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Publication | 23 March 2021

The Restoration Diagnostic

Ethiopia has experienced dramatic deforestation and soil degradation. Less than 3 percent of the country’s native forests remain (UNFCCC 2009), largely the result of pressures from crop farming, livestock grazing, and charcoal production (Biryahwaho et al. 2012). Soil degradation contributes to economic losses of $1 billion to $2 billion annually, in a country where farming provides approximately 85 percent of the total employment and 47 percent of GDP (Tedla 2007). The Humbo District of Ethiopia, located 420 km southwest of the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa (Map 1), reflects this broader national situation. The forests surrounding Humbo were largely cleared by the late 1960s (Brown et al. 2011), and an estimated 85 percent of Humbo residents lived in poverty in the early 2000s (World Bank n.d.).

In the early 2000s, the non-profit development organization World Vision—with financial and technical support from the World Bank and its BioCarbon Fund—developed a program to restore native vegetation to approximately 2,700 hectares in the Humbo region. The Humbo project encourages farmers to apply a practice called “Farmer-managed natural regeneration” (FMNR), where farmers allow native trees and shrubs to regrow from live stumps, underground root systems, and soil seedbanks. Farmers selectively prune branches to maintain desired densities. The woody perennial plants interact with soils and crops to create an agro-ecological system that improves conditions for crop growth. The Humbo project also involves more careful livestock management to prevent further landscape degradation, as well as closing off entire degraded areas to both human and animal intrusion since 2006 to allow native vegetation to recover. Seven community cooperatives with legal land title managed the project and established a system to monitor restoration and associated carbon stock improvements (Rinaudo et al. 2008).

The Restoration Diagnostic

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