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11 June 2019

A dragon of a tree

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Desa’a forest located in the West Rift Valley of Northern Ethiopia is a habitat for several ecological, social and economical important plant species; such as the Dragon tree (Deracena ombet) (listed as an endangered plant resource on the IUCN Red List), Olea europea, Juniperus procera, and Dobera glabra.

This tree can be found between 1100 and 1650  meters and is considered as one of the most important flagship tree species in Afar and eastern low land Tigray. The local community members use the tree for different things:  the leaves as feed for their livestock, different parts of the tree as a medicine, the fiber of the tree is being used for the construction of houses and to make different household materials.

However, this multiple use-tree is under rapid decline (as appeared from WeForest´ field surveys) due to climate change, habitat degradation and over-utilization. Currently we can see many dead Dragon trees in the lower parts of the Desa´a forest. It is therefore that our Desa´a project is making priority of the conservation of the Dragon tree, as well as other species, and save them from extinction.

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Illegally cut Dragon trees.
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Aklilu Negussie Mekuria

Country Director, Ethiopia

Aklilu oversees the various landscape restoration and planting projects in Ethiopia. He holds a PhD in Bioscience Engineering from the University of Leuven (Belgium) and a master's degree in Tropical Land Resources Management from Mekelle University (Ethiopia). Prior to joining WeForest, Aklilu conducted research in Africa and Europe for 12 years in forest ecology, management science, ecosystem safety, invasive plant, agronomy, plant propagation, bioenergy-biofuel, forest entomology, and non-timber forest products and worked for two years as a Consultant at World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF)