabilities at national level for the National Forest Inventory, mapping activities, forest-area change detection, construction of Forest Reference Emission Levels, and MRV labs established in some REDD+ pilot regions. 
Training and knowledge transfer outcomes 
The workshop was not just standalone event, but a continuation of a series designed to empower Ethiopian stakeholders in effective forest monitoring practices, particularly the creation of Sample based Area Estimation for REDD+ activities. These activities are fundamental for national and international reporting as well as access to carbon finance. 
Sixteen participants from different national institutions, including the Ethiopian Forest Development MinistryOromia Forested Landscape Program (OFLP)Space Science and geospatial institute (SSGI), FAO-Ethiopia MRV Phase II project staff, and Wondo Genet College of Forestry and Natural Resources, took part in this hands-on training.  
During the first week, the gathering continued the eSBAE approach and further familiarized the participants with this innovative way of assessing changes in the forest in a statistical robust manner. The underlying eSBAE methodology tackles the challenge of detecting forest change by combining techniques from both the geospatial and the data science world. It utilizes state-of-the-art machine learning techniques to reveal the consensual information for a wide range of relevant input datasets, such as global forest and land cover products alongside outputs from various forest change algorithms, as well as time-series statistics from dense satellite time-series – hence, ensemble. The unified output, expressed as a likelihood of change, is then used in an advanced way of the sample selection procedure. This significantly reduces the time and cost-intensive process of visually interpreting the selected sample plots without compromising on uncertainty. 
Participants engaged in rich discussions about the advantages of sample-based area estimation methods compared to traditional pixel count methods and recapped the eSBAE methods, facilitating knowledge transfer among the attendees. A significant portion of the workshop involved hands-on sessions, providing participants with practical experience in data collection, classification, stratification, and area estimation. 
During the second week, Collect Earth Online (CEO) was also used for interpretation and Quality Assurance and Quality Control of sample plots at national and regional levels, crucial for reducing uncertainty for the REDD+ activities in the country.  
Main feedback from participants  
  • “It was hands-on which is good for understanding the workflow. We found the training essential as a step to promote ownership of the eSBAE to national implementing partners at EfD.”  
  • “The power of technology and its application in utilizing data science and remote sensing to estimate an area as vast as Ethiopia.” 
  • “The training was excellent, and we gained valuable insights. Thank you for sharing such knowledge in short period of time.” 
  • “The data collection was done well, especially the national level.” 
This capacity development initiative in Addis Ababa represents a new step for the Ethiopia's forest conservation efforts. By embracing modern techniques like the eSBAE approach and leveraging platforms like SEPAL and Collect Earth Online, the country leveraging a bigger impact on climate change mitigation.  
More on this topic
If you want to learn more about how SEPAL has been used in Ethiopia for the last 10 year, don’t miss the video interview to Heiru Sebrala Ahmed, Head Forest Geospatial Monitoring Desk, Ethiopia Forestry Development, “The best functionality for SEPAL is for land use, land cover and change detection.” Watch his full testimonial here.