In 2020, Ethiopia announced that it had planted 353,633,660 trees in one day (O’Kane, 2019). This feat granted Ethiopia the title India previously held for planting 50 million trees (UNEP, 2019). On July 29, 2019, the country came together and planted millions of trees to combat climate change and restore the greenery in their country (Paget & Regan, 2019). This article will explain the importance of Ethiopia’s tree planting, how they did it, and what others can do.
The Importance of Trees
Trees are essential to the environment. One of the most critical functions of trees is that they provide oxygen. During photosynthesis, they take in carbon dioxide (Tree Canada, 2017). The U.S. Department of Agriculture reported, “One acre of forest absorbs six tons of carbon dioxide and puts out four tons of oxygen,” enough to meet the oxygen demand of 18 people a year (Tree Canada, 2017). The roots of trees help prevent soil erosion and degradation (Tree Canada, 2017). Trees also psychologically affect people’s moods and emotions, helping reduce stress (Tree Canada, 2017).
Trees have other benefits. Trees, or forestry, is an industry. There are foresters, arborists, researchers, workers in the tree nursery industry, tree workers, silviculturists, ecologists, and many other jobs that come from the existence of trees (Government of Ontario, 2022). The most important part of the forestry industry is to ensure the forests are not being over logged and exploited, which requires a delicate balance. Trees are also used for recreation purposes, camping, and hiking. In urban settings, trees provide shade and cooling, habitats for wildlife, such as birds and squirrels, can help with noise buffering, and are pleasing to look at (Tree Canada, 2017).
Ethiopia Tree Planting
Ethiopia is a landlocked country located in the Horn of Africa. Like many countries in Africa, deforestation has become a problem for Ethiopia. The leading causes of deforestation in Africa are agriculture (both traditional farming and industrial agriculture, cocoa, and oil palm production, and cattle ranging), increased commercial logging (for timber or pulp or mining, oil and gas extraction), and a lack of strong government policies (Igamba, 2021). According to the United Nations, at the beginning of the 20th century, around one-third of Ethiopia was forest land, but the number had dropped to 4% by 2000 (Karasz, 2019).
As part of Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s Green Legacy Initiative campaign to plant four billion trees before the fall, the initial aim was to plant around 200 million seedlings (Karasz, 2019). The campaign was to fight deforestation and climate change, as trees remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere (UNEP, 2019). Ethiopia’s campaign was also part of the African Forest Landscape Restoration Initiative, where 34 African countries have pledged to restore over 100 million hectares of land by 2030 (Paget & Regan, 2019).
To meet the goal, every citizen was encouraged to plant at least 40 seedlings (Ploszajski, 2019). Schools and government offices were also closed on the day so that all could participate (Karasz, 2019). People from all walks of life, including students, urban professionals, environmentalists, farmers, government officials, foreign ambassadors, and workers, all worked together to surpass the goal (Karasz, 2019).
In 12 hours, the Minister of Innovation and Technology, Getahun Mekuria, announced that they had planted more than 350 million trees in the 1,000 planned sites across the country, significantly surpassing the 200 million tree goal (UNEP, 2019).
What Can Be Learned?
Ethiopia is a shining example of how environmental initiatives can be done effectively. With proper planning and encouraging everyone to get involved, countries can make progressive moves towards mitigating climate change and restoring the environment. Planting trees is one of the cheapest ways to fight climate change and one of the most effective strategies (UNEP, 2019).
Researchers have found that restoring the world’s forests could remove two-thirds of human-produced carbon emissions (Tutton, 2019). If more countries start to follow the lead of Ethiopia, it would increase the world’s chance of keeping the global climate from increasing by 1.5°C, which could have disastrous consequences.
Canada pledged to plant 2 billion trees by 2030. However, a recent audit shows that unless essential changes are made, Canada will fail to get even 200 million trees planted (Rabson, 2023). Canada should look to the strategies of Ethiopian government officials to ensure that Canada can meet the goal.
Without the encouragement of national initiatives, individuals can also go out of their way to plant trees and encourage others for the betterment of the environment and their own mental and physical health.
Government of Ontario. (2022, September 27). Forestry careers. Ontario.Ca. https://www.ontario.ca/page/forestry-careers
Igamba, J. (2021, September 6). How widespread deforestation in Africa risks our climate future. Greenpeace Africa. https://www.greenpeace.org/africa/en/blogs/49073/how-widespread-deforestation-in-africa-risks-our-climate-future/
Karasz, P. (2019, July 30). Ethiopia says it planted over 350 million trees in a day, a record. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/30/world/africa/ethiopia-tree-planting-deforestation.html
Mwai, P. (2019, December 20). Did Ethiopia plant four billion trees this year? BBC. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-50813726
O’Kane, C. (2019, July 30). Ethiopia plants 350 million trees in 12 hours, breaking world record. CBS News. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/ethiopia-plants-350-million-trees-12-hours-breaking-world-record-2019-07-30/
Paget, S., & Regan, H. (2019, July 30). Ethiopia plants more than 350 million trees in 12 hours. CNN. https://www.cnn.com/2019/07/29/africa/ethiopia-plants-350-million-trees-intl-hnk/index.html
Ploszajski, A. (2019, July 29). Ethiopia plants 350m trees in a day to help tackle climate crisis. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/jul/29/ethiopia-plants-250m-trees-in-a-day-to-help-tackle-climate-crisis
Rabson, M. (2023, April 20). Canada pledged to plant 2 billion trees by 2030 — it’s not going so well. Global News. https://globalnews.ca/news/9638864/trudeau-liberals-two-billion-tree-planting-promise/
Tree Canada. (2017, May 29). The importance of trees – learn value and benefit of trees. SavATree. https://www.savatree.com/whytrees.html
Tutton, M. (2019, July 4). Restoring forests could capture two-thirds of the carbon humans have added to the atmosphere. CNN. https://www.cnn.com/2019/07/04/world/forests-capture-two-thirds-of-carbon-emissions-scn-intl/index.html
UNEP. (2019, August 2). Ethiopia plants over 350 million trees in a day, setting new world record. UNEP; United Nations Environment Programme. https://www.unep.org/news-and-stories/story/ethiopia-plants-over-350-million-trees-day-setting-new-world-record