Horn of Africa Climate Change Program

Purpose:  Focusing on water, land, sustainable value chain and Green House Gas Emissions Reduction in Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan and Sudan

Project Overview

The Horn of Africa Climate Change Programme (HoA-CCP) is a regional initiative of the Horn of Africa Regional Environment Centre and Network (HoA-REC&N), that focuses on climate change adaptation and mitigation by addressing land and water issues, as well as ecologically-viable value chains and greenhouse gas emission reduction. The initiative will operate in the six countries where the Regional Environment Network has a National Chapter (Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia/Somaliland, South Sudan and Sudan).

Key implementing organisations are HoA-REC, under auspices of Addis Ababa University, and the HoA-REN National Chapter focal points, through support of the Centre. National Chapters consist of both civil society and academia that will work together in the implementation.

The first activities of the HoA-CCP commenced in November 2014 with a grant from the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign affairs (DGIS). This support is being used as leverage to attract other financial resources and partnership for this regional programme, as the HoA-CCP is intended to be a long-term programme.

Programme approach and focus areas

The initiative uses an area-based approach to sustainable development and climate resilience and builds on the knowledge and experience of the members of the Regional Environment Network. The HoA-CCP is implemented in strategic parts of (trans-boundary) river basins in the Horn of Africa where pressure is increasing as a result of climate change, population growth, and land use change and where some measures have already been taken to work towards sustainable landscapes have been selected for the programme.

In November 2014, the various National Chapters of the Network in Djibouti, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan and Sudan were asked to build the case for an intervention area in their respective countries in which the outcomes of the HoA-CCP could be realised. The rational behind this question was to make this regional programme fully locally owned, and give way to the ideas and insights of the organisations that are part of the Regional Environment Network. The following landscapes were selected:

  • Djibouti:    Mount Arrey-Assamo
  • Ethiopia:   Gambella Regional State
  • Kenya:      Ewuaso-Ngiro Watershed
  • Somaliland:   Upper Hargeisa Watershed
  • South Sudan:    Imatong Mountains
  • Sudan:    Barah district, Shamal-Kordofan

Programme’s Significance for the region

In the Horn of Africa, environmental challenges due to poor water and land management are a major threat to political stability and socio-economic development potential. Climate change effects are an additional stress on already overexploited natural resources and prolonged drought and intensified flooding are already a reality in large parts of the region, with weather patterns becoming more extreme. Rising temperatures lead to more diseases affecting livestock and crops, and floods and excessive run-off cause increased erosion and soil fertility depletion.

Wind and water erosion are aggravated by human activity in places where almost all trees are removed, to be used as fuel wood, charcoal, fodder or construction material. Erosion is further exacerbated when no adequate soil and water conservation measures are taken and where livestock densities are so high that the natural vegetation does not have a chance to recover. In some mountainous parts of the region the bedrock is now exposed, making households and landscapes highly vulnerable to climate-induced shocks and stress. Lack of integrated land and water resource management initiatives and value chains with negative ecological effects are major concerns. The water storage capacity is limited in the region. Links between up- and downstream are still weak. Environmental degradation and climate change effects lead to new animal migration streams resulting in natural resource pressure and conflict among various communities.

The programme focus areas are:

  • Promotion of landscape restoration through integrated natural resource management and soil and water conservation;
  • Increased food security by promoting sustainable agriculture and strengthening value chains of sustainable forest products (dates, honey, shea nut, muringa, fisheries); and
  • Reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and improvement of livelihoods by promoting waste management, renewable energy and green infrastructure.

This intervention is a response to the vulnerability emerging from a high dependence on the natural resource base, which is degrading in the context of climatic change and other pressures. Exacerbating livelihood vulnerability increases the need to improve both the productivity and resilience of natural resources for those that depend on them. Focus is the strengthening of ecologically viable value chains that improve the income base of communities, and simultaneously provide incentives for a better management of natural resources. Examples of such value chains being tested within the programme are organic agriculture (permaculture), honey, shea butter and moringa.

Activities and Achievements – First steps

Various activities have been accomplished so far. International experts as well as national experts from Djibouti, Kenya, Somaliland, South Sudan and Sudan have started a baseline study in these different countries, and landscape-visioning missions have been organised to Kenya and Somaliland. The latter aim to define the challenges and opportunities for the landscape, as well as the medium- and long-term priorities for the landscapes, as defined by the National Chapter members and other significant partners.

Secondly, activities have started for the creation of an EcoHub in Gambella Regional State, Ethiopia. This Hub is envisioned to become a learning and demonstration site for sustainable agriculture and ecologically viable value chains, in very close collaboration with the local Jawe community.

Lastly, preparations are made for a landscape governance track, to be organised together with a partner university from the Netherlands. This activity will link the different interventions in the six landscapes and facilitate exchange within the environmental movement of the Horn of Africa.


The Gambella EcoHub, as it has become known, is one of the first projects to kick off within the HoA-REC Horn of Africa Climate Change Programme (HoA-CCP). This programme is focused on promoting sustainable and inclusive development in five selected landscapes throughout the Horn of Africa (Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan and Sudan). The programme’s ultimate goal is to create ‘resilient landscapes’ through ecosystem restoration, ecologically viable value chains and greenhouse gas emission reduction to enhance climate change adaptation and mitigation.

Pristine landscape in Gambella, is one of the largest biodiversity concentration areas in Ethiopia
Pristine landscape in Gambella, is one of the largest biodiversity concentration areas in Ethiopia

HoA-REC&N’s Gambella Branch Office started designing a proposal for a Landscape Hub in early 2014, with the aim to secure Gambella’s forested landscape through the promotion of:

  • Introduction of climate smart agriculture (permaculture) practices; and
  • Strengthening value chains of sustainable products that safeguard the integrity of Gambella’s ecosystem, such as honey and other beekeeping products, shea nut butter, fisheries and non-timber forest products produced on site in the permaculture gardens.

In the long run, it is envisaged that the Hub will evolve and mature to become a learning and demonstration centre for sustainable agriculture and non-timber forest products in the region, and a training and extension centre to improve the livelihoods of women and men in an ecologically viable way; as well as a socially and environmentally responsible business Hub for selected quality Gambella value chain products.

The Gambella EcoHub comprises roughly 450 ha of pristine land bordering the Baro River approximately 18 kilometers East of Gambella Town. Anuak communities who practice subsistence farming and traditional pastoralist activities populate the surrounding area, and on the other side of the river large stretches of uninhabited wilderness can be found.

Late 2014, HoA-REC received the land upon which the EcoHub is now constructed from the Gambella Regional State Government, with full support from the neighboring Jawe community, and work on site begun immediately with the guidance of two Kenyan consultants, Sven Verwiel and Jessie de Boer.

The location for the Hubs’ initial epicentre was selected on the edge of one of the rocky outcrops on site, a few hundred meters from the river and overlooking a fertile flood plain. Together with Tichafa Makovere, a leading permaculture expert from Zimbabwe, the site was designed according to permaculture principles.

Training on compost making for organic soil fertility in Gambella Ecohub
Training on compost making for organic soil fertility in Gambella Ecohub

Permaculture is a holistic design system for creating sustainable human settlements and food production systems. It is a movement concerned with sustainable, environmentally sound land use and the building of stable communities, through the harmonious interrelationship of humans, plants, animals and the Earth.

Due to the gradient of the site, the first few weeks were spent leveling, digging and establishing a series of swales – necessary for the control and harvesting of rainwater during the wet season. Additionally, an area was selected for the building of a large central ‘tukel’ that is envisaged to be the centre of the site at this stage, and which can be used as a visitor’s centre, community workshop area and a place to rest during the hottest hours of the day.

Over the weeks that followed, the site evolved further as garden beds were shaped along with a pair of thatched open air showers, three eco-toilets and the establishing of three tent platforms that will serve as interim accommodation for the workers on site. Once a reliable water source was secured from the river, seeds were sown and now, the EcoHub is beginning to see the fruits of the team’s labor with cucumber, moringa, lettuce, spinach, kale, pumpkin, squash, butternut, basil, coriander, sweet potato, cassava, sugar cane, pigeon pea, cow pea and chili beginning to emerge.

In addition to the ongoing construction and planting on site, various pre-identified ‘value chains’ are currently being studied. Given that Ethiopia is Africa’s largest honey producer with an estimated annual production of 45,905 tons per annum (2014), it was only a matter of time before a few traditional honey collectors from the Jawe community were identified and put to work.

Green building in the Ecohub
Green building in the Ecohub

Since most beekeepers in Ethiopia rely on traditional methods of beekeeping (using traditional log, leaf or mud hives often placed high up in the trees) there is a lot of room for training on modern beekeeping techniques, which yield larger quantities of higher value honey. Having said this, traditional methods of beekeeping play a vital part in the maintenance of forest flauna and ecological diversity and thus the EcoHub team is investigating methods where a combination of techniques, new ideas and traditional knowledge are embraced.

At the EcoHub site, there is a designated space for the storage, processing and packaging of value chain products in substantial quantities. The EcoHub team has already started to ‘trial’ some small scale, high quality processed bee products (including honey, candles, soaps and creams) under the ‘Proudly Gambella’ label as well as several batches of home grown, dried and packaged Moringa powder.

View of Baro River from Gambella Ecohub
View of Baro River from Gambella Ecohub

Together with several women and youth members from the Jawe community, the EcoHub envisages establishing a cooperative to enable funds to be generated on the site that will educate all those involved in basic business principles.

The road ahead is still very long, but with the energy and support from the Gambella Branch Office, the Jawe community and HoA-REC’s overseas partners, tangible impact and progress can be seen on a daily basis.

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