If you take care of the land, it will take care of you, says Tsefaye Kidane, a 40-year-old coffee farmer from the Kafa Biosphere Reserve, a protected area in southwest Ethiopia that is also regarded as the birthplace of wild Arabica coffee.
Kidane’s farm is more than a mile off the main road, accessible only by foot along a winding, narrow path that meanders through the hills and is just wide enough for a motorbike or bicycle to get goods to market. When he took over the farm from his father, Kidane said the soil quality was poor and crops erratic, their irregularity exacerbated by the ravages of climate change and decades of land degradation.
However, with support from the World Bank’s Sustainable Land Management Program (SLMP), Kidane has turned the situation around. He has addressed soil erosion with a host of measures, including terracing the steep landscape, building bunds and composting, along with soil conservation. “Before doing the soil and water conservation activities the land was unable to produce even grass for fodder” he explains, holding his youngest daughter on his lap.
Kidane is one of the one billion people globally who live in areas affected by deforestation, soil erosion, and decreasing productivity. Taking care of the land and preserving biodiversity – through healthy soil, reliable water access and pollinators – is vital for providing livelihoods for rural populations, particularly during times of economic shock like that caused by the current COVID-19 pandemic.
Healthy ecosystems have been shown to provide a lifeline to the poorest. The Poverty Environment Network project that collects income data of forest adjacent communities from 24 countries, estimates that environmental income (most of it from the forest) represents 28 percent of total income of these households (Angelsen et al, 2014).