Stakeholders Vow to Back up Implementation of KOICA’s-funded CRFLR Program in Oromia Region

Participants of the KOICA-funded Climate Resilient Forest and Landscape Restoration (CRFLR) Program familiarization workshop in the Oromia regional state  have pledged to provide all the necessary  supports  for the successful implementation of the Program in the region. The participants made their utter commitments affirming that the Program will help redress the debilitating impacts of deforestation and land degradation in the intervention woredas (districts) of the region.

The workshop, which took place on 24th March 2022 at Shashemene town of the region, was organized by GGGI Ethiopia in association with the Oromia Environmental Protection Authority (EPA). Over 40 participants drawn from pertinent government offices at the federal, regional, zonal and woreda (district) levels attended the workshop.

The ultimate objective of the workshop was to familiarize the CRFLR program to the Oromia region’s stakeholders, implementing partners and to discuss on the project modalities and implementation strategies, as well as to create awareness on the roles and responsibilities of the Steering Committee (SC) to be established at regional and woreda levels. The Workshop also served as a viable platform to discuss and reach consensus on the selected intervention woredas in the region.

The  workshop was officially opened by H.E Dr. Abraha Adugna, State Minister of Water and Energy. He remarked that the Government of Ethiopia (GoE) expressed its commitment to the cause of climate change through developing the Climate Resilient Green Economy (CRGE) strategy in 2011, South Africa CoP 17, and then ratified the Paris Agreement in March 2016.  He added that the country has submitted its 1st Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC) in 2015 and pledged to reduce 220MtCo2 by 2030.

Dr. Abraha stated that as an integral part of GHG emission reduction commitments, the CLFLR Program has come to the rescue of deforestation and degradation of forests and  landscapes, which are rife in the selected woredas of the region. He noted that rehabilitating forest, and as a whole landscape, is tantamount to sustaining livelihood and ensuring sustainable development.  Dr. Abraha praised KOICA for funding the CRFLR program through GGGI, which he said is indispensable to complement the national initiatives being taken to ensure a climate resilient green economy. The State Minister finally called upon the zonal administration and stakeholders in the program focus woredas to play their key role in making the CLFLR program a tangible reality.

In his keynote speech, Mr. Bona Yadessa, Deputy Director of Oromia EPA remarked that the rapid population growth and increased demand for food have evidently triggered degradation of natural resources including forest and water, which have been among the prevailing challenges in the country and the global level at large.

He noted that scarcity of forest functions has already been reflected in the contaminated water, reduced land productivity, microclimate change and rural energy crisis. He said the mountain tops, which are called “Water Towers” of Ethiopia, are now being degraded for searching additional farm and grazing lands. In addition, the climate change is another headache of poor farmers who are totally dependent on rain-fed agriculture and subsistence farming system.

Mr. Bona stated that since 1980s, the expected direct and indirect benefits from forest resource have been reduced, which he said is manifested in the siltation of lakes, wetlands and reservoirs,  as well as in the drawdown of water level of boreholes, drying of streams and springs and inconsistency of drinking water and electric power supply  in the region. The Deputy Director expressed his conviction that GGGI will play a pivotal role in supporting the Green Legacy Initiative (GLI) of tree planting and forest restoration as an integral part of the CRGE strategy.

In the course of the Meeting,  three presentations were delivered.  Dr. Gemedo Dalle, GGGI Ethiopia Country Representatives made presentation on the theme:  “The Ethiopia Climate Resilient Forest and Landscape Rehabilitation Program: Implementation and Roadmap.”

In his presentation, Dr Gemedo provided highlights on the policy and strategic initiatives taken by the GoE including the CRGE strategy, the Ethiopia Ten Years’ Perspective Development Plans (2021-2030) and the overwhelming impacts of deforestation and landscape degradation. He recalled that since its launch in 2011, the CRGE Strategy provides an economy-wide blueprint to achieve in middle-income, carbon-neutral status by 2030. He said protecting and re-building of forests for economic and eco-system services, including carbon stock (increased GHG sequestration in forestry) is one of the pillars of the green economy strategy of the country.

He also said the Ten Years Perspective Development Plan (PD) identified building on climate resilient green economy as one of the strategic pillars, focusing on forest and water-basin development. The Ten-Year Development Plan attributes a paramount importance to the conservation and sustainable use of forest resources, which he associated with the leading global motto of “No forest, No Future”. He said in a drive to minimize the negative effects of climate change and ensure sustainable development, Ethiopia has been pursuing a low-carbon development pathway, which is directly linked to the global commitment to restore forests and promote use forest landscapes sustainably.

He noted that despite encouraging policy measures and political commitment of the GoE under the GLI, deforestation continued unabated in the country, leaving the survival of the current and the next generation at stake . He thus called  for an all-out effort to address the devastating  impacts of climate change, as well as to strengthen the adaptive capacity of climate change and withstand the ensuing climate change-induced hazards.

Dr. Gemedo indicated that GGGI Ethiopia in collaboration with the then Environment, Forest, Climate Change Commission (FCCC) now the Ethiopian Forest Development developed a 9.6 million USD CRFLR Project which will contribute to those national targets and global commitment. The project is financed by KOICA and expected to contribute to the execution of CRGE and the National Forest Sector Development Program (FSDP).

The Country Representative indicated that lack of awareness, loose cross sectoral coordination, inefficient land use planning and weak MRV capacity, among others, as the main problems identified in the project development. He thus stressed need to strengthen the cross-sectoral coordination among the relevant sectors at the federal, regional and local levels through establishing proper coordination and communications structure as steering committee, technical committee, and watershed users’ association.

Moreover, he underscored the need to strengthen the MRV capacity in terms of human resources and logistics at national and regional level, mobilize the private sector, and support communities to get organized, restore the degraded forests and landscapes, and thus sustainably enhance the implementation capacity of the Program at the grassroots level.

He further underlined the importance of putting in place institutional arrangements that allow inclusive cross sectoral land use planning and implementation in the selected watersheds. He added that the Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) component of the CRFLR program embodies baseline assessment, which is to be managed by the Wondo Genet College of Forest and Natural Resources (WGCFNR).

Dr. Gemedo affirmed that as a leading implementation entity, GGGI will assure oversight responsibility of the Program, administer program funds on behalf of KOICA and will provide oversight guidance and quality assurance.

Following was presentation on the “Draft Annual Work Plan and Terms of Reference for the Regional Steering Committee” by Mr. Abraham W/Michael, Senior Program Officer at GGGI Ethiopia.

Mr. Abraham made detailed explanations on the underlying objectives for establishing the Steering Committee, their roles, responsibilities and the proposed members of the Regional Steering Committee (RSC).  He listed out that the RSC members include the Oromia EPA,  Bureau of Agriculture,  Bureau of Finance and Economic Development, Bureau of Water, and Energy, Bureau of Planning and Development, Bureau of Women and Social Affairs, and one non-state actor working on similar intervention area. He also described the roles and responsibilities of Woreda Steering and Technical Committee and implementation modalities of the CRFLR program at the community level. Mr. Abraham has also presented draft annual activity plan for the current year that will be further refined with the involvement of region and woreda EPA office.

Another presentation was delivered about “Districts Selection” by Mr. Bekele Kefyalew, Senior Expert from Oromia Region EPA.  He described  the criteria and the process passed through for selecting the two districts.

He indicated the proposal that Shashemene and Wondo Genet be selected as eligible woredas (districts) for the CRFLR program intervention and the proposed kebeles (localities) are Abaro, Idola Burqa, Ebicha and Jangalla Wandare kebeles from the Shashemene woredas, while Gotu Onoma, Mado, Shasha and Waransa from the Wondo Genet woreda.

Following presentation, the participants flagged up concerns and questions which needed further clarifications. Most of the participants  made reflections on the importance of the Program in terms of  rescuing  the highly degraded forests and landscapes in the woredas including the degraded ‘Abaro Mountain’ at Shashemene woreda.

They further commended KOICA and GGGI for taking the initiative to roll-out such an important Program to the most deforested and degraded woredas at the right time, and expressed commitment for the effective implementation of the Program.  Moreover, some of the questions and concerns raised by the participants were  adequately responded by the presenters and staff members from GGGI Ethiopia and Oromia EPA. It was admitted said that some of the comments flagged up are worth noting and will be considered in the project implementation process.

While responding to some of the questions raised by the participants,  Dr. Gemedo noted that as part of endeavors to enhance the execution capacity of the Program, a steering committee needs to be established at the woreda level. He; however, said, if there is an existing structure, we can build upon it filling out the missing members to avoid duplication of efforts.  He reaffirmed that the implementation process of the CRFLR Program will not be jeopardized due to the central management of the budget, for the financial system and flow of money is well organized and intact.

 As to partnership, Dr. Gemedo remarked that the CLFLR Program will be collaborating and supplementing the activities of REDD+ and others which have common stakes and causes to advance at the grassroots level.  He further indicated that WGCFNR has a community service commitment, which needs to be exploited and capitalized on that initiative in support of the CRFLR Program.

In relation to the association to be established, he made the point clear that as per the KOICA Program document, it is Watershed Users’ Association, and can’t be altered to a cooperation. He, however said, there is a possibility of forming cooperative after several associations are created. He stated  that the Program would have a livelihood component which will create an alternative opportunity of earning income for the community at the implementation areas.

In his closing remarks, Mr. Bona Yadessa noted that donors need to ensure that the fund is properly utilized on the ground effectively, and strictly follow up the actual implementation and result of the funded project.  He thus warned that exaggerated paper reports be avoided, and stressed need to give a paramount importance to the actual implementation of the project on the ground.  He reiterated that the paper reports should align with, and reflect the actual activities already executed on the ground.

He remarked that the financial arrangement of the CLFLR Program is exemplary, for the disbursement of the fund is result-oriented, as well as for it enables to leave no room for misuse, embezzlement, and corruption.  He also underscored the need to ensure strong collaboration and build upon the existing baseline and logistics to avoid  duplications.

Mr. Bona stated that experiences in the past told us deforestation and illegal encroachment of forest lands can’t be prevented with the efforts of guards or law-enforcement bodies all alone, but through establishing a system and an approach of community-based participation with high feeling of ownership. He; thus, said we need to pursue a joint forest management approach namely Participatory Forest Management (PFM).

He further  underscored need to put in place a viable Monitoring, Reporting and Verification (MRV) system to gauge the impacts of the Program at the woreda level, and to ensure quality of the activity and donor compliant execution reports as per the provisions of Program document. Mr. Bona reiterated the need for the effective implementation of the Program in the selected woredas. He warned “If we fail, we will fail as Oromia, and next as a country,” adding, ‘If we successfully implement this project on the ground, we will create ample opportunities for the forthcoming projects.”

Finally, the Deputy Director called upon the zonal and woreda authorities to effectively utilize the great opportunity created by the KOICA-funded CLFLR program and implement same on the ground as expected and  provide the desired support to the Steering Committees that are formed both at regional and woreda levels.