The second most populous nation in Africa has been hard hit by deforestation and climate change. Now, Ethiopia is taking big strides to reverse the damage.

By Ian Horswill


Posted on July 30, 2019

A staggering 353 million tree saplings have reportedly been planted in 12 hours in Ethiopia, the African country more commonly known for drought and civil war.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed is championing the idea of four billion trees being planted in the second most populous nation in Africa, which has been hard hit by deforestation and climate change. Abiy was photographed planting the first sapling in the city of Adami in Ethiopia’s southern region.

Abiy launched the National Green Development Program to plant four billion trees from May to October – the country’s wettest season. The 12-hour Green Legacy campaign saw 353 million tree saplings planted at 1,000 different areas. Government offices were closed to allow civil servants to take part in the event.

“Over the past years Ethiopia’s forest coverage has decreased in recent years and the initiative is set mobilise national reforestation at 40 trees per head,” the PM’s Twitter account shared.

Farm Africa, a charity involved in helping Ethiopia’s farmers, less than 4% of Ethiopia’s land is now forested, a sharp decline from around 30% at the end of the 19th century.

Ethiopia’s minister of innovation and technology, Dr Getahun Mekuria, tweeted estimates of the number of trees planted throughout the day. By early evening on Monday (local time), he put the number of saplings planted at 353,633,660 in Oromia, Amhara, SNNPRS, Somali, Tigray, Gambella, Afar, BenishangilGumuz and Harari regional states and Addis Abeba and Dire Dawa chartered cities.

The Guinness World Record for the most trees planted in one day stands at 50 million, held by India since 2016.

Ethiopia’s rapidly growing population and the need for more farmlands, unsustainable forest use and climate change are often cited as the causes for rapid deforestation.

The Trillion Tree Campaign, a development from the United Nations Environment Programme’s Billion Tree Campaign inspired by Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Wangari Maathai, is now run by Plant-for-the-Planet.

“Global reforestation could capture 25% of global annual carbon emissions and create wealth in the global south,” Plant-for-the-Planet states.

To date, a total of 13.6 billion tree saplings have been planted.

The countries planting the most trees are:

  1. China: 2.8 billion
  2. India: 2.5 billion
  3. Ethiopia: 1.7 billion
  4. Pakistan: 1 billion
  5. Mexico: 789 million