Celebrating the validation of Ethiopia’s national ecosystem assessment report

Ethiopia. Simien National Park. On the edge of cliff – there is Kniphofia in the foreground

On the 27th and 28th of April 2022, Ethiopia announced the validation of its national ecosystem assessment report, the country’s first comprehensive assessment which synthesises knowledge on the status and trends of biodiversity and ecosystem services and its contributions to people, framed around key policy questions that are of national importance.

National endorsement

The validation of Ethiopia’s assessment took place at a workshop held in Adama town, a city in Ethiopia’s rift valley. The workshop was attended by 111 individuals, including delegates from government ministries, representatives from local and regional offices, members of local communities, professional associations, non-governmental organisations, and media institutions. During the workshop, the authors presented the main findings of the assessment and key recommendations to the workshop attendees. High-level remarks were provided by His Excellency Professor Eyasu Elias, State Minister for the Ministry of Agriculture, and Mr. Tefera Tadesse, Director of Natural Resources at the Ministry of Agriculture, both of whom expressed their full support for seeing the findings of the assessment being integrated into appropriate national policies. The workshop was also used as an opportunity to celebrate the establishment of Ethiopia’s National Biodiversity Platform, soon to be launched, with members of the platform expressing their commitment to ensuring its success for bridging science and policy to support national decision making.

Ethiopia’s national ecosystem assessment process and findings

Having developed its assessment with support from the NEA Initiative since 2017, Ethiopia is among the first four countries launching its assessment in collaboration with UNEP-WCMC. Ethiopia’s national ecosystem assessment represents an important milestone in the country’s efforts to strengthen the conservation, restoration and sustainable use of biodiversity and ecosystem services.

In May, the Ethiopian Biodiversity Institute - which was leading the country's assessment - and the Sub-Global Assessment Network, co-hosted a webinar celebrating Ethiopia’s assessment validation, highlighting the achievements and impact of the country's findings to support national decision-making.

Key findings from Ethiopia’s national ecosystem assessment include:

  • The five broad ecosystem types assessed (mountain, forest and woodland, aquatic and wetland, rangeland, and agricultural ecosystems) are spread out in two of the 36 Global Biodiversity Hotspots – the Eastern Afromontane and the Horn of Africa. These ecosystems support unique assemblages of plant, animal, and microbial species.
    • Of Ethiopia’s five major ecosystems, rangelands have the largest land area coverage (69%). However, extensive land-use changes since the 1960s have caused this ecosystem to considerably shrink.
    • The aquatic and wetland ecosystems are biodiversity hotspots encompassing at least 10% of the Ethiopian floral diversity, providing habitat for at least 25% of the avifaunal diversity and hosting several other megafauna.
    • Forest and woodland ecosystems cover 15-27% of Ethiopia’s total ecosystem area. They host the highest magnitude of biodiversity of all the Ethiopian ecosystems with considerable economic and ecological importance to Ethiopia and the global climate.
    • The Ethiopian mountains host important vegetation types with rich endemic flora and fauna, most of which have been assigned critically endangered status by the IUCN Red List Criteria.
    • Ethiopia’s agroecosystem covers about 9-22% of ecosystem. It is highly vulnerable to climate change and the spread of invasive alien species, ultimately threatening its agricultural biodiversity and the ecosystem services it provides.
  • Ethiopia’s ecosystems provide essential provisioning, regulating, and cultural ecosystem services including food, construction materials, flood and erosion control, pollination, and areas of aesthetic and spiritual importance.
  • Ethiopia’s biodiversity and ecosystems are facing multiple pressures, including land-use and land-cover change driven by factors such as increasing demand for resources, land degradation fuelled by excessive water abstraction, urbanisation and associated pollution, spread of invasive alien specifies, and impacts arising from climate change.
  • In Ethiopia, indigenous people and local communities hold rich and diverse knowledge regarding status and trends of biodiversity and management techniques in ecosystems. This knowledge is invaluable to policy making in Ethiopia.
  • Ethiopia’s national ecosystem assessment has allowed stakeholders to clearly understand the existing gaps in knowledge on biodiversity and ecosystem services, acquire up-to-date information to inform policy, decision-making and further research, and reassess the basis of classification of ecosystems.

Dr. Melesse Maryo Salamo, Director General of the Ethiopian Biodiversity Institute and CBD National Focal Point for Ethiopia, provided insightful opening remarks during the Global Presentation: “We consider the findings of our national ecosystem assessment as an alarm to all stakeholders to have as an ultimate objective to minimize and halt the harm being done to our ecosystem and its constituent components.” Dr. Maryo Salamo also emphasised the strong commitment of the Ministry of Agriculture to make every possible engagement and provide the necessary support to issue the practical use of the assessment findings: “Since the Ministry of Agriculture is a sector whose operations directly affect and are being directly affected by biodiversity, we will use the findings of the assessment as a valuable input in our future planning and action. We will also encourage other sectors to do so.”

Use of the assessment findings

Since Ethiopia’s national ecosystem assessment started, the country has been working on identifying opportunities and entry points for mainstreaming the assessment findings into the relevant policies and processes. Now that Ethiopia has validated its national ecosystem assessment report, it will thus move onto the fourth and final stage of the assessment process, the use of the assessment findings.

Ethiopia’s national ecosystem assessment brochure outlines the way forward by stating that the imperative task of protecting Ethiopia’s vast and biodiverse ecosystems can only be achieved by working collaboratively with sectors operating at various levels in the country. The process will be further supported by putting in place the appropriate policy frameworks and developing institutional capacity to continually generate and integrate knowledge around biodiversity and ecosystem services into decision-making.

In line with the development of its post-2020 biodiversity framework, Ethiopia will incorporate the findings of its national ecosystem assessment into the relevant policies and processes, and implementing sectors will be assigned for the plan period of the framework.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) will also support Ethiopia in the use of assessment findings, through the catalytic BES Solution Fund. Managed by UNDP through the Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services Network (BES-Net) and generously provided by the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Nuclear Safety and Consumer Protection of the Federal Republic of Germany and SwedBio at Stockholm Resilience Centre, the BES Solution Fund will support action on tangible solutions emerging from the recommendations of the national ecosystem assessment.

For more information about national ecosystem assessments, visit the NEA Initiative website at the following link:

The National Ecosystem Assessment Initiative at UNEP-WCMC is part of the Biodiversity & Ecosystem Services Network (BES-Net), working in partnership with UNDP and UNESCO. Financial support for Ethiopia’s national ecosystem assessment and the NEA Initiative is being provided by the International Climate Initiative (IKI) of the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Nuclear Safety and Consumer Protection of the Federal Republic of Germany.

This article originally appears on the NEA Initiative's website here.

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