In July 2019, officials announced that over 350 million trees had been planted in Ethiopia within a 12-hour period, potentially breaking India's record of 50 million trees planted in a single day, which had stood since 2016, BBC reported.
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed is at the forefront of the project, the Green Legacy Initiative, aiming to curb and counter the negative impact of deforestation and climate change in the drought-prone nation.
Officials were responsible for counting the number of trees volunteers were planting, with more than 23 million Ethiopians participating. Some public offices shut down to allow civil servants to take part. Moreover, it wasn't just civil servants and volunteers who lined up to plant these trees. Government officials and private businesses joined the lines of tree planters, as well as staff and representatives from the United Nations, the African Union, and the Diplomatic Corps.
The numbers haven't been independently confirmed. Tim Christophersen, who coordinated UN work on forests and climate change, told AFP that such a figure is "possible but only with proper planning," adding one volunteer could plant roughly 100 trees a day.
New aim: 6 billion seedlings in the next months
Now, in May 2021, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed launched the 2021 edition of the Green Legacy Initiative. The project will continue full force until September and October: The country aims to plant six billion seedlings during the forthcoming rainy season.
According to the Prime Minister, this year’s tree-planting effort will be themed, "Let’s Adorn Ethiopia," as reported by Ethiopian Embassy U.K. "Preventing flooding, food insecurity, environment-related conflicts, and other adverse effects is in our hands," the Prime Minister said.
According to the officials, over 10 billion trees were planted in the first two years of the project, and the aim is to plant 20 billion indigenous trees by 2022.
Ethiopia's largest reforestation initiative
One of the main reasons for the initiative is because 35 percent of the country's forest coverage from the early 20th century has now declined to a mere four percent since the early 2000s.
Restoring Ethiopia's green cover is crucial for preventing erosion and pollution, reducing conflicts stemming from environmental degradation and natural resource depletion, and supporting its agricultural sector and economy.
As previously mentioned, the country suffers from drought, with numbers as high as two million animals dying due to a scarcity of rainfall in 2017.
This is in part due to climate change, but other factors have also led to the high and quick deforestation issue in the country, such as its rapidly growing population, more farmland being used, and unsustainable forest usage.
The campaign is definitely a positive step forward. Moreover, the Ethiopian government intends to expand its initiative to launch a regional effort to make Africa a greener place. This year, another one billion seeds will be shipped to neighboring nations.