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 the largest forest of its kind in Ethiopia’s Tigray region. Though it has been designated a protected area, human intervention continues to threaten the forest, its biodiversity and valuable ecosystem services, and the neighboring communities that rely on the forest to live. The project works with community members to undo this damage and restore the forest, employing assisted natural regeneration and developing profitable, forest-friendly livelihood schemes for rural communities. 

  • Alt
    Dry landscape with sparse vegetation, mainly Aloe vera
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    Degraded Desa'a Forest scattered with Dracaena
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    Local community members
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    Ecological monitoring
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    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 its protected status, it is not immune to illegal exploitation and encroachment for fuelwood, farmland expansion, charcoal production and livestock roaming. It has a large role to play in the fight against climate change because of the climax trees species (Juniperus procera and Olea europaea) and diverse shrub species, which bestow the Desa'a Forest with 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. It provides natural pest and disease control, pollination and temperature regulation as well. With its high biodiversity levels, endemic bird species and endangered plant species (e.g. Dracena ombet), the Desa'a Forest is listed as a global biodiversity hotspot.

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