Landscape Story

Ethiopia is one of the most populous countries in Africa, with the majority of the population living in rural areas. The country is heavily dependent on the agricultural sector, which accounts for almost half of the GDP. Despite a rich endowment of natural resources , the country is bogged down with poverty, food insecurity and environmental degradation.

Environmental problems such as deforestation, biodiversity loss and land degradation have become part of the national agenda, as they are associated with reduced crop productivity and greater vulnerability to famine, and are ultimately linked to the problem of poverty.

The priority area selected for the implementation of COMDEKS activities in Ethiopia is the Gilgel Gibe 1 catchment, with a total area of 127,800 ha. The landscape area for COMDEKS activities in Ethiopia is located in the Oromia regional state in Jimma zone about 260 km South West of Addis Ababa and about 55 km north-east of Jimma. The area, enclosed within four districts, namely Sekoru, Omo Nada, Kersa and Tiro Afeta, is located in the Gilgel Gibe catchment.  Despite its substantial contribution both in terms of provision of environmental services and support to national economic development, especially through the generation of hydroelectric power, the target area has recognized environmental problems that have seriously influenced the resilience of the ecosystem and production system of the target landscape. Severe biophysical resource degradation in the GG1 catchment area has resulted in both on-site and off-site consequences that threaten socio-economic development and sustainable environmental management.

Biological Impact

The natural vegetation of the Gilbel Gilbe 1 socio-ecological production landscape (SEPL) has been heavily cleared for the expansion of agriculture and human settlements, and for fuel-wood extraction for construction purposes. In the past, the landscape was characterized by dense natural forests with a variety of indigenous tree species, especially in the mountainous areas. Currently, deforestation, logging, expansion of farming, and population growth are placing extreme stress on the forest resources. Major threats include deforestation and fragmentation of forest ecosystems, soil degradation, expansion of farmlands, lack of alternative livelihood options, rapid population growth, and lack of awareness among communities on the need for integrated landscape management and sustainable development.

Socio-economic Impact

Historically, the target area has been considered one of the food-surplus producing areas of Ethiopia. In 1997, poor crop harvests and the appearance of crop diseases such as grey leaf spot, caused by the fungus Cercospora zeaemaydis, led to a decline in agricultural production. Today, 37% of the population living in the target area experience food insecurity.

Baseline Assessment

With the support of Jimma University, a local academic institution well known to be the first innovative community-oriented education and research institution in Ethiopia, a landscape-wide baseline assessment of the Socio-Ecological Production Landscape (SEPL) of the target area was conducted in May 2012 to assess the overall performance of the target landscape. During the landscape-wide baseline assessment, COMDEKS Ethiopia piloted a set of socio-ecological production landscape indicators to measure and understand the resilience of the target landscape. The indicators were developed by UNU-IAS, along with Bioversity International, as a collaborative activity under the International Partnership for the Satoyama Initiative (IPSI).

With the support of a score-card developed for this purpose, the practical application of the indicators during the baseline assessment was conducted by measuring elements of SEPL resilience along four interrelated dimensions, namely, ecosystems protection and the maintenance of biodiversity; agricultural biodiversity; knowledge, learning and innovation; and social equity and infrastructure.

Moreover, focused group discussions with community members of the selected neighborhoods (kebeles) of the target landscape were organized and facilitated by professionals, to supplement the scorecard exercise. The community consultation and participatory assessment were conducted in the context of social conventions, with men separated from women, to enable an effective participation of women in the planning process and in the development of a resilience-strengthening strategy.

The baseline assessment led to the preparation of a COMDEKS Country Programme Landscape Strategy for Ethiopia, a comprehensive document which outlines the landscape profile, expected goals and outcomes, and key measures and strategies for community-based actions.

Landscape Strategy

Vision: The target area would become a resilient socio-ecological production landscape and harbor societies living in harmony with nature, which will be realized through adaptive collaborative management.

The landscape approach is an integrated approach of rural landscapes management to build synergies among food production, sustainable rural livelihoods, and conservation of biodiversity and ecosystem services. The approach emphasizes a participatory approach in which multiple stakeholders are involved at different stages of project interventions, starting from planning and advancing to monitoring and evaluation.

Communities are engaged in landscape-level strategy development and implementation, and small grants are provided to local community organizations with the overall long-term objective to enhance socio-ecological production landscape resilience by developing sound biodiversity management and sustainable livelihood activities with local communities to maintain, rebuild, and revitalize landscapes.

The overall goal of the COMDEKS Country Programme Landscape Strategies in Ethiopia is to enhance the socio-ecological production landscape resilience of the priority area, through community-based activities.

The COMDEKS Country Programme in Ethiopia seeks to achieve the following outcomes:

  1. Restoration of degraded ecosystems within the landscape
  2. Increased and stabilized agricultural yields
  3. Improved livelihoods of people in the landscape
  4. Setting up community-based institutional governance structures

Country Projects

COMDEKS grant-making is expected to generate key lessons on community-based best practices to maintain and rebuild socio-ecological production landscapes toward the realization of “societies in harmony with nature”, as defined in the vision of the Satoyama Initiative.

In Ethiopia, COMDEKS funds will be used for projects at the landscape level from selected catchments of Gilgel Gibe 1, aimed at enhancing socio-ecological production landscape resilience through community-based activities. It is estimated that twenty Community-Based Organizations and/or NGOs will participate in implementing COMDEKS activities in the GG1 catchment landscape. The implementation of COMDEKS activities will directly benefit an estimated population of 20,000 inhabitants of the landscape, apart from its wider benefit in terms of improving SEPL resilience.

At the community level, eligible projects will be proposed and owned by community based organizations working in the Gilgel Gibe watershed area on the basis of established eligibility and selection criteria identified in Ethiopia COMDEKS Country Programme Landscape Strategy.

Potential activities that will be supported include: activities aimed at the biological stabilization of the physical soil and water conservation structures at critical point of the landscape, especially in the buffer zone of the GG1 dam; crop diversification, agroforestry systems, multipurpose tree plantations, integrated crop-animal systems and other traditional approaches aimed at increasing and stabilizing yields, as well as improved storage of agricultural products; activities aimed at supporting eco-friendly small-scale community enterprises and finally, activities aimed at setting up effective community-based institutional governance structures.

NEW! COMDEKS Country Programme Landscape Strategy for Ethiopia can be downloaded here.

For more information, contact Zeleke Tesfaye (, SGP-Ethiopia National Programme Coordinator.

Project Contact

Mr. Zeleke Tesfaye
National Coordinator
Phone: +251-115-540964/65
Fax: +252-115-540963

Ms. Tigist Admassu
Programme Assistant
Phone: +251-115-540966
Fax: +251-115-540963

P.O.Box 5580, Addis Ababa, East Africa