WeForest Project


Ethiopia Desa'a

Restoring the forest to bring back bioversity
Area restored
915 ha
Trees planted

Project Summary

The Desa’a Forest is one of the oldest remaining dry afromontane forests in Ethiopia, and the largest in Tigray and Afar. It is listed as a global biodiversity hotspot and priority area for conservation by the Ethiopian government. This region is also known as the Cradle of Humanity and forms the last green barrier against the expanding desert. Only 10% of the original forest is still relatively dense. These are areas that are either sacred or inaccessible and have therefore been preserved from illegal logging and grazing. WeForest now protects these areas with guards and uses them as precious seed banks for the restoration of surrounding buffer zones. To further protect and restore other parts of the forest, WeForest engages the surrounding farmers and landless families in Kalamin (Atsbi Wonberta district) and surrounding villages, partially voluntary and partially paid. They help dig micro basins, bring stones and mulch to retain soil moisture, plant the seedlings and eventually prune the trees as they grow. In return, they receive valuable beehives, solar lights, efficient cookstoves, vegetable seeds, and chickens.

  • Alt
    Dry landscape with sparse vegetation, mainly Aloe vera
  • Alt
    Degraded Desa'a Forest scattered with Dracaena
  • Alt
    Local community members
  • Alt
    Ecological monitoring
  • Alt
    Local children harvesting fruits from the forest


Eastern and South Eastern zone, Tigray region

Project Status


Restoration Approach

Assisted natural regeneration
Framework planting

Target 2018

315,000 trees

Project Partners

Mekele University, Bureau of Agriculture Tigray, EEFRI, University of Leuven (KuLeuven)


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?

Desa'a Forest is registered as one of the biodiversity conservation priority areas of the government of Ethiopia. Despite this protected status, illegal exploitation and encroachment for fuelwood, farmland expansion, charcoal production and livestock roaming are frequent. The potential of the forest in the fight against climate change is high because of the climax trees species (Juniperus procera and Olea europaea) and diverse shrub species, which make that the Desa'a Forest has a high carbon sequestration potential. The forest is also important for soil quality and water availability in the Afar and Tigray region, where water is already scarce. Furthermore it provides natural pest and disease control, pollination and temperature regulation as well.

Ecological restoration

WeForest is working in coordination with local, regional and national stakeholders to design a management plan to protect and restore the Desa'a Forest. Through zonation and prioritization, areas of forest will be set aside for conservation, protected from human and livestock intervention. The project will mobilize local communities to carry out pruning, enrichment planting, watering and fire management to assist the natural regeneration of the forest and dense and open forest corridors will be planted to reconnect forest fragments and enable the movement of native fauna across the landscape. The project will also tackle the issue of illegal exploitation through awareness creation schemes.

Livelihood development

To address the needs of local families and take pressure off the Desa’a Forest, local communities will be engaged in the design and decision-making of the project. Areas of the Desa’a Forest will be set aside and regulated for resource extraction and sustainable livelihood activities will be offered to community members, including landless youths and women. This way, the project empowers local people to improve their livelihoods and access the much needed natural resources of the forest. The project will also have a spillover effect to nearby communities through the natural products and ecosystem services the forest provides. 

Project Reports

Project Reports