By Berhanu Fekade,

The Ministry of Environment and Forestry is set to assess the country’s overall forest coverage with the help of Geographical Information System (GIS) and remote sensing technologies, which are set to be procured from companies based in Germany.

To take the task further ahead, Geospatial Analytical Services (GeoSAS), a local consulting firm, partnering with the German-based BlackBridge Company, specializing on geospatial services and products across the globe, is cementing a deal to provide a new imagery and mapping technology known as RapidEye 24. BlackBridge together with the German Technical Cooperation Agency (GIZ) and with Remote Sensing Solutions RSS-GMBH Company are collaborating to capacitate and sell the so called very high resolution imagery and mapping tools to Ethiopia. Currently, BlackBridge is providing a training program for some 20 local forest experts, officials and other individuals from neighboring countries.

Professor Florian Siegert, managing director at RSS, presented the imagery and mapping solution which magnifies objects as small as five meter from the ground zooming from the satellite sources. According to him, this product among other things could detect and sense the extent of deforestation as close as five meters from the ground, with high level of resolutions. However, the product is way too expensive for poor countries. The running cost of RapidEye 24 technology is estimated to be ten dollars per each sq.km.

During the middle of the week, Officials from the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) and Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) paid a visit to the training site run by GeoSAS which is located off Ethio-China Friendship Avenue at Wollo Sefer.

Chaired by Abera Deressa (PhD), former minister of state at the Ministry of Agriculture, GeoSAS currently runs projects in and outside of Ethiopia in areas of climate change, mapping, early warning disaster risk management system and the likes. In line with that, a capacity building program aimed at equipping local experts and officials on how to monitor, evaluate, report and verify about the process is taking place in Ethiopia.

According to experts at the ministry, the assessment was an ongoing process for past three years and by the end of this year the country’s forest coverage is due to be adequately determined.

Previously, the country’s forest coverage was mostly determined via estimates done every five years by the Food and Agriculture Agency (FAO); yet at times conflicting reports has surfaced. Some estimates suggest that the overall coverage is only three percent. While public agencies tend to state that the coverage stands at 10 to 15 percent at the moment accounting for the aggressive afforestation campaigns taking place in the country.

Zerihun Adinew is an acting director for Agroforestry and Community Extension services at the ministry. Zerihun says that the country is on the verge of selling forest carbons. For that, it needs to fulfill certain reporting, monitoring and verification procedures to receive finances. He said that one of the requirements Ethiopia should undergo is to assess and verify the size of the forest coverage. In this process, according to Zerihun, there has to be established facts on the ground as well as GIS generated data. He said that the countrywide forest size and coverage is to be mapped soon. Some 40 percent of the mapping process has been completed in the past three years and by the end of this year, a full-fledged countrywide statistical data is expected to be rereleased.

Robel Tesfaye, a forest expert at the ministry, also affirmed that inventory or base line activities are in place aimed at determining the size of the forest coverage in the country.

In line with that, a program dubbed Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD+) is extending in Ethiopia where the nation eyes benefit out of forest coverage and the resulting reductions in the emissions of CO2 (Carbon Trading). One of the tasks of REDD+ program is to provide reliable information so that nations like Norway would avail required funds to the country. However, the country is required to fulfill certain requirements. This requirement is called Monitoring, Reporting and Validating (MRV) which is needed to be maintained while reporting for such funds. It is to be recalled that Norway has extended USD some 70 million for the REDD+ program in Ethiopia.

Source: Ethiopian Reporter

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