Located, in the Horn of Africa, in the eastern-most part of the African landmass, Ethiopia lies between 3 and 15 degrees north latitude and 33 and 48 degrees east longitude. It has been landlocked since the independence of the former province of Eritrea in 1993.
Ethiopia is bordered by five countries: on the north and northeast by Eritrea, on the east by Djibouti and Somalia, on the south by Kenya, and on the west and southwest by Sudan. Its size and its location has accorded it with diverse topography, geographic and climatic zones and resources.
Within Ethiopia is a massive highland complex of mountains and dissected plateaus divided by the Great Rift Valley, which runs generally southwest to northeast and is surrounded by lowlands, steppes, or semi-desert. The great diversity of terrain determines wide variations in climate, soils, natural vegetation, and settlement patterns. Most of the country, covering 40% of the land area, is categorised as highland and lies over 1,500m (5,000ft) ASL. The Great East African Rift Valley divides the highland into two - the western and northern highlands and the south-eastern highlands.
The topography of Ethiopia ranges from several very high mountain ranges (the Semien Mountains and the Bale Mountains ), to one of the lowest areas of land in Africa. The country has a high central plateau varying in elevation between 1,800 and 3,000 meters (6,000 ft.-10,000 ft.) ASL. Elevation is generally highest just before the point of descent to the Great Rift Valley, which splits the plateau diagonally. Ras Dashen, the fourth highest mountain in Africa, is Ethiopia's highest elevation at 4,620 meters (15,158 ft.) ASL and the lowest point, is the Danakil Depression at 110m (361ft) BSL.
A number of rivers cross the plateau, notably the Blue Nile (known locally as the Abbay River) flowing from Lake T'ana. The plateau gradually slopes to the lowlands of Sudan on the west and the Somali plains to the southeast.
Ethiopia is an ecologically diverse country, ranging from the deserts along the eastern border to the tropical forests in the south to extensive Afromontane in the northern and southeastern parts. Lake Tana in the north is the source of the Blue Nile. It also has a large number of endemic species , notably the Gelada Baboon, the Walia Ibex and the Ethiopian wolf (or Simien fox ). The wide range of altitude has given the country a variety of ecologically distinct areas, this has helped to encourage the evolution of endemic species in ecological isolation.
Deforestation is a major concern for Ethiopia as studies suggest loss of forest contributes to soil erosion, loss of nutrients in the soil, loss of animal habitats and reduction in biodiversity. Ethiopia loses an estimated 1,410 km² of natural forests each year. Between 1990 and 2005 the country lost approximately 21,000 km².
At the beginning of the Twentieth century around 420000 km² or 35% of Ethiopia's land was covered by trees but recent research indicates that forest cover is now approximately 11.9% of the area. Ethiopia is one of the seven fundamental and independent centres of origin of cultivated plants of the world.
Current government programs to control deforestation consist of education, promoting reforestation programs and providing alternate raw material to timber. In rural areas the government also provides non-timber fuel sources and access to non-forested land to promote agriculture without destroying forest habitat.
NGOs are working with the federal government and local governments to create a system of forest management. Working with a grant from the EU, the Ethiopian government has begun training people on reducing erosion and using proper irrigation techniques that do not contribute to deforestation. This project is assisting more than 80 communities.