Most of the economies of developing countries are heavily dependent on biodiversity resources. This is evidenced by the facts that agriculture produces the lion's share of GDP (greater than 30 percent) in most African countries and more than 60 percent of the employment for the rural population. The importance of biodiversity for socio-economic development is even more critical in the Ethiopian context. For instance, about 85 percent of the rural population of Ethiopia depends directly on agriculture, which again contributes 85 percent of exports mainly generated from coffee, skin, and hides. It is also reported that 45 percent of the country's GDP is contributed by the agricultural sector. The overwhelming majority of the rural population of Ethiopia, about 80 percent, depends on herbal medicine. The noneconomic aspects of biodiversity use, such as global climate regulation, hydrological regime, oxygen production, and so on, are vital components of biodiversity. However, these resources are being lost at an unprecedented level and would put the life-support systems of these nations at stake.
Despite their multiple ecological functions and immense uses for socioeconomic development, the country's biodiversity resources are being destroyed in critical proportions. The large-scale destruction of the forest resources is clear evidence. Nearly 40 percent of the country's total area was covered with forests at the beginning of the twentieth century. This was reduced to 16 percent in the 1950s and to roughly 3 percent in the 1990s.