Studies show that except in urban centers with master plans and zoning in effect, people in Ethiopia have been using land, for far too long, in unplanned and uncontrolled fashion without due regard to the land’s best potential use and without due consideration for conservation of natural resources and safeguarding the environment. The rate of expansion of urban centers, industries, agriculture, agro-industries and hotels/lodges in the study areas has been large and very fast. This accelerated change is occurring without due consideration to the potential of the land and without land use plans. Consequently, important wetland ecosystems, high potential arable lands, grasslands and forest areas have been converted to urban centers and industrial sites with undesirable environmental and social consequences.
Informed by the conclusions and recommendations of studies, the Government of Ethiopia gave the green light for formulating a national land use policy and for preparing a national integrated land use plan. USAID provided technical and financial assistance to develop a land use policy and prepare a road map on the preparation and implementation of a national integrated land use plan. This plan will have multifaceted benefits. It will facilitate coordination of allocation of land to avoid or minimize sectoral competition and conflict on land use and create a system that regulates land use in the country. It will align national, sectoral and regional demand for land and thereby protect biodiversity and environmental hot spots. The Ethiopian Government plans to make the national land use plan an integral part of the country’s Third Growth and Transformation plan to be implemented in 2020-2024.
This paper provides historical background on the country’s land use planning efforts in the past, highlights recent findings of studies on the importance of land use policy and planning, shows the Government of Ethiopia’s commitment in initiating a national integrated land use planning program, assesses progress being made and examines the way forward.
Key Words: Land use policy, land use planning, conservation of natural resources, safeguarding the environment