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Development of plant propagation technology and techniques
Background information: The issues of deforestation, the major cause for desertification, such as its adverse social-economic environmental impacts in Africa and the steps to combat the same have been receiving serious attention of the world community. The World Conference on Desertification, UNEP, Nairobi 1972; the U.N. Conference on Environment and Development, Rio de Janero, 1992; and the Convention to Combat Desertification (CCD), in those countries experiencing serious drought and/or desertification, particularly in Africa are witness to the serious concerns of the World community. The degradation of the fragile dry lands threatens the livelihoods of over 900 million people in some 100 countries. The process affects some 25 percent of the Earth’s land area and seems to be occurring at accelerated rate globally, according to the UNEP. Desertification has got a consensus among world scientists and led to the establishment of conservation agents for instance AFORNET (African Forest Research Network) to promote the conservation of natural forests with key partners of world research institutions, Universities, Colleges, Non-Governmental Organizations, Relevant Government Ministries and Donor agencies. Of these, European Tropical Forest Research Network (ETFRN), IFS, FAO, The World Agro-forestry and Forestry Centre, Global Forest Watch are being actively involved in supporting to reverse the deterioration of natural forests in tropical and subtropical regions particularly for African countries.
Currently, ACP Science and Technology and EDULINK have identified the needs and constraints of these countries, and consequently adopted in their programmes; the necessity of supporting the conservation of natural resources through Academic Research and Technology development directly linked with the concerned community and Educational institutions. The main cause of deforestation, and consequently desertification in Ethiopia and Kenya, is a growing population and subsequent higher demand for agriculture, livestock production and fuel wood (Sucoff, 2003). Other reasons include low education of the society and inactivity from the government (Mccann, 199) although the current governments have taken some steps to tackle deforestation (Massox, 2006) Organizations such as Farm Africa are working with the federal and local governments to create a system of forest management (Parry, 2003).
East African population has been hit by famine many times because of shortages of rain and a depletion of natural resources. Deforestation has lowered the chance of getting rain, which is already low, and thus causes erosion. Bercele Bayisa, an Ethiopian farmer, offers one example why deforestation occurs. He said that his district was forested and full of wildlife, but overpopulation caused people to come to that land and clear it to plant crops, cutting all trees to sell as fire wood (Statistics Eth. 2007).
Ethiopia has lost 98% of its forested regions in the last 50 years (Hailasillase, 2004). At the beginning of the 20th century, around 420,000 km² or 35% of Ethiopia's land was covered with forests. Recent reports indicate that forests cover less than 14.2% (Hailesillase, 2004) or even only 11.9% now. Between 1990 and 2005, the country lost 14% of its forests or 21,000 km² (Statistics Eth. 2007). Justification, Needs and Constraints of the Geographic/Project area. In addition to global justification, it cannot be argued that most of east African region highlands, watersheds, and woodlands including neighbouring countries were once forested or natural vegetated. Over centuries, trees have been removed and the plains and hills converted into poor lands and scrub lands. Tree removal, over grazing and cropping have resulted in severe water and wind erosion and watershed malfunctioning. Where dams have been built silting of reservoirs and flooding from poorly protected watersheds are serious problems. Tree and shrub species, fruit and nut trees planted as green belts and windbreaks not only stabilize watersheds, prevent degradation of physical resources and the environment, but also confer many direct benefits to the communities and individuals.
There is therefore need to establish propagation technology at field and laboratory level, identify the useful tree and shrub species, and seed resources, and the methods of propagating and establishing them. There is need to conduct research by researchers and graduate students, and educate undergraduate-students.. There is need to transplant established seedlings in a synergic mode. These are all priority action areas. It is also acknowledged that some institutions in these two countries have developed technologies (though at small scale level), adopted approaches and strategies and have had many experiences for the management of forest. These need to be linked, shared and transferred within this project. In contrast, there are many physical and socio-economic constraints to development of these needs. Limited precipitation, high costs of reforestation and financial losses incurred during the drought years, lack of interdisciplinary skills and the institutions capacities to handle these issues alone.
Thus, I would like to get a partner to work on the development of propagation technology and techniques for reforestation, research, and education programmes especially in East African regions.
Jimma University, Ethiopia