Fifteen years years ago the villages around Abrha Weatsbha in northern Ethiopia were on the point of being abandoned. The hillsides were barren, the communities, plagued by floods and droughts, needed constant food aid, and the soil was being washed away.
Today, Abrha Weatsbha in the Tigray region is unrecognizable and an environmental catastrophe has been averted following the planting of many millions of tree and bush seedlings. Wells that were dry have been recharged, the soil is in better shape, fruit trees grow in the valleys and the hillsides are green again.
The “regreening” of the area, achieved in just a few years for little cost by farming communities working together to close off large areas to animals, save water and replant trees, is now to be replicated across one sixth of Ethiopia – an area the size of England and Wales. The most ambitious attempt yet to reduce soil erosion, increase food security and adapt to climate change is expected to vastly increase the amount of food grown in one of the most drought- and famine-prone areas of the world.