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Ethiopia: biodiversity, quality of life, soil erosion and runoff. Earth Art studio’s Trees for Life

In conversation with artist Sylvia Grace Borda and lecturer Nura Beshir on the regeneration of green lands in Kofele, Ethiopia

Trees for Life: uniting landscape and art

A large-scale initiative that reflects on land rehabilitation. Trees for Life aims at aiding in the formation of a tree nursery in Kofele, Ethiopia for farmers and its local communities. In addition to also enabling learning of environmental aspects of planting and agroforestry and how to encourage tree benefits. 

By creating the tree nursery, a social hub materialized leading to a space of proactive activity with people of all ages. From children, students, adults and even the elderly to come in and share what they would like to see and do; and their knowledge of nature bringing a more consolidated grounds for climate awareness and mitigation.

Practicing professional and academician with a Master’s degree in Environmental Planning and Landscape Design; Nura Beshir has conducted research and projects on climate change related issues. She has been working with Borda in efforts to negate the climatic conditions that Ethiopia faces. Beshir explains, «the Ethiopian government has done several works to promote tree planting. In efforts of doing so last year the government set up the green legacy initiative. Four billion trees will be planted to counteract the climate crisis and to enhance the country’s quality of life».

Ethiopia turning over a new leaf

During the past several years, Ethiopia has invested more than one billion dollars annually; restoring landscapes in several regions around the country. This due to pressure by climate change and population increase. Despite them being large scaled restorations, the country has the worst land degradation rate among sub-Saharan countries, constituting to around a four-billion-dollar productivity loss per year. The country as a whole has targeted towards regenerating five million hectares by the year 2020. Now it is working on becoming climate-neutral by the year 2050 aiming at also regenerating jobs; boosting the economy; regenerate millions of hectares of degraded forests and support more sustainable agriculture in the process.  

The initiative offered by Earth Art studio focuses on increasing biodiversity, quality of life and reducing soil erosion and runoff. All these facets have over the years proven its dominance over restoration efforts; alongside an integrated land management approach to enhance all ecosystem services. «The important facet in this project at a localized level in Kofele is that it serves the community. With a green nursery creating a new level of sustainability. Other communities started to ask for the same project. This because they realized that it is not only an engaging process but a learning one. Bringing together arts and civic pride and other assets in terms of nature preservation and economic job diversification».

Local trees to accelerate carbon capture and sequestration

Africa’s second most populated country is home to communities connected with their surrounding nature and are respectful to the local trees. Beshir divulges, «when it comes to combining art and nature together it poses as a surplus. Showcasing the best of both worlds and as a result people are responding positively towards». Fast growing and local trees selected by ROBA were to accelerate carbon capture and sequestration, improving biodiversity, soil richness, water table and erosion. The trees in the initiative are located precisely to offer shade. They act as a wind barrier, provide food and medicine and pose as a rich element carrying culture and history.

«These trees are not only for community benefit but are also for climate’s benefit and not to mention the country’s economic growth; creating an interdisciplinary dialogue of all these facets together». Trees play a critical role for people and the planet; numerous studies have demonstrated that the presence of trees and urban nature can improve people’s mental and physical health along with cooling down urban centers making them essential for healthy communities. The benefits that trees provide help countries meet fifteen of the seventeen internationally supported United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

The interception and reduction of air pollution

One of the most important benefits for human health that urban forests can provide is the interception and reduction of air pollution, providing a better quality of life. But beyond pollution removal the presence of trees provides additional direct and indirect benefits to human health and wellness. Roughly a total of 83% of water coming from the ground undergoes the process of condensation from the atmosphere by trees. The Trees for Life initiative offers a rise to the dynamic system; by planting seedling trees assisting in a maximized carbon capture, water restoration services and a cleaner air resource.

Borda words it by saying that this movement held in Kofele «creates real action to form legacy and sustainable communities of tree nurseries». To meet the needs of people in an everchanging world. An effective strategy conjured by Earth Art Studio outlines the research done and the approaches to understake. In order to tackle the greatest challenge of our time, creating an effective strategy to assist in meeting these goals by efficiently planting and protecting trees especially where the majority of people live.

Lampoon, Trees for Life, Tolou Keur garden
A newly built Tolou Keur garden in Boki Diawe, within the Great Green Wall area, in Matam region, Senegal. Photography Zohra Bensemra from Reuters

Eucalyptus globulus

As of May 2021, the tree nursery has grown more than two thousand Eucalyptus globulus. The Greek for ‘well covered‘ and a highly exploited plant for its aroma. This comes from the volatile oil content in the leaves and bark of the tree. With its dried leaves to make medicines and five thousand Cupressus lustanica. A plant used used to treat catarrh and headache. Sometimes even used in the treatment of cancer – more of the tree saplings are being seeded by the community. The tree nursery is expecting a bi-annual output of between ten to twelve thousand trees each growing cycle. 

The Rural Association for Betterment of Agro-Pastoralists (ROBA) is currently fundraising the tree nursery to include more youth and women participating in the movement; as well as expanding the nursery operation across five other locations with different communities in Ethiopia. «Assets like story-telling to the physical and virtual environments along with a lot of community engagement with the arts have been a driver and has created economic results, employment opportunities and education. For the communities in Kofele there is great poverty and particularly for women there sometimes could be a lack of opportunity because they are either tied to household chores or finding resources that are going to keep families going. For a lot of communities, it is sometimes about harvesting wood or finding other means that are necessary for day to day living».

Understanding how implementing ecological practices

Beshir reports that returns of economic values have started to happen whether it may be at a social or ecological value. Social health has reportedly also improved due to communities working together and creating intergenerational bonds which in turn leads to a supportive network; understanding how implementing ecological practices in their day-to-day life with a willingness to persevere. «The youth are extremely motivated at school – they are excited in learning digital art, song writing, and making this project come together. I am also so happy to see elders happy to share with youth their knowledge of forest care and ancestor traditions. Furthermore elders were also so happy to see, share and participate in tree celebrations. Elders have connected us, trees and animals into our culture and into our hearts and minds».

Interactive communities with a positive social health

On a sustainable community standpoint, the trees adopted in the project are seen as a sense of force. This is to say that they create climate mitigation from simple approaches that will in turn give back to its environment. As Borda puts it herself, «it really has to do with social well-being. Whether it may be a new town or looking at a nineteenth century model it is crucial to have accessibility to clean water, air and have a sense of community. For instance, places have a sense of respect and can have impact to make their own decisions positively and today this positivity is in terms of climate change. Managing their resources knowing they have economic assets and nature available for future generations. To conclude, with their ability to be stimulated by art that will ultimately help in co-developing the idea of sustainability».

The term sustainable community is not too dissimilar to a new town. Essentially the aims are shared. Reconstructing social well-being, access to clean air and water, ecological opportunities, become a place of learning and respect. Providing a wide range of biodiversity with the intention of still being environmentally conscious; by not exploiting green resources but rather leaving a positive imprint on the surrounding nature. Not only do they also provide a place for the stimulation of the creative art expression in all its forms. In addition they manage the community’s natural and economic assets that would be available for future generations.

Earth Art Studio 

Arts movement founded by artists, Sylvia Grace Borda, and J. Keith Donnelly that aims at creating a positive series of actions for the sake of mitigating climate change. Dissecting the role of land art, actively invite developing and exchanging knowledge. To promote the development of divergent viewpoints to comprehend social, climatic and natural histories.

Lecturer in Addis Ababa University and well known for her research projects on climate change-related issues. Including sustainable stormwater management, urban heat islands and urban agriculture. Nura Beshir joined the studio as a Trees for Life advisor; using her experience in the field and culture and background to showcase the Ethiopia’s land reactivation endeavors.

Farah Hassan

The writer does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article.

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check and buy on Prototipo Store
item collections in limited edition
crafted according to our editorial search

Hemp / made in Italy
Lampoon is working to restore
Hemp production in Italy
as hemp is the one and only
natural vegetal fiber sourceable in the country
for more info, please email us at [email protected]

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