Reintegrating Migrants While Rehabilitating the Environment

Addis Ababa – Competition for scarce living space is a driving force in global migration, especially within Africa.  

For migrants who opt to return to their countries of origin, coming home to confront the same land pressures that contributed to their initial migration can be quite disheartening. 

Climate change and environmental degradation can result in serious, economic challenges for populations that are highly dependent on rain-fed agriculture. Migration can be an effective adaptation strategy but can also place people in situations of grave vulnerability if not managed in a safe and regular way. 

A degraded environment is just one issue returning migrants often must contend with, especially in countries with acute land demands, like Ethiopia. The adverse impacts of climate change in Ethiopia, particularly droughts and floods, displaced almost 300,000 people in 2018, according to research conducted by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre.  

A new intervention, known as “Integrated Sustainable Reintegration Assistance Project for Ethiopian Migrant Returnees in Amhara Region,” is designed to address this reality, by seeking change through a community-based approach. 

The project was launched last week in Kombolcha town, in Ethiopia’s Amhara region, under the EU-IOM Joint Initiative for Migrant Protection and Reintegration. 

IOM will implement the initiative in partnership with the Ethiopian Evangelical Church. The  Mekane Yesus Development and Social Service Commission (EECMY DASSC) falls within the purview of the North Central Ethiopia Synod Branch Office, an NGO that has strong grassroots networks, having worked with local communities in these regions for the last three decades. 

The intervention aims to create an enabling environment that ensures sustainable reintegration for vulnerable Amhara returnees. It plans to promote sustainable economic, social and psychological reintegration through increased livelihoods and employment opportunities. Referral systems and counselling services are being designed to improve social cohesion between returnees and their communities of origin. 

At the same time, a different arm of the community project is due to be implemented to help reduce land degradation in selected watershed areas in two kebeles (wards) of Habru Woreda (district), North Wollo Amhara region. Fruit tree cultivation will play a key role for identified community members and returnees.  

Community members, along with returnees, will develop 70 hectares of water sheds whereby suitable soil conservation structures will be constructed to harvest rain water and trap silt sediments. That, in turn, will improve soil fertility and promote the productivity of trees and grasses that can help restore lost vegetation cover in these arid spots. 

Fruit tree cultivation also will generate income. The sale of seedlings from the established nursery as well as the fruit itself may begin in about four years. In addition, over 240 community members will participate in “community conversations” that will discuss land degradation.  

Dejene Bayu from the office of the Amhara Regional Government Bureau of Finance and Economic Cooperation (BOFEC), welcomed the projects, saying: “We have seen and reviewed the project documents; we support (it) and will continue to do so. The projects are very important as they touch on the core challenges that affect this region.” 

Addisu Alamirew, the director of the implementing partner EECMDSS, explained: “This new community-based project will not only address environmental and economic challenges faced by local people, but it will also extend to other societal issues affecting this region including climate change awareness, migration, gender and public health, through the community focus group activities.” 

“The community-based approach to programming through community focus groups ensures that the project does not only benefit returnees but also influence those who may be considering irregular migration, as they will be engaged in conversations about safe, regular and orderly migration during the focus group meetings,” added Endashaw Kassa, EECMY DASSC programme officer on the project. 

The EU-IOM Joint Initiative in the Horn of Africa is a EUR 43 million programme funded by the EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa and currently in its third year of implementation. It aims at facilitating safe, regular and responsible migration management through the development of rights-based and development-focused procedures and processes, focusing on migrant protection and sustainable reintegration. It is active in 26 African countries. 

For more information please contact Helina Mengistu on: hmengistu@iom.int and Lisa Lim Ah Ken on: llimahken@iom.int 

Community leaders and returnees following proceedings during the official launch.
Community leaders showing the level of degradation caused by seasonal flooding