In Ethiopia, there is a group of 300 men and women called the Edget Behibret. They are a forest-farm co-operative and one of their strongest advocates is a woman called Ramate Ashuro (pictured right).
“For many years, we have, sadly, abused the forest. We are hopeful that it is not too late to bring it back to life. After the training we received, I came to understand that this land and water is important to us in many ways,” said Ramate.
“Anybody could just take whatever they needed from the forest. Aside from crop failures caused by drought, flooding is also a serious problem … There are not enough trees to hold the soil. Even a small amount of rain washes it away,” said Melesse Morku, a World Vision staff member.
The Edget Behibret wants to make the barren soil fertile again and for water to flow from the springs again. They know that this will help abate flooding so that they can once again profit from the land.
Ramate has seven children but still finds time to manage a plant nursery funded by World Vision and the local government. The nursery has produced around 150,000 drought-tolerant seedlings that will be planted across 112 hectares of land. Seeds were given to members of the cooperatives so that they can plant trees on their own land. Eventually, the bare soil will be covered with trees.
“Now, we are committed to caring and protecting the forest. We have started to enclose the area to let the soil and the newly planted trees recover,” Ramate said.
Many members of the cooperative have families to support, yet they all understand that the benefits of Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration (FMNR) are long term. The cooperative was formed in 2015 and five leaders were trained on forest, land, seedling and nursery management. As land for FMNR became sequestered, the cooperative then cleared it of grass and trees. They used the grass to feed their animals, repair their homes and to sell. “While we can earn income from selling grass, the future benefits of this forest are what I most look forward to,” said Ramate.
Tadesse Getiso, who is the cooperative chairman and also a father of six says, “The forest is the source of fresh air, clean water and food. There is no life without the forest.”