The Relief Society of Tigray (REST) environmental rehabilitation and agricultural development
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The Relief Society of Tigray (REST) environmental rehabilitation and agricultural development

By Gebrehiwet Gebru (gebrehiwetgebru11@gmail.com) Mekelle
Tigrai Online, August 26, 2017

The Relief Society of Tigray (REST) environmental rehabilitation and agricultural development
Adwa, Tabia Laelay logomti, private fruit nursery organized by Relief Society of Tigray

After Ethiopia’s Tigray region won Gold in the 2017 Future Policy Award for world’s best policies for tackling land degradation organized by the World Future Council and the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), different peoples, government and non-government organizations extended their deepest happiness to Ethiopia in general and to Tigray region in particular. Tuesday, August 22, 2017 was unique for Ethiopians as well as Tigreans. On that day, Ethiopia’s Tigray region was announced as a winner of Gold followed by China and Brazil for its reducing land degradation.  This implies, the region applied the policy correctly.

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I personally, feel extremely happy when I watch the news on tv as well as other alternative electronics medias. Yes indeed, I have observed Tigray, the vegetation covers is increasing from time to time. Many gullies have been treated and became sources of water for irrigation consumption. Many households stuck to change their life upper and lower the treated catchments and watersheds.

Obviously, in partnership with the government, many non-governmental organizations have been participated in rehabilitating the land of Tigray. The Relief Society of Tigray (REST) is the one and the boldest organization in restoring the land of Tigray. Regarding this, I have read many published reports, booklets, fliers and other written materials which have contained the contribution of REST from its cradle to this time. Logically speaking, currently, vicinity regions, neighboring and far countries caught to share best experience of REST. I do not mean that REST is the only doer of the land restoration in Tigray but it is a center of best practice.  Accordingly, below, I tried to compile some of the best activities of REST done for the last five years focusing in environmental rehabilitation and land restoration.

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REST has been working with the people and the government of Tigray Region on various relief and development programs for decades. Environmental rehabilitation and agricultural development programs (ERAD) is one of the operational department of REST. Currently, the ERAD programs have been implemented in 22 woredas of Tigray. The major programs that are implemented under the department of ERAD are natural resource management programmes such as soil and water conservation and reforestation, and agricultural development programs such as developments of livestock and crop productions. Besides to these big programs, there are also three projects implemented in specific woredas. Livelihood for Resilience Activity (LRA) and LMD projects deal with value chain activities for livelihood development and market linkages projects that target PSNP beneficiary and AGP- project areas out of the PSNP beneficiary, respectively. LRA is the continuation of the GRAD that will be implemented in 8 woredas. The fourth project is R4 weather index insurance for crops which is practiced in 11 woredas at 81Tabias. This department has also been working on rural access road with fords and culverts to connect villages with market and other services. REST-ERAD has achieved the following activities in the past five years (2012-2016).

As the sources indicated on natural resources management -Soil and Water Conservation in the last five years about 72,247.9 ha degraded lands have been treated. Bench terracing was constructed on 1,274.1 ha communal hilly land of 13 Woredas. Accordingly this bench terracing has been allocated to 5,833 of (39.4% female) land less youths. Moreover, 8.3million m3 of percolation pond were excavated and 650 big gullies with a total length of 525.9 km have been reclaimed & changed to productive land. Similarly 289 check dam ponds 10 under ground check dams and 110 flood diversion gabion check dams have been constructed to irrigate 6115.5ha of land and owned by 10499 households.

In case of forestry development, REST has managed about 85 central tree nursery and support 21 private tree nurseries to produce highly valuable and quality tree seedlings for plantation purposes. In the last 5 years about 126.1 million seedlings have been produced. And of which 79.8 and 46.3 million seedlings were planted on communal and private lands respectively. 22,231ha of land has planted and about 675,159/343,400F households have been benefited.

Similarly a total of 111,174 hectare of degraded land have been enclosed and regenerated. Out of this about 72,858 ha were allocated to 109,508 males and 38297female farmers and youths and the remaining have been still managed by the support of REST.

Besides hillsides, REST has developed good experience in enclosing farm lands for agro forestry purpose. A total of 54691ha of farm land have been enclosed and managed by 106,804/25492F farmers.

To keep the forests in a good manner and stop cutting trees for housing consumption, introducing alternative energy is an irreplaceable action.  REST was working on alternative energy technology. Accordingly 81 biogas, 306 solar systems and 4848 improved stoves were distributed. These climate smart technologies are expected to reduce pressure on forests and gas emission to the atmosphere. Capacities building also provided for a total of 14101 different community members.

Agricultural development is one of the programs embraced under ERAD. Under the agricultural development program crop production & livestock development are the major activity that plays a great role for food security of communities through increasing production and income. Now under this article I gave attention for crop production.The major activities within the crop development are fruit seedling production (tropical & highland fruit plantation), water lifting technologies, improved and local vegetable production, micro garden  development, different capacity buildings were the main activities interned. Besides, emergency seeds were distributed to very poor and seedless farmers to adapt the effects of drought. 1,856,261 grafted seedling and non-grafted fruit trees of mangos, oranges and apples, lemon and avocado) have been distributed to 25,037male and 6429 female farmers that covered 1462 ha of land within the last five years.

Various water lifting devices were introduced to the farmers to maximize production and productivities. Accordingly, 595 small,81 medium,21 big water pumps,150 rope and washer and 192 family drip kits have been provided to 2876 to male and  687 female beneficiaries and they could irrigate and produce high value crops on 1003 hectares. In addition 2067 kg vegetable seeds and 1483 bulb tuber and oil crops were purchased and distributed to 16230male and 5057 female farmers and could grow on 2269 ha of irrigated land. These farmers have been producing and earning 35,000- 85,000.00 birr per year. Moreover to improve nutritional status and generating cash income about 5,774 women headed households were supported to prepare home stead vegetable gardening.

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Climate change could impact the livelihoods of the people, due to this Ethiopia is generally acknowledged to be a country most vulnerable to the adverse impacts of global climate change, and where adaptation is most imperative. In response to these challenges and shocks of climate change, Relief Society of Tigray (REST) with several other global and local partners joined forces to implement a holistic risk management framework enabling vulnerable populations to strengthen their food and income security - the Horn of Africa Risk Transfer for Adaptation /HARITA project launched in 2009 in one village, Adiha, Kolatembein district with 200 farmers. Currently it reaches over 27,000 clients. / farmers at 81 villages in 11 districts of Tigray, of which 24,232 farmers bought the weather index insurance in labor by contributing 15 % of their premium in cash while 2,440 relatively better farmers played their premium fully in cash for their long and short cycle crops. In addition different disaster risk reduction activities such as soil and water conservation, gully reclamation, spate irrigation, micro-gardening, cactus development and roof water harvesting have been integrated. Furthermore, the insurance clients have been encouraged & supported to exercises saving and generating income.

Finally, I would like to conclude my idea; concerned bodies must work in expanding best experiences of REST to other areas. Only working is not enough, it should be better to use Medias for disseminating the best experience of the organization in all aspect. Congratulation! Donors, partners for supporting and donating for the result oriented organization-REST. 

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