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Successful landscape restoration in Abreha We Atsbeha watershed, Tigray, Ethiopia. Included in Restoring African Drylands


Key success factors
There were several reasons for the success of the restoration initiative.
• Implementation had the active participation of the local community; i.e., it was community- led restoration.
• Restoration produced short- and long-term economic and environmental benefits.
• It systematically included women, girls and youth in restoration activities.
• The former village leader had the leadership capacity to mobilize the local community.
• The area has steep slopes producing runoff and sandy soils in the valleys with high rates of infiltration.
• The local people had the ability to change their attitudes/mind-sets from one of dependence to self-help.
• There was participatory development of locally agreed bylaws that support landscape restoration.

Abreha We Atsbeha watershed was one of the most degraded in Tigray. Soil erosion and water scarcity reduced agricultural production, and the community faced food shortages for many years. The government gave them two alternatives: resettle in another faraway region with higher production potential or restore the productive capacity of the degraded watershed. The local community thoroughly discussed the two options, and the village leader, Aba Hawi, managed to convince the local community to choose the second option. Once the local community opted to rehabilitate their degraded land they continuously invested their labour. As a result of this ongoing effort they succeeded in reversing land degradation.

The restored productive capacity of the land — coupled with increased groundwater recharge — has significantly increased and diversified agricultural production. As a result, the local community has become food secure and also less poor, as the villagers don’t have to sell assets to generate money to buy cereals; instead they generate income from selling cash crops grown in the newly irrigated area. The youth in the village are also now able to generate income from the sale of vegetables from new irrigated plots, livestock fattening, dairy production, and beekeeping. Crucially, the participation of the youth in these income-generating activities has enabled most of them to remain in their village, rather than migrating to cities or abroad, as used to be so common.

The keys to successful landscape restoration from this example are the active participation and ownership of the local community in restoring degraded landscapes, leading to a change in their attitudes; and the leadership quality and communication skills of the village leader. The landscape restoration process must be inclusive in scope and practice, and must consider marginalized groups such as women, girls and youth. The current international attention being paid to drylands landscape restoration can be translated into further success when it better combines economic and environmental benefits for sustainability.

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LAN/AGR/882 ELAN/AGR/882 Eloose leafmainavailable
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