The Environmental Economics Policy Form for Ethiopia (EEPFE) co-organized an international conference with Mekelle University (MU) on ‘Sustainable Land and Watershed Management: Experiences and Lessons” in Mekelle, Ethiopia, on 26-27 May 2014 at Axum Hotel.
The theme of the conference was “Sustainable Land and Watershed Management (SLWM) for Improved Livelihood, Energy Security and Climate-Smart Landscapes”. The aim of the conference was to draw lessons from the ongoing sustainable land and watershed management efforts of the country and identify actionable and scalable solutions that can be transferred to comparable areas through involving stakeholders at national, regional, and local levels as well as to elaborate on action-oriented approaches and future research strategies of relevance for SLWM efforts. The conference also provided a forum for dialogue between various stakeholders on the issue including academia (researchers), practitioners, development partners, and policy makers.
The conference deliberated on six sub-themes: (i) Biological, structural, and integrated SLWM approaches, models, practices and climate-smart landscapes; (ii) Institutional, socio-economic and policy aspects of SLWM; (iii) Impacts, processes and lessons in land certification; (iv) SLWM and Livestock Management; (v) SLWM and Energy security; and, (vi) SLWM and Climate Change. This two-day conference was structured into 4 plenary, 10 parallel and 3 poster sessions and a total of 82 papers both invited and contributed were presented.
Dr. Kindeya Gebrehiwot, President of Mekele University (MU) and Dr. Alemu Mekonnen, Center Director at EEPFE/EDRI and Associate Professor at Addis Ababa University gave welcome speeches. Mr. Melaku Tadesse (on behalf of His Excellency Mr. Sileshi Getahun, State Minister of Natural Resource Development Sector at the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA)) gave the opening speech of the conference.
H.E. Dr. Tewelde Berhan Gebre Egziabher, Director General of Ethiopia’s Environmental Protection Authority, gave an impressive keynote speech on ’Sustainable Land and Water management’ which shows his far reaching imagination and lifetime preoccupation on the topic. He spoke of the story of a foolish boy with an axe who climbed to the top of a tall tree and started cutting the very branch on which he was sitting with his axe. Then an older man, who saw him from below, shouted at him to stop but the boy refused. Then the older man climbed up the tree and took away the axe from the foolish suicidal boy. The boy climbed down from the tree crying and said that he wanted to take that tree branch home to continue sitting on it comfortably. The old man asked the boy how he thinks he could take the branch home when he has fallen and hurt himself, or even killed himself. Dr. Tewelde contrasted the story to how we are now chopping down our biosphere while we are all still sitting on it and enjoying varying degrees of comfort.
H.E. Prof Mitiku Haile, former president of MU, also gave a keynote speech on ‘Capacity Building in Land Resource Management Teaching and Research in Ethiopia’. He emphasized that human resource capacity is central to developing solutions to natural resource and environmental problems of the country. He noted that academic programs offered at undergraduate and graduate levels in resources management shall be tuned towards the country’s needs.
About 150 people from Ethiopia and abroad participated on the conference.
In general, participants reflected that the conference was very pertinent, timely, informative, and exciting. They were also very pleased about the quality of the papers. Participants also expressed that the conference should be held annually or biennially.
Financial support for the conference was obtained from MoA/AGP, FAO, MoA/ SLMP, WFP, GIZ, SLM Ethiopia, and EfD.