Growing a Greener Ethiopia



Abiy Ahmed's "The Green Legacy" initiative is planting billions of trees and promoting environmental awareness.

Ethiopia is the second most populous country in Africa, with a population of more than 120 million — half under the age of fifteen.  Decades of poor farming practices and deforestation have caused massive soil erosion and left millions of Ethiopians vulnerable to drought, famine, and natural disasters. In order to address the impacts of climate damage, lead Ethiopia to a self-sustained economy, and restore forests and vegetation nationwide, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed introduced The Green Legacy Initiative with the motto “Greener and Cleaner Ethiopia.” Its goal? Plant twenty billion trees in four years. 

On the first day of the initiative in May 2019, millions of Ethiopians participated in the effort to help Ethiopia break the tree planting world record, with a total of 350 million trees planted in one day. The campaign was heavily promoted on television, radio, and social media, encouraging the people of Ethiopia to plant trees in their neighborhoods, workplaces, and schools.

This movement is part of the Climate Resilient Green Economy (CRGE) strategy endorsed by Ethiopia in 2011, with an aim to achieve food security, improve farming practices, and reduce climate vulnerability by 2030. Along with the green legacy movement, Ethiopia also plans to rely mainly on renewable energy for electricity once the GERD dam — the largest in Africa — is up and running. (It’s now ninety percent completed.)

The Green Legacy Initiative has been rolled out in thirteen different regions in Ethiopia, all of which have reached or surpassed their annual targets and exceeded the overall first phase target by planting twenty-five billion trees by mid-2023. The government hosted dozens of educational campaigns and contests across all regions (rural and urban), sent millions of seedlings to be planted by locals in their communities, And gave instructions to community members on how to take care of their trees after planting them.

The government hired workers — mostly women and students — to count the planted trees, carry out the campaigns, and promote the Green Legacy initiative in their regions. People who plant trees privately have also been encouraged to report their numbers to their local sub-cities. According to government statistics, fifty-two percent of the trees are agroforestry species, the survival rate of seedlings planted across the country is above eighty-five percent, and when seedlings have not survived, people have planted more than ten million seedlings to replace them. 

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Ethiopia is home to the African Union and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, and the Prime Minister also invited ambassadors, embassies, diplomats, and public figures to participate in the initiative and spread awareness to the country’s large expat community here. 

Ethiopia’s Green Legacy initiative shows the large impact that small steps can have on communities — using only local resources and manpower. What’s next? With the first phase completed, the government is now aiming to plant an additional thirty billion trees in the coming four years.

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Sarah Assefa
Sarah Assefa
Sarah Assefa is a freelance content writer based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. She’s been freelancing since 2020 and enjoys working with different clients worldwide. In her free time, Sarah enjoys baking, photography, and spending quality time with friends and family.
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