Advancing Conservation, Agriculture, and Livelihoods in Oromia (ACAL)

Member of Mume Damma Honey Producer Group from Gera Woreda. Established through the ACAL Phase-II project In December 2023, this group consists of 25 members, including 8 women, 7 youth, and 10 farmers. Photo courtesy Digital Green Foundation

Member: Digital Green Foundation 

Location: Belete Gera Forest (Gera, Gomma, and Shebe Sombo Woredas), Jimma Zone, Oromia Region, Ethiopia.

Size: 3,336 hectares of agroforestry

Type of intervention: Agroforestry

The Advancing Conservation, Agriculture and Livelihoods (ACAL) project aims to bring about visible and lasting changes to the environment and lives of community members in the Belete Gera  Forest Landscape in Jimma. The project will advance Digital Green’s ambition of incorporating carbon mitigation and sequestration into its programs and product portfolio by leveraging Farmer.Chat, Digital Green’s AI chatbot to deliver tailored assistance to extension workers and small-scale farmers. Digital Green is seeing increasing demand for Farmer.Chat among partners in the region to build and track farm-level profiles to support MRV. Pre-feasibility funding will 1) support Digital Green in deepening the community and ecosystem impact of ACAL and 2) test the feasibility of using Farmer.Chat to support carbon workflows through the provision of advisory services and data collection, informing the ability to scale this workflow across Ethiopia. 

The Belete Gera Forest is one of the few remaining tracts of the “Eastern Afromontane biodiversity hotspot.” It is characterized by rich fauna and flora with many endemic species. The region has experienced rapid economic development, with fast-growing expansion of settlements and plantations of exotic timber, coffee, and tea. The remnant forest, home to several critically endangered and vulnerable species, is under increasing pressure from logging and disturbance. The project area includes privately owned farmlands adjacent to the forest (owned by smallholder farmers) and communal forest lands managed by Forest Management Associations and Cooperatives. Communities in the project area are characterized by widespread poverty and vulnerable smallholder livelihoods. 

This project goes beyond typical conservation efforts by integrating community livelihood improvement with environmental conservation. It addresses urgent needs for sustainable land use and biodiversity protection, filling a gap in current climate change combat efforts. By promoting sustainable agriculture (planting & managing perennial crops including fruit crops and shade-based coffee as well as promoting enhanced use organic fertilizers (vermi-compost/regular compost))  and conservation practices (physical and biological soil and water conservation activities), targeting vulnerable groups like women and youth for empowerment, the project strengthens Participatory Forest Management approaches through community institutions, expands conservation and sustainable agriculture, and enhances leadership and entrepreneurship skills. This includes strengthening and establishing forest management cooperatives, promoting sustainable forest management practices and restoration of degraded lands, promoting sustainable agricultural practices, expanding livelihood options, and enhancing access to markets and financial services.   

The project’s impact on the region will be significant. It will promote agroforestry practices on over 3,000 hectares of communal and farmland and plant 2.7 million forest tree seedlings produced by government and community groups. So far, this work has benefitted over 40K small-scale producers, including more than 13K women and 7K youth, and aims to reach another 50K by 2025.