Steps toward sustainable forest management with the local communities in Tigray, Northern Ethiopia

Steps toward sustainable forest management with the local communities in Tigray, Northern Ethiopia

1st year students of one of the new Msc. programs

The project is primarily a capacity-building project. It aims to improve the utilization strategy of forest resources through education and research. This project also tries to address the gender imbalance in forestry education.



Ethiopia, particularly the Tigray region has been facing continues deforestation and subsequent land degradation for over 3000 years. In an attempt to reverse this, there have been many efforts in the region since the 1980's. Rehabilitating degraded communal grazing lands by the means of exclosures were among such efforts. Exclosures are areas set aside for rehabilitation through natural regeneration of plants. Currently, exclosures cover about 16% (1.2 million ha) of the region's land area. About 200,000 ha of remnant natural forests of the region are also under protection as regional state’s forest priority areas. Both the restored and remnant forests are however, under constant pressure from the surrounding rapidly increasing population and the subsequent growing demand for forestland and forest products, particularly fuel wood. On the other hand, there has been a growing global demand for conservation of tropical forests owing to the emergence of the financial incentives based climate change mitigation policy measure known as REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation plus enhancing forest carbon stocks, sustainable management and conservation of forests). The government of Ethiopia recognizes the urgent need for sustainable forest management strategies to maintain the existing forests while fulfilling the local demand for forest products and services. The national and regional effort to address this issue is however, limited by the lack of necessary forest management decision-support tools and data. This is mainly due to the lack of experts in the field of forestry. Ethiopia is a developing country where the higher education coverage in general and forestry in particular is still very low and in which gender inequality is very high. For example, 51% of men and 66% of women are illiterate, and this proportion widens when it comes to higher education where only 6.7% of the graduates are women. The government has put in place policies and structures to help narrow this gap. However, they are far from being effective as the number of female student dropout is 70% of all students dropping out. Some of the reasons given for this high present are lack of a strong background education, lack of female teachers to be role models, lack of assertiveness training, lack of appropriate guidance and counseling. The lack of a strong educational background has a lot to do with the culture related to the division of labor in the households, lack of social assertiveness of women, and lack of independent thinking and action. This can thus be partly addressed with tutorials, assertiveness training, and the setting of role models in the further education of women at Masters, PhD and post doc levels.


The main goal is to strengthen the capacity in forestry education and research at Mekelle University (MU) in order to promote sustainable utilization of the region’s forest resources by the local communities.

The specific objectives are to :

Develop curricula to run MSc programs,

Develop a curriculum for a PhD program,

Launch the newly setup MSc programs,

Improve teaching and research capacity at MU by upgrading the staff competence,

Improve gender equality via giving priority to the capacity building of women,  and

Provide forest management decision-support tools to policy makers and forest managers

More about the project