Deforestation in Lalibela and the surrounding area

Lalibela and its surroundings are suffering under massive deforestation. This problem is not restricted to Lalibela itself but affects the whole country of Ethiopia.
Due to its altitude the country is favoured with a temperate climate and enjoys fertile soil and biological diversity.
Only forty years ago, 40% of the country was covered by forests, but today this has been reduced to a mere 2.7%.


For decades, huge areas of forest have been cleared for various reasons, including:
  • need for wood to generate energy (mainly firewood)
  • use of land for agriculture and livestock (Ethiopia is largely an agrarian country with over 80 % of its population living in rural areas)
  • Commercial exploitation of timber
  • use of land for new settlements
The major cause of deforestation is poverty and the rapid population growth, which leads to an increase in the demand for crop and grazing land, wood for fuel and construction. Hence the land has been severely degraded over the years and huge areas have turned into desert.


Forests are complex ecosystems. When they are degraded, it can set off a devastating chain of events both locally and globally:

  • Erosion

Soil in forested land is covered with a rich layer of nutrients. The nutrients come from the leaf litter that falls down from the trees. Tree roots anchor the soil and protect against washouts. This is a perfect eco-system.
But without trees, the soil is free to wash or blow away. Wind and rain lead to erosion because the fertile layer of the soil is being removed. Hence the soil loses fertility and becomes less able to support trees or other plants like crops.

  • Climate change:

A major problem caused by deforestation is the impact on the global carbon cycle. Deforestation not only lessens the amount of carbon stored, it also releases carbon dioxide into the air. Deforestation is the second largest man-made source of the release of carbon doixide to the atmosphere.
Further examples of how trees affect our climate are:

  • they lower temperatures (both surface and air temperatures are reduced by trees)
  • they reduce energy usage and
  • they reduce or remove air pollutants (leaves filter particles from the air, including dust, ozone, carbon monoxide and other air pollutants).
  • Loss of species

A considerable percentage of the world’s plants and animals live in forests and are losing their habitats because of the deforestation. Many plants and animals are specially adapted to forest life and cannot thrive and grow outside of the forest.
Many species of birds and mammals are at risk of extinction due to deforestation.

  • Water cycle:
Trees are very important because they meet two crucial tasks in the water cycle-system: transpiration and water storage.
  • The transpiration process begins when trees draw water from the soil through their roots and transport it upward in vessels. During drought a tree’s transpiration rate decreases so that it can conserve water whereas deforestation can exacerbate drought problems because rain is less likely to soak into the soil and replenish ground water.
  • The second major activity of forests involves the capacity of trees to store water. Trees act as a watershed by absorbing water during floods and storing and slowly releasing water in times of low rainfall.

Foundation of Agro-Plantation-Site

Being aware of all these implications mentioned above and threatened by the disastrous situation in their own homeland, Destaw and Esayas decided that it was time to take action and they founded “Agro-Plantation-Site”, a local NGO, which very soon was supported by many volunteers. All of the members are entirely dedicated to their dream to turn Lalibela once more into the green forested area they still remember from when they were children.
If you want to know more about the team members and how the project developed, please visit about us >