Trees and Water: Discovering Nature's Dynamic Duo in Ethiopia
Water retention infrastructures the community built at the top of the mountain have replenished formerly dry springs like this one in Felegewoyni. © Dave Bircher
On World Water Day, we celebrate the importance of preserving our planet's most valuable resource.

During my recent trip to Ethiopia, I witnessed the transformative power of water within WeForest’s holistic, community-based reforestation approach. Beyond planting trees, WeForest builds comprehensive supports and combines local knowledge and innovative science. WeForest and our partner communities are achieving remarkable results by harnessing water for People, Nature, and Climate.

Join me in celebrating World Water Day by taking a glimpse into my journey through the Desa’a Forest and exploring what’s being done to control water flow, stop flooding, harvest water for seedlings and livestock and feed depleted natural springs.

The lush, green “core forest” of our project area shows how important it is to restore the water cycle in this arid landscape. Desa’a is one of the remaining patches of forest in northern Ethiopia, covering an area of 154,071 ha and located in the western escarpment of the Great Rift Valley, which is suffering desertification and frequent drought. Click on the image to see a short video of the core forest.

Outside the core forest, the landscape looks more like this: dry and heavily deforested. Here in Buhele tabia (municipality), WeForest supported the repair of this earth dam which now provides the community with almost year-round water for their crops, livestock and to water the Weforest seedlings.

These crops in Buhele are irrigated by the lake shown above. During the conflict here over the last two years, these fields were critical sources of grain and food.

This is a rock dam being built in Hawile. After over 18 months of community construction work, it will stop flooding in the valley below and pool critical water runoff during the rainy season that would otherwise be lost.

These community members in Kalamin are standing on a micro dam they’ve built along a stream. These small dams slow water drainage from the mountains, keep replanted areas hydrated, and make sure that healthy sediment – which is good for tree growth – isn’t washed away.

These long stone ‘bunds’ at the top of a deforested hillside control water runoff, retain sediment for healthy soils, irrigate our newly planted trees, and feed natural springs in the mountain below. Over 300km have been constructed – both like these at the top of mountains, and also stone terraces on the hillsides.

These trenches have been built to conserve water for the trees growing around them and to feed groundwater and natural springs. The trees seen here were planted 10 years ago by the regional government, with maintenance transferred to WeForest for tree pruning and water infrastructure.

Here are some deeper trenches seen from the other side of the valley in Hawile. These are a metre deep, and stop the valley from flooding while storing water and replenishing the groundwater in the area.

Here’s a WeForest seedling in one of the distinctive half-moon microbasins that are dug before planting. These microbasins pool water around the seedling and the rocks and mulch keep the water from evaporating.

It’s watering day in Buhele! The community members are loading up their donkeys with buckets to water our newly planted seedlings. Close to 90% survive after three years, thanks to this community’s commitment.

If you’d like to talk about how you, your company, or philanthropic foundations can support this and all the other amazing work that’s being done by the communities in Ethiopia’s Tigray, don’t hesitate to contact me at