In the past, Ethiopia was known for its wealth of natural resources; however, this situation changed during the last century as huge tracts of land were claimed for agricultural use. Severe soil erosion and degradation reduced the fertility of the land, lessening agricultural productivity. Deforestation has had a major impact on both the country’s ecology and its economy. Ethiopia’s economic backbone is its agricultural potential, so measures for reversing deforestation need to regain as much fertile land as possible. Confronted with this condition, we propose Foresticity, a project that uses reforestation as an urban design strategy for Ethiopia. This proposal for a new settlement provides benefits not only for the inhabitants, but also for the entire ecological system. When reforestation occurs in conjunction with the expansion or generation of cities, the growth of those cities acts as a tool for forest regeneration. Ultimately, cities become a means to spread forests throughout the country.
The first step of implementing the new settlement is to establish a tree nursery near the center of the city in order to produce and distribute seedlings, as well as to transmit knowledge. This nursery acts as the first educational center for generating the city. After about one year, seedlings from the nursery will be planted on a hill surrounded by a fence, near churches and mosques, and inside living compounds. With support from NGOs, local kebele will be responsible for the reforested areas which will be protected from exploitation. The reforested hill will protect water resources, stabilize the soil, and prevent erosion, so that water flowing down the hill will be clean and dams at the bottom will not be filled with sludge. Additionally, the trees will prevent soil from being washed into the lower farmlands and damaging crops. Trees that are located within the compound of a church or mosque are traditionally protected, thus making these places good sites for initial planting. Trees inside living compounds are protected as private property by each household, providing them with multiple benefits, such as fruit, fodder, construction materials, and modified microclimates.
A university specializing in forestation is the second element to be established. It will further research and environmental monitoring. Simultaneously, trees will be planted on farm and grazing lands for intercropping. By implementing the principles of agroforestry, trees will deliberately be integrated into fields with crops and animals in order to maximize the use of the land, thus creating both ecological and economic benefits. The recommended tree species are those with certain characteristics that are native to, or widespread in, Ethiopian natural forests. Leguminous species, for example, are recommended for intercropping because these trees aid in nitrogen fixation and do not compete with the crops. Albizia gummifera and Cordia africana are appropriate tree species for shading and producing better quality coffee.
A piece of land is to be reserved for wood harvesting, thus establishing light industry. Fast-growing and frequently-used tree species are recommended to provide fuel wood, charcoal, and timber for construction use, which can begin to be harvested in five to ten years. Within twenty years, better quality timber and crops will be produced, further increasing employment opportunities. The land is optimized and productivity increases. Additionally, the natural forest started on the hill will have progressed enough for diverse wildlife to return. Open spaces for public activities are established, thereby modifying the surrounding microclimate. Both the city and the forest will have grown to produce an interdependent urban environment.
Cities can benefit both economically and ecologically from reforestation. Trees provide energy resources and construction materials, increasing income for the settlement. Intercropping improves the quantity and quality of agricultural products. The benefits provided by reforestation are much greater than typically perceived and function as an essential generator for a sustainable, resilient city and environment. By combining the reforestation process with the development of a city, a critical symbiotic relationship is produced where each can benefit from the other and excel.