Ethiopia’s landscape includes a large highland area of mountains and dissected plateaus, divided by the Rift Valley, which runs southwest to northeast and is surrounded by lowlands, steppes, or semi-desert. This large diversity of terrain has led to wide variations in climate, soils and natural vegetation, with 10 ecosystems, 18 major and 49 minor agro-ecological zones. The main rainy season is from June to September and a smaller rainy season between February and April. The highlands of Ethiopia are the source of major perennial rivers, including the Blue Nile. There are hardly any perennial surface water flows in areas below 1,500 m.
Forests play vital roles in ensuring food security and sustainable livelihoods for millions of households throughout Ethiopia, including through the production of honey, forest coffee, natural gums and timber. According to national estimates, Ethiopia possesses an estimated number of 6,000 species of higher plants of which 10% are endemic, 284 species of wild mammals and 861 species of birds. The country is also recognized as one of the world’s centres of origin for cultivated crops such as coffee, but also a centre of diversity for many crop species and for indigenous farm animals – 28 cattle, 9 sheep, 8 goat, 7 camel, 6 donkey, 8 horse, 2 mule and 7 chicken breeds.
Because of agricultural expansion, a significant portion of high forests, woodland, and wetlands have been converted into commercial agricultural farming such as tea, rice, sugarcane, bio-fuel plants and coffee plantations. Ethiopia’s NBSAP identifies habitat conversion, unsustainable utilization of biodiversity resources, invasive species, replacement of local varieties and breeds, climate change and pollution as the main direct threats to biodiversity. Indirect causes of biodiversity loss in the country are growing population, poverty, and lack of awareness and coordination.
Ethiopia’s Growth and Transformation Plan II (GTP II) places the modernization and sustainability of the agriculture sector as one of its pilars to become a low middle-income country by 2025. The GTP II also identifies the environment and the Climate Resilient Green Economy as a cross cutting issue, with a number of major targets such as increasing forest contribution to the economy and ecology by increasing the forest coverage to 20% or rehabilitating protected areas to increase carbon sinks by 30%.