It is an incredible privilege to stand over the emptiness facing the top of the Debre Damo Amba in northern Ethiopia. Accessible to men only by a 20-metre leather rope on the cliffside, this mystical place home to the oldest church in Ethiopia is one of many places to have reaped the benefits of Green Ethiopia’s work. In the monastery courtyard, small stone structures house the monks, sometimes on the very edge of the precipice. At the foot of these buildings, majestic trees rise on the rolling desert-like landscape where rare smudges of green appear to remain. Here, like in a film by ecologist Hayao Miyazaki, plants and nature seem to embody a spirit of resistance. Criss-crossing roads of freshly poured concrete, red lorries from China abound on the hills and plateaux where farmers transport young trees grown in nurseries backed by Green Ethiopia and the Yves Rocher Foundation. Planting trees – one by one, by hand – on Ethiopia’s remote ambas may seem naively romantic in a country where, despite drought and humanitarian crises, annual growth is in the region of 8.3 % (three times the global average) and foreign investment has funded the construction of brand-new infrastructure unique in Sub-Saharan Africa. However, it is nothing of the sort. From crop cultivation to honey production and school construction, regional reforestation is bringing this natural and economic ecosystem back to life.
From the capital Addis Ababa to the outermost reaches of the Tigray Region, we have sought to draw a portrait of a country where natural preservation is sometimes forgotten amid rapid development. We have also gone out to meet the men, women and children who get involved and work daily to restore the lost forests.
Photo : © Brent Stirton / Agence Verbatim