Land and Resources, Soils and Environmental Issues
planting tree seedlings, World Heritage Convention, illegal logging, overgrazing, nuclear testing
The highland of Ethiopia is made up of folded and fractured crystalline rocks capped by sedimentary limestone and sandstone and by thick layers of volcanic lava. Soil erosion is a major problem in Ethiopia. Deforestation, overgrazing, and poor land management accelerated the rate of erosion during the 1970s and 1980s. Many farmers in Ethiopia’s highlands cultivate sloped or hilly land, causing topsoil to wash away during the torrential rains of the rainy season. The rains also leach the highland soils of much fertility, particularly those soils overlying crystalline rocks. The volcanic soils of the highland are less readily leached and therefore are more fertile. The presence of mosquitoes carrying malaria has kept many farmers from developing parts of Ethiopia’s potentially productive lowlands. Deforestation and desertification are worsened by the widespread use of traditional fuels such as firewood, which represent 96 percent of total energy consumption (1997).
Ethiopia’s government began organizing conservation efforts in rural areas during the 1970s, encouraging farmers to combat erosion by building terraces and planting tree seedlings. The government also closed some hilly areas to agricultural development. About 5.5 percent (1997) of Ethiopia’s land is officially protected, although the country’s system of national parks and reserves suffers from poaching and illegal logging. Of Ethiopia’s animal species, 60 are threatened.
Ethiopia has ratified international agreements intended to protect biodiversity, endangered species, and the ozone layer. The country has also signed treaties limiting nuclear testing and chemical and biological weapons. Ethiopia is party to the World Heritage Convention.
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