Farmer-managed natural regeneration (FMNR) employed to restore overgrazed and deforested land, boost biodiversity, and generate carbon offset revenues for local communities.
Seven village cooperatives in Humbo, with the support of World Vision Ethiopia, have begun practicing Farmer-Managed Natural Regeneration (FMNR), a low-cost technique that restores and regenerates previously cut down trees faster than planting seedlings. By emphasizing the regeneration of native vegetation, FMNR also avoids the potential negative consequences of introducing exotic species and addresses concerns about the reduced biodiversity associated with new plantations. Since the start of the project in 2005, farmers in the region have mastered the many techniques necessary to stimulate fast regrowth and take care to regenerate a wide variety of species that provide both material, food, ecosystem, nitrogen fixing, and carbon sequestration benefits. Through written agreements between local communities, the most severely overgrazed and overcut areas were closed off for use exclusively by FMNR-practicing farmers. These efforts have reportedly helped to restore the forests of Humbo which, much like those across the rest of the country, have suffered extreme deforestation pressures largely due to a nation-wide need for agricultural land and food. Across Ethiopia, only 4% of native forests remained prior to the start of the project. This project also provided significant revenue for the local community as World Vision’s first Clean Development Mechanism project. These revenues have been used to build flour mills and grain stores, install solar panels, and provide over one thousand households with access to micro-credit. In addition to economic benefits for farmers and the affected communities, improved soil quality and stability has reportedly led to better recharging of groundwater and reduced flash flooding. Furthermore, the drastically increased vegetative cover has led to increases in several biodiversity metrics and the return of antelopes, goats, and native animal species that had previously disappeared from the area.
The FMNR and other land restoration efforts resulted in the reported sequestration of 165,000 tonnes of CO2 by 2018 and generation of USD $500,000 in carbon offset revenues for the community through the World Bank’s BioCarbon Fund. It is estimated that 870,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent will likely be removed from the atmosphere over a 30-year period.
Although not quantified, the reported increase in soil stability induced by the forest and land regeneration efforts is likely to reduce vulnerability to flash flooding, reduce water runoff and erosion, and increase infiltration and ground water recharge in the face of predicted increased rainfall in the region as a result of climate change. Community members have already noted that the increased leaf litter has improved the quality of the soil, reducing flooding and siltation of farmlands. Furthermore, crops are supposedly benefiting from the more diversified microclimate with improved land and soil quality yielding more and healthier crops and livestock for consumption by communities themselves and sale elsewhere. One of the seven communities surveyed reported that the landscape had recovered enough in the first year of livestock exclusion to harvest 300 large bundles of grass from previously rocky and barren hillsides.
A reported direct result of the FMNR and replanting activities is the restoration and sustainable management of several thousand hectares of formerly degraded forest with a measured average of two to five meters of tree regrowth since the start of the project. A further several hundred hectares have been replanted with indigenous and commercially-viable tree species. These efforts have increased the presence of five indigenous fruit tree varieties. Communities have noted increased biodiversity in the area, both in terms of arboreal cover and animal, plant, and insect species. Community members have reported that many species formerly gone from the region as a result of deforestation have since returned including certain types of birds, wild goats, and antelopes.
Carbon offset revenues generated by the project have been used to improve the livelihoods of local communities. Project monitoring reports highlight that these revenues have been used to build eight flour mills, nine grain stores, purchase 240 solar panels, and provide improved access to micro-credit. The improved land management has increased yields of non-timber products such as honey, medicine, fibres, and fruit, likely contributing to the diversification of household economies. Improved agricultural yields and established plant nurseries for both native and commercially viable tree species have reportedly improved the income and livelihoods of communities in the area, 85% of which were reported to have been living in poverty at the start of the project. By the second year of the project, when all collaborating communities began pruning tree regrowth, the project reported improved capacity to meet firewood needs in the area. The project also led to the establishment of community cooperatives and clear user rights to the forest for the seven communities adjacent to the forest.