WeForest Project


Ethiopia Desa'a

Reversing land degradation and poverty through forest landscape restoration
Area restored
9,917 ha

Project Summary

The Desa’a Forest is one of the oldest remaining dry afromontane forests in Ethiopia. Over 26,000 people live below the poverty line here, relying on the forest for water, energy and to feed their cattle. This ambitious, award-winning project aims to restore and protect arid afromontane and bring water back to this region, which is directly threatened by desertification coming from the north, and lift the rural communities out of extreme poverty. 

  • Alt
    Dry landscape with sparse vegetation, mainly Aloe vera.
  • Alt
    Degraded Desa'a Forest scattered with Dracaena.
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    Local children harvesting fruits from the forest.
  • Desaa_Portrait
    Women are carrying the seedlings from the collection site to the planting site.
  • Desaa_Planting
    Transporting the seedlings to be planted.


Eastern and South Eastern zone, Tigray region

Project Status


Restoration Approach

Assisted natural regeneration
Framework planting

Planting Period

End of June to beginning of August

Project Partners

Tigray Bureau of Agriculture and Rural Development

The Federal Republic of Ethiopia Commission of Environment Forest and Climate Change

Tigray Plan and Finance

Mekelle University

Ethiopia Environment and Forest Research institute


Juniperus procera, Olea europaea, Cadia purpurea, Carissa edulis, Dracaena ombet, Erica arborea L., Acacia abyssinica, Maytenus obscura, Rhus natalensis

Project Goals

Restore native forest
Conserve biodiversity
Promote economic development
Build livelihood resilience

Why is intervention needed?

The Desa’a forest reserve is home to many threatened species, and plays an important role in climate adaptation and water supply in a region directly threatened by desertification from the north and east. Currently, 74% of the forest has disappeared and the remaining 26% is severely degraded. The immediate consequence is erosion of topsoil and the significant reduction of agricultural yields for smallholder farmers. Even more alarming is the possible long-term impact on local cloud formation and rainfall, causing more frequent droughts and food insecurity.

Ecological restoration

WeForest has been working since 2016 to directly restore and protect nearly 40 000 ha of the forest through Assisted Natural Regeneration (ANR) and Enrichment Planting. We select species that serve multiple purposes in the forest and for the communities, generating a combination of social, economic and environmental benefits. Examples are olive (Olea europaea), juniper (Juniperus procera) and briar root (Erica arborea), which are combined with different grass species for fodder and to reduce erosion. Furthermore, soil and water conservation structures are built to reduce run-off and improve soil infiltration.

Livelihood development

By combining forest restoration with livelihood improvement programmes, we focus on improving natural resource governance and the socio-economic resilience of communities living in and around the forest, with a special focus on women, the landless, subsistence farmers and youth. Examples of income-generating activities are beekeeping, poultry, sheep, high-value trees and vegetable seeds, efficient cookstoves, solar lights and the employment of forest guards. The project also establishes and strengthens rural schools’ environmental clubs.


* Carbon calculation methodology

The total above-ground and below-ground biomass is estimated to average a sequestration of 158 tons of CO2 per hectare over a period of 50 years.