Forest and rural livelihoods

Ethiopian forests generated considerably larger economic benefits than previously thought in the form of cash and in-kind income. Of this, most is attributed to direct contribution associated with flows of wood fuel, construction and livestock fodder. The rest is attributed through forest services to other sectors particularly agriculture and energy. Forest coffee production, control of erosion and
sedimentation, forest honey production and collection of wild medicinal plants are all important sources of forest-derived income to the rural households. Use of honey, medicinal and spice plants, fodder, and the benefits of environmental services are essential aspects of people’s livelihoods. Edible wild plants play a critical role in ensuring food and livelihood security for countless families and communities in Ethiopia.
Rural communities in Ethiopia make extensive use of timber and non-timber forests products for daily subsistence and income generation. Studies 1 indicate that there is substantial daily dependency on one or more of the forest resources by all rural families. More than 300 species of wild trees, shrubs and forest plants have been recorded as important traditional food sources in Ethiopia. Such products are harvested by local communities for cash income and subsistence, forming part of the diet of farm households not only during periods of food shortage but also on a daily basis. Further, the forest sector has created employment opportunity (through collection and trading) to 17.2 million economically active rural population for subsistence and cash income.
Despite their economic and ecological importance, Ethiopian forests are under threat today and this
pressure will continue to increase as country’s growing population will require more wood fuel and food in the future. Without planned and extensive tree planting, these demands in turn, could significantly accelerate further degradation and survival challenge. Inline with this the Environment, Forest and Climate Change Commission has designed ten years forest sector development program 2 with key pillars included in the rural and urban landscapes. The program focuses on purposeful tree planting with improved production-market linkage that will ensure soil fertility for the sustainable intensification of food production, sustainable fuel-wood and construction material supply and increased lifetime of hydro-dams, which contributes to poverty reduction, food security and sustainable development in rural areas.
Sub-optimal policy and legislative incentives for small-scale industries and community organizations can facilitate successful out-grower scheme and tree-based enterprise development in Ethiopia. A case in point is the bamboo sector with a significant potential to contribute for local livelihoods. It provides an important source of raw material for several small and micro forest-based enterprises. In recent years, there has been an increase in bamboo business investment in Ethiopia. In rural areas, bamboo is extensively used in traditional construction with applications including fencing, roofing and making household furniture.

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