UPDATES WITH WATER MINISTER'S REMARKS

By Addis Getachew, Seleshi Tessema and Tufan Aktas

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (AA) – Ethiopians from all walks of life took to open spaces nationwide on Monday to take part in a massive campaign that set out to plant 200 million seedlings in a span of 12 hours.

The initiative was introduced by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to plant 4 billion tree seedlings in the rainy season of June, July and August.

In a televised message on Monday, Water Minister Seleshi Bekele announced that 353 million seedlings, much above the projected number, had been planted in 12 hours.

Studies show Ethiopia's forest cover at the onset of the 19th Century accounted for 420,000 square kilometers (35% of the country's land area), which has now dwindled to under 10%.

Forest clearing for settlement and farming purposes is the main culprit for forest depletion in Ethiopia whose population almost tripled from 1940 to 2000.

More than 80% of Ethiopia's population lives in rural areas with agriculture (farming and/or cattle rearing) as the prime source of income.

Dechassa Jirru, a forestry researcher, told Anadolu Agency that “the campaign is a great beginning. However, the big deal would be to follow up.”

“Optimum use should be made from the forest by creating a community ownership structure that would care for the trees and benefit from it,” he said.

In a show of solidarity to Ethiopia’s efforts, Turkish Embassy diplomats and staff in Addis Ababa planted trees.

Evren Muderrisoglu, deputy head of mission at the embassy, said: “We are very happy to participate in this campaign. It is a green legacy program and today we planted African Tulip, Lebanon Cedar and Jacaranda and rose tree.”

“It is a breakthrough event that would benefit generations,” he said.

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