Southern Alberta outreach shares joy of green with Ethiopia

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, July 4, 2019

The transformation from arid brown to lush green in HOPEthiopia’s reforestation project In Ethiopia (clockwise from top left) began with barrenness, then plant nursery, planting, with President Girma Woldegiorgis setting the pace, and forest restored to its rich biodiversity, inviting rebirth of streams and return of long-absent birds, including the Pere-grine Falcon, symbol of vision and hope.  With photos courtesy HOPEthiopia

The joy of green is not just a Cochrane-area thing. It’s spreading across Ethiopia, too, with lots of encouragement from Springbank reader Ralph Dubienski. Ralph, my dentist, heads up HOPEthiopia, a humanitarian outreach to struggling rural communities in the East African country ( Green is his dream, as he explains in his response to last week’s column:

ONE OF FOUR major projects that we work at in Ethiopia is reforestation. The consequences of deforestation had become critical, with less than three per cent of the country covered by forests. Many years ago more than 50 per cent of the country was forested and there was a rich biodiversity. But due to the long term effects of deforestation, many species of plants and animals were lost or became endangered, soils severely eroded, and water tables dropped.

However, if one gives the land a chance and with intervention, such as reforestation, the change can be enormous. Since 2011, together with the late president of Ethiopia, environmental champion Grima Woldegiorgis, we have been able to make a difference. Millions of trees have been planted by our teams, the water table has returned with springs of water "popping" up out of the hills along the river valley, and the local biodiversity is exploding.

When we first arrived at the project area, we would see only one bird species, vultures. Now we see over 50 species of birds, including Peregrine Falcons. And many species of beautiful plants and insects have returned.

So change for the better is possible. It does take a lot of effort, with hundreds of volunteer and community participants. Also lots of training, community awareness and especially education of the youth in environmental issues are critical for long-term success. The most recent government has also adopted a policy to plant over four billion trees in the coming years. So the future does look very bright and green in Ethiopia.

THANKS, RALPH. To the joy of green in Ethiopia!


© 2019 Warren Harbeck

Return to Coffee With Warren home page