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Reforesting of Ethiopia's Bale Mountains is Succeeding

A lush green forest stretches across the Bale Mountains, just out-side the city of Addis Ababa. Fourteen years ago, the area was a barren wasteland. The mountains, once brown and devoid of life, were some of the first in Ethiopia to be turned into a park where feverish conservation efforts have redeveloped the land into a forest rich with vegetation and wildlife.

“If you go for historical data, once Ethiopia’s forest was about 40 percent, some say,” said Wondwossen Girmay, the program director for the Horn of Africa Regional Environment Center and Network, a very long name for the nation’s conservation efforts. “Then it collapsed to about less than 3 percent. Now we are building from that 3 percent, and according to the official media we are reaching about 11 or 12 percent.”

It’s still a far cry from the forest’s glory days in the 15th century, when “it was very dense” and “royal kings used to come here for game,” said forestation director Shimaliis Tallilaa. But over the centuries, neglect and the country’s expanding agricultural efforts chewed up much of the greenery.

It’s hard work to regrow a forest, hard work to turn wasteland green. But the conservation office is determined.

Andrea Goetzke

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