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Ethiopia is a classic example of how severe degradation of ecosystems and productive agricultural lands and poor utilization of water resources increase poverty, food insecurity, loss of biodiversity, and even conflict.
By incorporating environmental issues into its work within Ethiopia, USAID strives to develop initiatives that make improvements in multiple sectors and promote sustainable development. Through on-going activity supporting disaster readiness, USAID is assisting Ethiopia improve its capacity to predict and respond to disasters—principally drought and famine to which parts of the country are prone. Especially through the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET) activity, USAID is helping to predict and plan ways to decrease the use of natural resources during times of economic and food distress, when people tend to increasingly depend on these resources for survival. Under the Productive Safety Net Program, public work interventions are undertaken at the community level to promote soil and water conservation and protect critical watersheds. Not only does watershed protection and rehabilitation reduce erosion and siltation for healthier rivers, it also provides economic and health benefits for the many people who depend on the water source. Furthermore, interventions in pastoral areas increase the grazing value of land through efforts to control or eradicate invasive species such as Prosopis juliflora and Acacia drepanolobium and improve pasture by maintaining enclosures. Bringing more land under productive value from the current degraded state can help to reduce the total area needed to maintain cattle populations (as land is allowed to recover and remain productive) or to be cleared and maintained for agriculture.
Ethiopia is one of the world's richest biodiversity countries and it deserves attention regionally and globally. It has a very diverse set of ecosystems ranging from humid forest and extensive wetlands to the desert of the Afar depression. This is due to the variation in climate, topography and vegetation. The extensive and unique conditions in the highlands of the country have contributed to the presence of a large number of endemic species.
Currently, conversion of natural forests, woodlands and savannah ecosystems to agriculture is the greatest single threat to loss in ecosystem biodiversity. Conversion results in the loss of nearly all species of fauna and flora on the site and leads to increasing fragmentation of the remaining ecosystems. Root causes of clearing for agriculture include population growth, low productivity of agriculture, unsustainable agricultural systems (soil erosion and inability to maintain soil fertility), tenure systems that allow the conversion of common lands to farmland and lack of enforcement – even some of the natural parks have been heavily encroached by farmers.
USAID projects support biodiversity conservation in some of the remaining natural forests and the revitalization of rangeland in pastoral areas. USAID works with community members and target beneficiaries to familiarize them with their roles and responsibilities in biodiversity conservation. In doing so, USAID demonstrates that protecting areas of biological significance has long-term benefits for the economy and natural resources.
Adaption to Climate Change
Historically, Ethiopia has been prone to extreme weather variability, from erratic rainfall and droughts to severe floods. The potential effects of climate change on an already fragile environment mandates investments in adaptation and natural resource management to stave off the increased vulnerability of people, places and communities. USAID supports the Government of Ethiopia’s Climate Resilient Green Economy strategy by improving analytics, information-sharing, and government and community adaptation efforts. USAID promotes improved access to science and analysis for decision making, including building the capacity of federal and regional government officials on the use of new and existing analytical tools for early warning and disaster risk preparedness, the integration of improved climate change decision-making models, doing vulnerability assessments for different livelihood zones, and updating the house economy profile for the entire country, which is used to measure the impact of climatic shocks—such as droughts—on households.
Land Administration to Nurture Development (LAND): Build on USAID's substantial past investments to improve land governance and land administration and strengthen land tenure rights in Ethiopia and thereby promote economic growth, increase agricultural productivity, and reduce conflict and resource degradation.
Pastoralist Areas Resilience Improvement and Market Expansion (PRIME): Contribute to increased growth with resiliency in Ethiopia by promoting practical applications of livelihoods information and providing inputs to the decision-making process both on the emergency response and development planning sides.
Productive Safety Net Program (PSNP): Transfer resources to chronically food-insecure households through food-for-work programs that engage recipients in public works activities focused on the development of community resources.
U.S. Forest Service Technical Assistance: Provide targeted assistance to improve natural resource management methodologies and practices and introduce participatory landscape level rangeland planning, management and control of invasive species.
Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene Transformation for Enhanced Resilience (WATER): Improve access to clean and sustainable water sources for target communities in the Somali, Afar and Oromia regions and enhance public awareness on natural resources to prevent rangeland degradation.
Last updated: July 16, 2014