As part of its effort to reduce the impact of climate change, the Ethiopian government intends to plant four billion indigenous trees. GPB Global Resources B.V. (GPB GR), an oil exploration company located in Ethiopia, is actively supporting the cause spearheaded by the Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.
On July 29, 2019, Ethiopia set a new world record for planting 350 million trees in a single day. The previous record for single-day tree-planting was held by India, which planted 50 million trees in one day, during 2016, using the help of 800,000 volunteers.
Can planting trees really help with climate change?
Design Boom recently reported that a scientific research study, conducted by ETH Zurich, found that current climate conditions on Earth could support 4.4 billion hectares (10.9 billion acres) of total forest. This is, in fact, 1.6 billion hectares (4 billion acres) more than the tree cover that currently exists.
When the trees reach maturity, they could store over 200 billion tons of carbon. That is two-thirds of the total amount of 300 billion tons of carbon that human activity put into the atmosphere since the dawn of the industrial age.
Professor Thomas Crowther of ETH Zurich said he was encouraged by the outcome of the research and the impact that could be made by planting one trillion trees on land that can sustain them. Trees are a natural solution to help alleviate the adverse results of climate change; this suggests that every country in the world should make an immediate, serious effort to plant trees because it takes decades for forests to mature and to reach full capacity as a natural way to store carbon.
The study also identified the countries with the highest potential for growing more trees and the land that they have available for potential reforestation, which include:
- Russia – 151 million hectares (372 million acres)
- United States – 103 million hectares (255 million acres)
- Canada – 78 million hectares (193 million acres)
- Australia – 58 million hectares (143 million acres)
- Brazil* – 50 million hectares (124 million acres)
- China – 40 million hectares (99 million acres)
*Brazil has even more deforested land now due to the 2019 fires.
In Africa, there are also plenty of opportunities to plant more trees. Ethiopia’s forests declined by more than one-tenth of the size they used to be at the turn of the last century. It used to be that 35% of the land was covered with trees; now it is less than 4% of the land in Ethiopia.
Ethiopian Tree-Planting Program
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed leads the project, which is called the “Green Legacy Initiative.” The prime minister allows nonessential government offices to shut down on tree-planting days so that civil servants can take part in the campaign. The goal of this project is to return the forests of Ethiopia back to their previous abundant state and to reduce the impact of climate change in a country that frequently experiences drought along with the severe risk of famine.
— Amir Aman, MD (@amirabiy) July 29, 2019
GPB Resources Contributes to Tree-Planting Efforts
GPB Global Resources B.V., through its Ethiopia office, supported the efforts of two communities to plant 1,000 seedling trees that GPB Global Resources paid for and distributed on July 29 as part of the initiative that involved over 1,000 communities. The turnout of volunteers for the project meant that almost 350 million trees were planted for 12 hours on a beautiful summer day. In fact, almost every able-bodied person in the country was planting trees on July 29.
The campaign was a big success and even involved promotional videos shown on Ethiopian television. The videos rallied the Ethiopian people to get involved and to take care of the newly planted trees to make sure that they have the chance to grow. The United Nations, the African Union and the embassies of foreign nations in Ethiopia, also provided help.
Russian and Ethiopian Cooperation
GPB Global Resources B.V. began working in Ethiopia doing hydrocarbon exploration after its request for an exploration license was granted by the Ethiopian government. While GPB GR is a company registered in the Netherlands, it has offices and operations in several countries across Europe, Africa, and South America. Its founder and managing director, Boris Ivanov, was born in Russia and lives in Monaco.
Relations between Russia and Ethiopia have a long history. In 2018, the two countries celebrated the 120th anniversary of their friendly diplomatic relations.
GPB Ethiopia Resources B.V., a subsidiary of GPB Global Resources, entered into a petroleum product sharing agreement with Ethiopia on July 17, 2014 for hydrocarbon exploration in the Gewane area, and hopes to be successful in finding resources for profitable extraction. As part of GPB GR’s agreement with the Ethiopian government, the project includes a firm financial and organizational commitment by the Company to undertake various projects to help the local community. The cooperation with the tree-planting efforts is just one example of GPB GR’s efforts to help the people of Ethiopia.
GPB Global Resources Community Projects in Ethiopia
The community projects supported by GPB GR started in 2015 with a detailed study to determine the community needs in the project exploration area. All concerned stakeholders were involved in this effort. Discussions were held with the representative members of the regional and local governmental offices. Inputs from community leaders and people who live in the project area were encouraged.
Many community projects were proposed. Decisions were made to allocate the budget for Community Development Projects (CDP) according to prioritized needs for the projects that were feasible.
The prioritized needs were:
- Food security
- Access to water
- Schools and education
- Medical equipment and training
- General community issues
The Gewane Small Scale Irrigation Project was completed to pump water from the Awash River to irrigate farmland. The goal of the project was to promote food security, alleviate poverty and help the local people to better adapt to climate change.
This project consisted of digging a canal, laying water pipe, and installing pumping equipment to provide a sustainable source of water that would allow multiple families to settle in one area, live, and work on a farm.
The project was completed on July 5, 2018 and is now operating successfully. It provides irrigation water for more than 80 hectares (198 acres). This is enough to support 120 local farmers who now can grow enough food to supply around 600 households.
Access to Water
Two water supply systems were built. One was for the Debel Health Center that provides health care services to over 5,500 families. It has a laboratory and child-delivery rooms that now have a source of conveniently available clean water.
The other water system was built for a school in Kumami. The school was connected by a 300-meter (984-foot) pipe to the central water reservoir. A water storage tank was installed at the school along with the necessary running-water infrastructure to supply the school.
School and Education
The secondary schools in Gewane and Gefram were expanded to accommodate more students. GPB Global Resources B.V. built eight new classrooms that are fully equipped with ceiling fans, school desks and blackboards. GPB GR also provided 7,200 books and an additional 330 desks for schools that needed them.
Medical Equipment and Training
The medical centers in the project area provide health care services to over 50,000 people.
GPB Global Resources B.V. provided all of the following medical equipment to the community:
- Five solar-powered refrigerators used to safely store vaccines
- Installed the solar energy systems for the refrigerators
- Blood pressure monitors
- An ECG system
- Sterile surgical gowns
- Medical supplies
Training for Human and Animal Health Workers
During the evaluation period, there was a terrible outbreak of diarrhea. A training system was organized to help human and animal health workers prepare for such outbreaks, detect problems early, contain epidemics by timely responses with proper protocols, and help the communities recover more quickly from such illnesses.
The health care workers attended training sessions to learn more about the following:
- Surveillance for early detection
- Capacity building
- How to communicate warnings
The animal health workers learned about the importance of early warning and communication to better protect the country’s livestock, which is a vital part of the economy.
General Community Issues
An essential element of life is having a source of uncontaminated water to drink. Safe water is needed for bathing and cooking. In many of the communities in the project area, the nearest source of clean water may be many kilometers (miles) away. The traditional method of carrying water in a container on top of one’s head, practiced by local people for centuries, are cumbersome, difficult and involve personal health risks. Back and neck injuries are common. Usually, it is the women who make the long trip to get the water needed for their family. Some carry their babies with them while fetching water.
Underdeveloped areas can often benefit from simple, low-cost, but innovative solutions. An innovative form of water container called the Q-Drum is supplied by GPB GR to help more people easily transport water. The Q-Drum is a very strong, stackable and rollable water container that can be pulled along behind a person by a rope tied around the waist. A person pulling a Q-Drum has both hands free to carry something else such as their baby.
The Q-Drum is made of durable plastic. It has a drum shape with a donut-like hole in the center. A rope can pass through the center hole and then the rope can be tied around the waist. This makes it easy to pull the drum. It rolls over almost every surface. When full it holds 45 liters (about 12 gallons) of water. It weighs 9 kilograms (20 pounds) when empty; when filled with water, it weighs 54 kilograms (119 pounds).
That weight is far too much to carry on the top of one’s head; however, it is easy to pull behind a person. This nearly doubles a person’s water carrying capacity compared to the traditional head-carry method, so 50% fewer trips are necessary to get the same amount of water.
The Q-Drum is strong enough to be stacked up to 40 full-drums high. It is made to last for at least 8 years of everyday use. It is a simple, inexpensive to produce, and brilliant invention.
GPB GR received enormous positive feedback for its Q-Drum distribution program and receives many additional requests for them, which will be accommodated as the program continues.
Government Inspection of Community Development Projects
In accordance with the provisions of the agreement between GPB GR and the Ethiopian government, the verifications and inspections of the completed Community development efforts were conducted by the Ethiopian Extractive Industries Transparency Initiatives, with experts from the Ministry of Mining and Petroleum (MoMP). Government officials interviewed local authorities about the projects and produced an inspection report from their observations after physically visiting the sites.
The officials were given detailed lists of the materials used for construction and items distributed among the local population. They were able to verify the value and significance of the projects and see the local benefits, which included increased job opportunities along with meeting the project’s improvement goals.
The last field inspection was conducted in March 2019, which included reviewing completed projects and surveying additional community needs. Ethiopian government officials were fully satisfied that GPB GR was meeting its obligations on community development projects. They were pleasantly surprised to receive copies of appreciation letters from the local leaders who stressed that GPB GR’s community efforts really stood out in comparison to many other companies operating in the region.
GPB Global Resources B.V. continues to work closely with community leaders to develop future community development targets that will have a positive impact on the lives of the people in the project area. The main themes of GPB GR’s work are impact management, community development, and benefit sharing.
Findings Regarding Additional Community Needs
The March 2019 survey found these additional needs:
Access to Water
There is a need for generators and pumps for water wells, maintenance of hand-pump wells, installation of water supply systems, and water tanks for water storage at schools.
There is a need for fluoride and salt treatment systems. As well as a high demand for more Q-Drums for fetching water.
School and Education
The schools need laboratory equipment, reference books, desks, bookshelves, computers and solar energy systems.
Human and Animal Health
Support needed in this area includes solar-powered medical equipment, medicine, bookshelves, shelves for medicine, medical supplies, blackboards, and lockers for remote-area workers at the Health Center and schools. More capacity-building training for health care workers would be helpful.
Requests were made for football uniforms, sports shoes, a volleyball net, and balls.
Moving Forward to a Better Future
All the community needs discovered by the March 2019 survey were discussed and prioritized with the involvement of government administrators and the local community leaders. Requests for proposals have been issued to various suppliers of items desired by the communities to be able to prioritize and make allocations according to the 2020 budget for community development initiatives. This budgetary work is currently ongoing and not yet finalized for the upcoming year.
Community development and engagement of all the stakeholders in the process is a complex endeavor. It requires the participation and cooperation of various government institutions, executives from the private sector, community leaders and the people who will ultimately benefit. Building a broad base of participation with the support of all stakeholders is critical to the successful implementation of the ongoing community development initiatives.
About GPB Global Resources B.V.
GPB Global Resources B.V., established by Mr. Boris Ivanov has been in operation for over 10 years. GPB GR and its affiliates employ around 1000 people in many countries, including Russia, the Netherlands, Ethiopia, Niger, and Venezuela.
GPB GR is growing rapidly and is constantly reviewing worldwide opportunities in the mineral and petroleum sectors.
In Africa, GPB GR always works with a local partner. According to Mr. Ivanov, this is an essential strategy when entering developing markets. As a foreign investor, GPB Global Resources B.V. partners with the government or a government-designated company on projects within the specific country. Additionally, organizations from the local community usually play a crucial role in the success of a venture.
GPB GR’s approach incorporates unquestioned respect to the rules, traditions, and customs of any country where it undertakes a project. The mineral and petroleum extraction industry can easily disrupt traditional ways of a developing country with an agriculture-based culture. Therefore, GPB GR makes its best effort to be mindful of the Company’s corporate social responsibility mandate. It wants the local people who are impacted to see that the disruptions can be positive because they bring development, education, infrastructure and improvement to areas that may have had very little previously.
GPB Global Resources B.V. will continue to make progress in Ethiopia with the full support and gratitude of the local participants and all other stakeholders, who have seen direct positive impact on their lives. The Company looks forward to a prosperous year 2020 and further community development initiatives including making continued contributions to the goal of planting 4 billion trees as well as to many other tangible local projects.