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Ethiopia Hits the Jackpot

Ethiopia Hits the Jackpot

Amen Teferi 08-25-17

Last week US sees the total coast to coast solar eclipse and people were flocking to states like Oregon, Nebraska, Missouri all the way to South Carolina to witness the staggering view of eclipse that traverse across the USA. People coming from around the world and camp along the “totality path” where ever they found it to be convenient and experience the cryptic taste of this rare event that happen just after a century.

Don’t worry I am not here to talk about this aha experiences related with the solar eclipse but only to recap another story that pertains to climate change. Here I touch upon the story of the solar eclipse simply to pick up the words of a certain person who was among the crowds that had witnessed that amazing natural phenomenon in the “totality path” and had chance to speak to the CNN. The person in question spoke admiringly about the captivating scene that glued the attention of the world and wondered about the minutiae precision of the astronomical science in predicting the appearance and progress of the eclipse across the US and then moved on calling our attention issues of climate change urged us to take what scientists are saying seriously.

In fact Ethiopia has taken seriously the messages of the scientists who forewarn on the looming damage of the climate change, if we do not put in place the necessary firewall. As the late PM Meles Zenawi said at Copenhagen a climate change Summit held in 2009, “Global warming is happening. The rise of catastrophic climate change is very real. The science is as clear as it could ever be as to what the causes of such change are. It is no exaggeration to say that this is our best and perhaps our last chance to save our planet from destructive and unpredictable change. This is a test as to whether we as a global community are able to rise over our parochial interests to protect our common destiny.”

Ethiopia has clearly understood and champions the agenda of climate change on global arenas. For it has understood that it is the first to face the catastrophic effects of climate change and it has adopted a green economic policy designed to mitigate the adversities coming along with increasingly warming globe.

Ethiopia has unswerving commitment on this agenda. On 3 September 2009, the late PM Meles Zenawi had made a speech to the Africa Partnership Forum where he said: “We will never accept any global deal that does not limit global warming to the minimum unavoidable level, no matter what levels of compensation and assistance are promised to us… While we will reason with everyone to achieve our objective, we will not rubber stamp an agreement by the powers that be as the best we could get for the moment. We will use our numbers to delegitimize any agreement that is not consistent with our minimal position. If needs be we are prepared to walk out of any negotiations that threaten to be another rape of our continent.”

Ethiopia has been suffering for decades under the daunting effects of drought and famine. Thus it has set its heart on the agenda of mitigation and adaptability. Now the accomplishment of Ethiopia in this regard has captured the attention of the world. And recently a U.N. backed award for the world's best policies to combat desertification and improve fertility of dry lands had gone to Ethiopia. It has become the winner of the gold award of the Future Policy Award.

It has been implementing a major project that has, for instance, helped it to restore land in Tigray Region that boost millions of people's ability to grow food. “Tigray's dry lands are being restored on a massive scale,” said the World Future Council, a foundation which organized the award together with the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD). The Tigray government has mobilized villagers to volunteer 20 days a year to build terraces, irrigation projects, build stone walls on mountains and hillsides, and other projects. As a result, groundwater levels have risen, soil erosion has reduced, and people's ability to grow food and gain an income has improved, the council said.

As director of the World Future Council, Alexandra Wandel, told to the Reuters, “Ethiopia shows that restoration of degraded land can be a reality. Ethiopia can stand as model of hope for other African countries that need to follow her suit.” According to the report dry lands, which cover nearly 40 percent of the Earth's land, are particularly vulnerable to losing fertility through changes in climate and poor land use such as deforestation or overgrazing.

“So far, this underestimated environmental disaster has received far too little attention. Hundreds of millions of people are directly threatened by land degradation, and climate change is only going to intensify the problem," Monique Barbut, under-secretary-general of the United Nations and UNCCD executive secretary said in a statement.

So far, this underestimated environmental disaster has received far too little attention. However, since 1991, Tigiray has managed to improve soil and water conservation by closing off 1.2 million hectares of land to allow plants to re-grow. Thus, Chris Reij, desertification expert at the World Resources Institute said, “The Tigray region of Ethiopia is now greener than it has ever been during the last 145 years".

According to Reij “this is not due to an increase in rainfall, but due to human investment in restoring degraded land to productivity. Over about 15 years, men, women and children moved at least 90 million tones of soil and rock by hand to restore their landscapes on about 1 million hectares. In the process many communities have overcome the impacts of climate change.” This is a heroic accomplishment that staggers and inspires spectators.

Ethiopia is keenly aware of the debilitating effects of climate change and has realized the significance of its endeavors in this regards. In more ways than one what is at stake here is the future of our species, the future of human civilization as we have come to know it. As the late PM Meles said at Copenhagen, “As globalization transforms the world into a single and tightly integrated economic space, how we manage global public goods such as the environment without a world government is likely to become a defining issue of our new century. If through foresight, dialogue and compromise we succeed in addressing the threat of climate change, it would be reasonable to assume that we can manage similar challenges of our new century through collective effort. If we fail to rise above the current challenge of climate change, we will then have proved that global economic progress is based on a fundamentally dysfunctional political system. Sooner or later the economic edifice we have built will have to come crashing down.” Therefore, as the director of the Stockholm Resilience Centre (SRC), one of the organizations hosting the Resilience 2017 conference has said this week, "If we are serious about our human wellbeing - from local communities to the global world economy - we need to now reconnect our entire world to the planet.” 

As Meles said, “The rise of catastrophic climate change is very real. ……  It is no exaggeration to say that this is our best and perhaps our last chance to save our planet from destructive and unpredictable change.”

We know, each year the Future Policy Award focuses on one world threat that will impact the future generations and past awards have been for policies covering children's rights, ending violence against women and girls, disarmament, and protecting oceans.

This year's silver award went to Brazil's program to build 1.2 million cisterns, helping millions of the country's poorest people get water for drinking and for crops and livestock. China's 2002 law to prevent and control desertification - the world's first such law - also won silver.



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