Deforestation in Ethiopia – Causes, Effects, Overview

Ethiopia possesses remarkable historical, cultural, and biological variety.

It is home to two globally significant biodiversity hotspots; 80 languages are spoken by distinct ethnic groups; and it is home to one of the oldest forebears of the human species.

Ethiopian forests are important for preventing erosion because tree roots stave off washouts. By absorbing carbon dioxide, trees also aid in preventing global warming and retaining water in the soil.

Nevertheless, there are threats to this rich cultural and ecological heritage, particularly from deforestation.

Deforestation in Ethiopia – History and Overview

Ethiopians cut wood for domestic purposes, including fuel, hunting, agriculture, and occasionally religious purposes, which results in deforestation.

The primary drivers of deforestation in Ethiopia are cattle production, changing agriculture, and fuel in dry regions.

By chopping down trees and reshaping the landscape to accommodate various uses, deforestation is the process of eliminating the forest environment.

Ethiopians have historically relied heavily on their forests for their livelihoods. The Ethiopian people used trees to fuel their cooking fires and to provide material for construction projects.

Additionally, they used trees and other forest plants to make traditional medicines. Ethiopians held that there were holy spirits in the forest that they respected the same as humans, which made forests significant to their religious beliefs.

Ethiopia is home to over 6603 plant species, of which about one-fifth are said to exist but are not native to other countries.

Over 420,000 square kilometers, or 35% of Ethiopia’s territory, were covered in forest cover at the turn of the 20th century. Still, population growth has caused this to drop to less than 14.2%, according to current studies.

The local population’s lack of education has contributed to the ongoing loss of forested regions, despite the increased need for forested lands.

About thirty percent of Ethiopia was covered in forest in 1890. The situation altered progressively as a result of the felling of trees for fuel and the clearance of land for agricultural use.

However, since the 1950s, land transfers to government employees and veterans of war have promoted private property ownership.

Mechanized agriculture is becoming more and more appealing during this time. Thus, a sizable portion of the rural populace was resettled, including forested areas.

The government held around half of the forest area, while the remaining half was privately owned or claimed. Forestry was mainly under governmental control before the Ethiopian Revolution.

The amount of forest cover has dropped by 11% since 1973. Resettlement and village development initiatives, along with the growth of state farm programs, defined this era.

The conversion of 101.28 square kilometers of highland forests into coffee plantations was the cause of 24% of the lost forests.

The largely southern timberlands and sawmills were nationalized in 1975 as part of the land reform. The government regulated the clearing of forest areas, and in certain instances, people needed permission to remove trees from nearby peasant organizations.

However, this action accelerated the loss of Ethiopia’s surviving forests and promoted illicit logging.

Four percent of Ethiopia’s total land, or 4,344,000 hectares, was covered by natural forests in 2000. Ethiopia has typical levels of deforestation when compared to other East African nations.

Nonetheless, East Africa has the second-highest rate of deforestation on the continent. Furthermore, the majority of its woodland area is set aside for protection.

Causes of Deforestation in Ethiopia

The extension of agricultural land, commercial logging, and the gathering of fuelwood are the primary drivers of deforestation in Ethiopia.

To address this issue, the government has implemented some initiatives, such as protected area establishment, community forest management, and reforestation projects.

However, a lack of funding, poor implementation, and lax enforcement have hindered a lot of initiatives.

  • Agricultural Expansion
  • Ineffective Government Regulations
  • Charcoal Burning
  • Encroachment for Settlement
  • Lack of Avenue for Public Engagement

1. Agricultural Expansion

Almost 80% of the total deforestation that occurs globally is a result of agricultural output. Ethiopia’s altering agricultural and animal production practices are the primary sources of deforestation.

Ethiopian farmers are impoverished, face food insecurity, and are unable to pay for the preservation of their forests.

Farmers simply value agricultural land more when it comes to facing food insecurity. If individual farmers are facing extreme food insecurity, their only real choice is to turn forests into agricultural land.

Due to their low time preference rates, individuals would much rather eat now than tomorrow and are unable to afford the costs associated with protecting forests for the benefit of the greater national or international community.

Bamboo’s image is a concern. In Ethiopia’s arid regions, bamboo is seen as little more than a weed; hence, the market for bamboo products like furniture, flooring, chopsticks, and toothpicks is not very lucrative.

This implies that the agro-industry has every reason to plant crops like sorghum and maize in place of bamboo forests.

2. Ineffective Government Regulations

Ineffective government policies that reflect previous institutional and administrative changes as well as instability of land tenure are contributing factors to Ethiopia’s deforestation problem.

Ethiopian and international stakeholders are engaged in a competitive game pertaining to resources, rights, and mandates. This makes coordinating efforts to halt deforestation more challenging.

In addition to suitable financial incentives, stakeholders’ trust must be restored, and environmental education, public awareness, and civil society engagement must be bolstered. Delegating authority is necessary to build conservation capacities.

Even though it is home to Coffea arabica and produces some of the best coffee on earth, the global coffee business now makes very little effort to protect the forests.

3. Charcoal Burning

Charcoal is a major contributor to Ethiopia’s deforestation. Here, urban people mostly use this affordable resource for cooking, and as these populations grow and the demand for charcoal rises, deforestation gets worse.

The production of charcoal results in significant carbon emissions in addition to wood waste. Charcoal is the primary fuel used by Ethiopian households for cooking and heating, regardless of whether they live in rural or urban areas.

With an annual loss of over 300,000 hectares of forested area, the nation has one of the highest rates of deforestation in the world. A significant contributing factor to this devastation of the country’s forests is its production.

4. Encroachment for Settlement

The population of the continent is expanding at the highest rate in the world, with an annual growth rate of around 3%, thanks to factors including rising life expectancy, declining infant mortality, and high fertility rates.

Currently, 13% of the world’s population resides in sub-Saharan Africa. Nonetheless, projections indicate that the region will house 35% of the world population at the end of the century, with its population expected to double over the following several decades.

These figures make it not unexpected that one of the primary drivers of deforestation in Africa is population expansion.

Trees are felled not only to make way for new communities but also to harvest raw materials required for the construction of infrastructure and homes.

5. Lack of Avenue for Public Engagement

Ethiopia has little to no lobby, and the existing sociopolitical framework that restricts public participation negatively impacts environmental education, knowledge, advocacy, and the development of an involved and powerful civil society—all of which are essential for the preservation and sustainable use of Ethiopia’s forests.

Effects of Deforestation in Ethiopia

Deforestation in Ethiopia has serious repercussions. In addition to preventing soil erosion and regulating the water cycle, forests also serve as wildlife habitat.

The removal of trees increases the land’s susceptibility to erosion, which causes the loss of rich soil and a decline in agricultural output. By releasing significant volumes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, deforestation also plays a role in climate change.

Furthermore, the loss of forests has societal repercussions, particularly for indigenous groups whose traditional way of life depends on the forests.

Investor pressure is turning moist evergreen mountain forests into alternative land use systems, such as coffee and tea plantations, endangering the few surviving highland forests.

Given that deforestation rates stay the same, Ethiopia would have lost its final high forest tree in around 27 years, despite somewhat varying forecasts for deforestation in different regions.

And with it, the last remaining original wild populations of Coffea arabica in the world. That genetic resource is lost at a cost of between US$0.4 and US$1.5 billion per year.

Solutions to Deforestation in Ethiopia

The government has started educating the public about the advantages of forests, motivating them to plant more trees and preserve what they already have by offering substitute building and farming supplies.

Anybody who chops down a tree must plant a new one in its stead. The government is making an effort to lower the demand for forest resources by giving Ethiopians access to fuel and electrical machinery.

Furthermore, to encourage agriculture and prevent the need for deforestation to support modern agriculture, the government is offering flat ground devoid of current trees.

Governmental and non-governmental organizations collaborate with the government to save the land. To establish an effective system of forest management, the federal government, local governments, and organizations like SOS and Farm Africa are cooperating.

For residents of arid areas to be self-sufficient and not need government help, the government is also trying to move them to areas with fertile soil for cultivation.

The ecology and quality of life were enhanced when individuals learned how to use water for irrigation and to prevent land erosion thanks to an E.C. grant of almost 2.3 million euros.

The locals have finally realized how important it is to give trees legal recognition and protection for future generations.

Designating specific locations where trees may be taken down and used, as well as other regions where trees are legally protected, is one way to preserve trees.


As we have seen, deforestation is a big deal in Ethiopia. There may not be a lot of factors that cause deforestation in Ethiopia but since the causes are human-induced, the little causes of deforestation in Ethiopia are accelerated.

The government has begun making efforts to curb this menace but, no significant impact has been made yet because the damage was too much. This calls for patience as a significant change would take time.

The situation of deforestation in Ethiopia calls for international intervention, especially in the area of planting drought-resistant trees and trees with high water retention. Also, there is a need for the orientation of the masses on the causes, effects, and solutions to deforestation in Ethiopia.


Editor at EnvironmentGo! | | + posts

A passion-driven environmentalist by heart. Lead content writer at EnvironmentGo.
I strive to educate the public about the environment and its problems.
It has always been about nature, we ought to protect not destroy.

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