Tigray project wins gold for land restoration

12 Sep 2017

A project in the Tigray Region of Ethiopia has won a United Nations-backed gold award for greening its drylands, beating 26 other nominated policies to the prize.

Also known as the “Oscar for Best Policies”, the Future Policy Award, organised by the World Future Council and the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), highlights the world’s policies that best combatted desertification and land degradation this year.

“Tigray’s win of the Gold Future Policy Award is sending a strong, empowering message: they show how a small region in a climate vulnerable country can find a smart and highly effective way to successfully address a global challenge. This is placing Ethiopia firmly on the map as an environmental leader.”

Alexandra Wandel, Director and Vice-Chair, Management Board of the World Future Council.

This award recognises the work of the Tigray regional government, which has mobilised villagers to volunteer 20 days a year to build terraces, irrigation projects, build stone walls on mountains and hillsides, and other projects, to restore land on a massive scale. As a result, erosion has decreased significantly, groundwater levels are recharged, and the uptake of sustainable agricultural practices made a significant contribution to food self-sufficiency and economic growth.

Since 1991 Tigray has managed to improve soil and water conservation, and closed off 1.2 million hectares of land to allow plants to regrow.

“Ethiopia’s Tigray region shows that restoration of degraded land can be a reality …The model provides hope for other African countries to follow suit,” Alexandra said to Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“The Tigray region of Ethiopia is now greener than it has ever been during the last 145 years,” said Chris Reij, desertification expert at the World Resources Institute. “This is not due to an increase in rainfall, but due to human investment in restoring degraded land to productivity.”

During the award ceremony, held at the 13th  session of the Conference of the Parties to the UNCCD in Ordos, Inner Mongolia (China), H.E. Abay Weldu, President of Tigray State, said, “I am honoured as head of the Regional Government of Tigray knowing that Tigray has won the Gold Future Policy Award 2017. The people of Tigray demonstrate that all challenges can be overcome if the leadership is addressing the will, need and priority of the people. Tigray’s people have proved that development is possible without harming our mother Earth.”

The ceremony was attended by 300 high-level guests and ministers from all over the world.

The Future Policy Award is the only award which honours policies rather than people on an international level. Each year, the World Future Council chooses a topic for the Future Policy Award on which policy progress is particularly urgent. In 2017, in partnership with the UNCCD, laws and policies were evaluated that contribute to the protection of life and livelihoods in the drylands, and help achieve Sustainable Development Goal 15, target 3, to “combat desertification, restore degraded land and soil, including land affected by desertification, drought and floods, and strive to achieve a land degradation-neutral world.”


People of Tigray (Ethiopia) turn the desert green again

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