Promising signs out of Ethiopia, such as improvements in educational programs and increasing numbers of expanded health services, have stirred the nation’s population. Although the area ranked 174 out of 187 countries in the 2011 United Nations Development Programme’s Human Development Index, Ethiopia has seen itself emerge as one of the fastest-growing economies in recent times, demonstrating a growth rate of 11% over the course of the last five years. With the support of the World Food Programme (WFP), Ethiopia has also experienced improved food security thanks to a Productive Safety Net and Household Asset Building Program, both of which fall under Ethiopia’s master Food Security Programme.

However, even though Ethiopia has made significant progress in targeted areas, there are still ongoing issues that hinder the nation’s progression and make it difficult to fully alleviate poverty and hunger. Food security is heavily reliant on rain-fed agriculture, employing nearly 80% of the country’s population. This makes Ethiopia’s climate an imperative factor when it comes to the stability of the economy. Consequently, food security is at the mercy of natural occurrences such as rainfall patterns, land degradation, climate change and population density. Since the peak of the Horn of Africa drought in 2011, the food situation has stabilized, but low levels of rural investment and agriculture productivity have cause for concern.

Recently, three leading parties have stepped up to show their support for Ethiopia by contributing a total of $103 million in grants and credits to the region. Those funds will aid Phase II of the Sustainable Land Management Project (SLMP-2). While the first phase of the SLMP resulted in the aid of nearly 100,000 rural households, in coming months SLMP-2 will improve upon sustainable land and water management practices. The three leading organizations funding the program are listed below:

1. World Food Bank – With the approval of the Government of Ethiopia, the World Food Bank signed a $50 million IDA credit that will correct critical watersheds in areas of need such as Amhara, Tigray, Oromiya, Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples Region (SNNPR), Gambela and Benshangul. It is estimated that approximately 1.9 million people, directly and indirectly, will benefit from the project as it will reduce land degradation and improve land productivity.

2. Government of Norway – Contributing a $40 million grant, the Government of Norway hopes to improve off of lessons learnt through the first SLMP which saw 200,000 hectares of once degraded land re-cultivated. The prime objective for the SLMP-2 is to replicate the first Program’s success in an additional 90 watersheds and to support income generating and value adding activities in 135 watersheds.

3. Global Environment Facility – Financed together with the Government of Norway, the Global Environment Facility has invested $13 million into the SLMP-2 project, and will emphasize a multi-sectorial landscape approach that will support coordinated efforts for land use, management and administration. This will result in improved productivity, climate resilience, natural wealth, livelihood opportunities, water security and poverty reduction. Since the cost of land degradation in Ethiopia is between 2 and 3%, it is increasingly important to stabilize conditions to secure a lasting future.

Jeffrey Scott Haley
Feature Writer

Sources: World Food Programme, All Africa