In Ethiopia, forests are crucial in ensuring food security and sustainable livelihoods for millions of households. Forest biodiversity provides ecosystem services and contributes an estimated 4% to the GDP through the production oof honey, forest coffee, natural gums and timber .
According to FAOSAT, Ethiopia’s forest cover in 2020 is close to 16.7 million ha of land accounting for 15.11% of the total land area of the country. Deforestation and forest degradation are among the main environmental challenges in the country. The country has lost 3.78 million ha of its forest cover (or 18.46% of its forest cover of 1990) over the period between 1990 and 2020. Deforestation and forest degradation is affecting the livelihood of the population, mainly in rural areas, through its impact in reducing the ecosystem services that forest provide to people . Protected areas cover 14% of the country and have important roles in conservation, recreation, eco-tourism and employment .
The direct drivers of deforestation and forest degradation in Ethiopia include forest clearance for both subsistence and large-scale agriculture; illegal and unsustainable extraction of wood mainly for charcoal and firewood; overgrazing; and recurrent forest fires. Two of the most important causes of forest degradation in the country are extraction of wood and other forest-based products, and forest fires related to raising livestock . The national CRGE strategy document attributes 50% of forestry-related carbon missions to forest degradation driven by fuelwood consumption (46%) and informal logging (4%) (FDRE 2011a) with fuelwood currently accounting for more than 80% of households’ energy supply – particularly in rural areas.
The rapid population increase and the associated growing demand for land and energy are indirectly driving deforestation.
In addition, one of the most important indirect causes of deforestation is considered to be the country’s development strategy; in the past years, the agricultural sector has had a central role for the development and growth of Ethiopia’s economy. Considering the dominant role of agriculture in deforestation, this central role had a significant impact on forest cover change in Ethiopia  .
Key policies and governance approach
The development of forest policy in Ethiopia exhibits a dynamic process of institutionalization and deinstitutionalization. The institutionalization and deinstitutionalization process was co-shaped by a complex interplay of structural factors such as national political orientation and economic priorities, environmental calamities and the dynamics in the global forest related discourses. Forestry was, most of the times, marginalized or integrated into the dominant agricultural development paradigm, where the integration also failed to maximize the synergy between the two sectors .
Currently, the Environment, Forest, and Climate Change Commission is the federal institution responsible for the governance of forest resources of the country. To reach its current existence, the Environment, Forest and Climate Change Commission has passed through different institutional restructuring and changes in its legal formation. The Environmental Protection Authority (EPA), Ministry of Environment and Forest and Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change were key stepping institutions for the establishment of the Environment, Forest and Climate Change commission. The country has set 10 years National Forest Sector Development Plan (2018-2027) with a vision of building on the country’s forest resources, attracting foreign investment (both donor and public-private partnerships) and transform Ethiopia’s forestry sector in a way that catalyzes GDP growth, generates employment, contributes towards self-sufficiency in forest products and enhances environmental services .
In January 2018, a new forest law was enacted and has been taking as a significant step in the right direction from the Ethiopian governments, towards the achievement of the forestry targets. The 2018 National Forest Law – a revised version of the 2007 forest law – wants to recognize the rights of communities and acknowledges their role in managing natural forests and establishing plantations, without unduly compromising ecological services or biodiversity .
Successes and remaining challenges
Despite efforts made by government towards sustainable management of forest resources of the country through the development of strategies and plans on the topic, deforestation and forest degradation is continuing in Ethiopia, threatening the forest resources of the country and the biodiversity it contains. As stated above the country has lost 3.78 million ha of its forest cover during the period from 1990 to 2020 . With growing population and the associated growth in demand for agricultural land and biomass energy it is very likely that deforestation and forest degradation will continue at least for the coming years.
Initiatives and Development Plans
The National Forest Sector Development Plan (2018-2027)  as well as the current Ten Years Development Plan (2021-2030) have set targets of increasing the forest cover of the country. Forest development is also taken as an integral part of the Green Economy Strategy, where it is stated how the government welcomes and is seeking for international support for its ambitious green growth agenda, particularly in harvesting the country’s potential for generating hydroelectric power, promoting more efficient rural cooking techniques, improving the efficiency of livestock value chains, and reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation .
The Green Legacy (2019-2024) of planting 20 billion seedlings throughout the country is among the initiatives which will have positive contribution in increasing the forest cover of the country. Furthermore, Ethiopia is also investing in development of renewable energy resources, which will have a positive impact in reducing the pressure on forest as biomass energy source. In the Ten Years Development Plan, the country has set targets of increasing renewable energy generation from 4,478 megawatts to 19,900 megawatts by 2030 and raise the coverage of grid-based electricity from 33% to 96% .
Goals and Ambitions
As a part of its NDCs (conditional pathway), Ethiopia is ambitiously aiming at reforestation and restoration of a total of up to 15 million hectares as a long-term forestry sector goal based on Ethiopia’s Forest Sector Development Plan, the Green Legacy Initiative and Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) strategic actions . This would result in an increase national forest coverage from 15.5% to 30% by 2030 and increase greenhouse gas emissions reduction capacity from the present 92.7 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2E) to 162.3 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent .
In its 2018 National Forest Law, Ethiopia is also playing close attention to the recognition of participatory forest management as a vehicle to enhance the role of communities in sharing responsibilities and benefits of managing natural forests, the provision of incentives for the private forest developers through different mechanisms and to the creation of penalties for harming forest ecosystems. 
- The National Forest Sector Development Plan (2018-2027) as well as the current Ten Years Development Plan (2021-2030) have set targets of increasing the forest cover of the country. In the Ten Years Development Plan, the country has set targets of increasing renewable energy generation from 4,478 megawatts to 19,900 Megawatts by 2030 and to raise the coverage of grid-based electricity from 33% to 96%. Ethiopia is also part of the Great Green Wall Initiative of the African Union.
- Forest development is also taken as an integral part of the Green Economy Strategy of the country.
- The Green Legacy (2019-2024) of planting 20 billion seedlings throughout the country is among the initiatives which will have positive contribution in increasing the forest cover of the country. The country is also investing in development of renewable energy resources, which will have a positive impact in reducing the pressure on forest as biomass energy source.
- Despite efforts made by government towards sustainable management of forest resources of the country, deforestation and forest degradation is continuing and threatening the forest resources and the biodiversity it contains. Therefore, Ethiopia needs to strengthen its efforts in effective implementation of its current forest development plan and other complementary sectoral plans that have positive effect in reducing the pressure on the forest resources of the country.
 Bekele M, Tesfaye Y, Mohammed Z, Zewdie S, Tebikew Y, Brockhaus M and Kassa H. 2015. The context of REDD+ in Ethiopia: Drivers, agents and institutions. Occasional Paper 127. Bogor, Indonesia: CIFOR. https://www.cifor.org/knowledge/publication/5654/