Eritrea is not endowed with dense forest resources as its forests have been reduced significantly due to deforestation and land degradation [1]. The figure for the annual rate of deforestation in Eritrea differs between studies. However, Ghebrezgabher et al., 2016 [2] indicated that between 1970 and 2014, approximately 2767 km² of forest cover was lost in Eritrea, equal to 21% of the country’s total forest cover. In this period, the annual rate of deforestation was very high, estimated at approximately 0.35% (62 km²) of total forest cover lost each year. This result was consistent with FAO’s report, in which annual loss of forest cover was estimated at 0.28% [2].

As a leading cause of environmental degradation [2] and one of the accelerating factors that contributes to the expansion of desertification [3], [4], deforestation is one of the country’s most serious environmental problems.


In Eritrea, deforestation is caused mainly through human activity and climate change. Because approximately 80% of the population depends on farming, the negative impact of shifting and subsistence cultivation and overgrazing on forests is significant [2]. Fuel-wood consumption, the construction of materials-intensive traditional houses, and forest fires also contribute significantly to deforestation in the county [5], [6].

Additionally, climate change, particularly drought and increased temperature, has had its toll on the country’s forests. Due to climate change the montane forest is gradually being replaced by lowland vegetation type, and the evergreen and semi-evergreen vegetation has almost completely vanished and been replaced by other deciduous vegetation types [6].


Key policies and governance approach

Considering the seriousness of forest degradation in the country, the government of Eritrea developed a general policy and strategy framework on forest and wildlife conservation and development known as the ‘Forest and Wildlife Conservation and Development Legislation No. 192/1980 [7].

In order to have a more comprehensive policy and strategy, in 2006, the Ministry of Agriculture, in consultation with all relevant stakeholders, promulgated a new ‘Forest and Wildlife Conservation and Development Legislation No. 155/2006 [7]. This Proclamation enacts rules relative to the administration, protection and sustainable development of forestry and wildlife resources in Eritrea. In particular, the Act aims at: (i) the conservation of endangered species and indigenous species; (ii) afforestation and reforestation; (iii) establishment of a management regime of protected areas; and (iv) promotion of awareness and participation in forest and wildlife management and conservation [8].

In addition, the forestry sector was highlighted as a priority sector in Eritrea’s 2007 National Adaptation Programme of Action. Major adaptation activities and needs were identified in the forestry sector, including the afforestation of degraded landscapes/watersheds, the promotion of agroforestry practices, and the promotion of wood energy substitutes, among others [9].

Further, through its National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (NBSAP), Eritrea has started to reverse deforestation and land degradation. Efforts are being made to enhance forest cover by reducing cutting of firewood and construction wood (E-Target 1); reducing dependence on firewood for household energy demand by introducing alternative energy (E-Target 2); rehabilitating catchment sites and degraded lands (E-Target 5); and reducing degradation of mangrove forests (E-Target 7). These activities aim to reduce the burning of firewood, enhance the sustainable use of forests, and increase forest cover in the country, resulting in more CO2 sequestration [1].


Successes and remaining challenges

Despite Eritrea's efforts to set up a governance structure for managing its forests, deforestation and forest degradation is ongoing, threatening the country's forest resources and biodiversity.

As highlighted in the country’s First Biennial Update Report (BUR) to the UNFCCC, there is an urgent need in the country for a comprehensive and up-to-date land use plan, as well as information on the spatial and temporal dynamics of the forest cover of Eritrea [6].


Initiatives and Development Plans

A reforestation programme is being implemented by the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) in Eritrea. The programme can be divided into two parts. The first part being the restoration of natural vegetation through the development of both temporary and permanent enclosures throughout the country. According to the Director of the Natural Resources Regulatory Division, Mr. Estifanos Beyin, so far 200,000 hectares of land have been regenerated naturally [4].

The second part is the reforestation of degraded lands with the participation of local communities and students of a summer work program, through the planting of both exotic and indigenous trees. Since 1994 and the initiation of the summer work program, high school students throughout the nation have spent their summers terracing, foresting, and working in the conservation of water and soil to reduce the washing away of valuable topsoil. These students are also responsible for planting hundreds of thousands of trees every year in order to rebuild the damaged ecosystem and strengthen the soil systems of the land [4].

Eritrea is also involved in and has devised an action plan (2011-2015) for the Great Green Wall Initiative (GGW) [3]. The GGW is a project aimed at planting a wall of trees across Africa at the southern edge of the Sahara Desert to prevent desertification [4]. The total area of the initiative extends to 156 million ha in 11 intervention countries, with the largest intervention zones located in Niger, Mali, Ethiopia and Eritrea [10]. The goal of the GGW is to restore 100 million hectares of degraded land by 2030, while removing 250 million tons of carbon from the atmosphere. Notably, at the same time, it could create at least 350,000 rural jobs [4].


[1] Ministry of Land, Water and Environment, Department of Environment, The State of Eritrea (2019). 6th National Report to the Convention on Biological Diversity.  

[2] Ghebrezgabher, M.G., Yang, T., Yang, X., Wang, X. and Khan, M., (2016). Extracting and analyzing forest and woodland cover change in Eritrea based on landsat data using supervised classification. The Egyptian Journal of Remote Sensing and Space Science19(1), pp.37-47.

[3] The State of Eritrea Ministry of Land, Water and Environment, Department of Environment (2012). Eritrea’s five years action plan (2011-2015) for the Great Green Wall Initiative.

[4] Ministry of Information Eritrea (2021). Strengthening Reforestation Activities for a Sustainable Future. [Online]. Available:

[5] Ministry of Land, Water and Environment, The State of Eritrea. PRODOC – 4816: Integrated Semenawi and Debubawi Bahri-Buri-Irrori- Hawakil Protected Area System for Conservation of Biodiversity and Mitigation of Land Degradation.

[6] Ministry of Land, Water and Environment, Department of Environment (2021). First Biennial Update Report (BUR I) Under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

[7] Ministry of Land, Water and Environment, Department of Environment, State of Eritrea (2006). Opportunities for Synergistic and Cross Cutting Capacity Building in Eritrea. FINAL REPORT: NATIONAL CAPACITY NEEDS SELF-ASSESSMENT (NCSA) FOR GLOBAL ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT IN ERITREA.

[8] ECOLEX. [Online]. Available:

[9] Ministry of Land, Water and Environment, Department of Environment, State of Eritrea (2007). National Adaptation Programme of Action.

[10] UNCCD (2021). The Great Green Wall Initiative. [Online]. Available: