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Treework Supports Project to Protect Boswellia Forests in Ethiopia

One of Treework’s early pioneering initiatives was to help found Tree Aid.  Images of the famine that devastated the Sahel in the mid-1980s prompted the need to answer the question – what should an appropriate response of the tree sector which deals in ‘tree time’ be?  Tree Aid has since become known as the foresters’ charity and celebrates 35 years’ success.

It is today an important environmental charity working across Africa’s drylands in partnership with local communities to help protect their land, trees, forests, and pastures to ensure sustainable livelihoods. Together with these communities, some 27 million trees have been successfully planted, contributing today to the Great Green Wall movement.

As part of the Treework 40th Anniversary commitments, we are delighted to announce our contribution to Tree Aid through a partnership with the frankincense forest project of northwest Ethiopia.

Research found that frankincense (Boswellia papyrifera) is highly important ecologically and a conservation priority.  However, Metema, where these forests grow, is the last green belt holding back desert encroachment.  Without intervention the forest is threatened with extinction with devastating consequences for the people who live there.

The project titled Developing Rural Pathways to Community Resilience and Ecosystem Restoration in Metema, Ethiopia supports communities’ livelihoods and are dependent on these endangered trees.  Working with communities who own the forest to develop sustainable land management practices, Tree Aid aims to enhance seed production, regeneration and protection, develop efficient sap harvesting and processing techniques.

The project supports:

2,852 households to increase their income.
9,563 hectares of degraded forest to be restored.
25% increase in household incomes.

There will be direct benefits to the community through reversing forest degradation and increasing land productivity contributing to sustainable livelihoods and increased household incomes.

Treework’s financial engagement will contribute to:

  • Training local communities on sustainable forest management practices
  • Providing tools and equipment for sustainable harvesting and regeneration of frankincense
  • Promoting the development of frankincense value chains
  • Supporting the establishment of beekeeping enterprises

“We are delighted to be able to support this important project,” said Treework Managing Director, Luke Fay. “The Metema region is home to some of the most important Boswellia forests in Ethiopia, and these forests are vital to the local communities, and their protection is critical for future generations and improved livelihoods of all those who depend on them.”


Back in the 1980s, Treework’s Director, Neville Fay, was inspired by the rock industry, who, led by Bob Geldof in the wake of the Sudan famine, established Live Aid generating global support that raised millions of pounds for famine relief projects.  Part of the inspiration was seeing the power that collaboration with colleagues brings and the pleasure that derived from giving for a caring cause.

Together with friends and colleagues from forestry, arboriculture, woodland management, carpentry, and the law, a small, dedicated group educated themselves about the problem and what might be the right way to find solutions.  Learning from community-based Kenyan Green Belt and Indian Chipko Village movements, they saw the possibility of how Tree Aid could help stabilise arid landscapes through local partnerships to recreate a sustainable future for the heroic inhabitants of those environments.



From the small seed of these ideas, in 1987, Tree Aid has become the international charity that it is today.  From the idealistic and imaginative beginnings that developed these founding principles that remain true to the charity’s work today:

  • The identity principle – that those who give from their wealth are connected to those who give through their need and effort in planting and maintaining trees for a healthy environment.
  • The community basis – sustainability is achieved through empowering partnerships where communities determine their needs and participate in the solutions through shared knowledge and expertise.  In this sense, generations who plant trees create enrichment through stabilising soil, fostering food security, and sustaining rural livelihoods.  This must be a long-term vision.
  • The pleasure of giving and receiving – that this should be fun and have a sense of reciprocity, not based on guilt and an outmoded model of dependency and poverty but based on a concept of equal sharing in our global environment: planting done in distant lands contributes to the cooling of the atmosphere for all.

Tree Aid’s 27.6 million trees planted and the 167, 000 hectares of land so far restored, are testimony to the founding principles.  The charity has numerous projects currently focused in Burkina FasoMaliNigerSenegal, Ghana and Ethiopia  , where over 300 million people’s lives have been devastated by degraded land fertility and the climate crisis.

The consequences in northern Ethiopia are that temperatures are rising, trees are disappearing, land is becoming infertile, and the desert spreading.

The Metema Forest project, in Ethiopia is therefore vital.

Improved efficiency and sustainable frankincense harvesting are to be achieved by engaging the community in comparative analysis of their local tapping techniques with methods used in India. 240 tappers will receive training in techniques and equipment to improve proficiency. The project has a long-term vision.

The project is funded by the Darwin Initiative, a UK government program that supports projects that promote sustainable development and biodiversity conservation. Tree Aid partners include the Ethiopian Forest Development Authority, the Ethiopian Biodiversity Institute, UK Forest Research and Swansea University, and the current stage is expected to be completed in October 2024.

You can read more about the project here.

If you would like to make a donation, it’s easy, click here.

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