As the end of the year 2014 approached, all MELCA staff has been busy doing this and that to complete the actions planned for the year. One of the major actions to be completed before end of the year has been coordinating events of bio-cultural diversity celebration.
These are events on which SEGNI club member students at all the project areas showcase the various activities they have been doing in relation to conservation of culture and biodiversity throughout the year in their respective schools.
Accordingly, two big events have been organized in Holeta town of Suba-Sebeta project area and Tepi town of Sheka project area on the 20th and 27th of December 2014 respectively.
The Cultural Biodiversity (CB) celebration organized in Tepi town of Sheka zone, on the 27th of December 2014, is a fascinating event on which youth and teachers of SEGNI clubs from Bale, Suba-sebeta and Majang project areas have participated. The celebration at Tepi is also unique in that it is the first CB celebration to be held in a Biosphere Reserve -The Sheka Forest Biosphere Reserve adopted by UNESCO as such in 2012.
This celebration has been very colorful, and exciting, as it was a CB celebration that accommodated people from diverse areas and different culture and life styles. The cultures of Oromos in Bale and Showa as well as Shekachos, Shekos and Majangs in Southwestern Ethiopia have been displayed on the occasion through cultural cloths, songs, dances, foods and artifacts. The celebration has also been the best experience exchange forum as the youth and teachers from Bale and Suba-Sebeta have wide experiences in SEGNI as compared to the ones from Sheka and Majang, Where SEGNI experience is relatively young.
Ato Desta Dareto, who made an opening speech representing Sheka zone administration office said, “Our country Ethiopia as well as our area is known by its diverse nations, nationalities and peoples. Each nation has its own culture, language and lifestyle, which shows its identity. Especially, the area where we are conducting this bio-cultural diversity is rich in both cultural and biological diversity. It is interesting to celebrate bio-cultural diversity in such context. We know that MELCA is doing different activities in our area with the aim of conserving the forest and culture of the communities. One of such activities is Yero (SEGNI), which is designed to educate the youth in schools about their culture and biodiversity.
I want to appreciate what MELCA-Ethiopia is doing to help these nations and nationalities keep their culture, identity and strong traditional knowledge. We have to also appreciate MELCA for the different activities it is doing in order to improve the livelihood of society and minimize the pressure on the forest. I want to also congratulate the youth and teachers for what they are doing in the schools to ensure the sustainability of culture and nature through Yero club (SEGNI).”
The other invited guest to the event, Majang zone vice administrator, Mr. Tomas Yemalo, stated, in the speech he made on the occasion, “I want to appreciate what MELCA-Ethiopia is doing in schools especially in Majang and Sheka zone. SEGNI program is playing great role in educating and shaping the generation regarding their culture and environment. As MELCA-Ethiopia defines seed, seed is the sign of continuation of generation. There is no future generation without seed. So the youth has to learn about the value of conserving their seed and related knowledge. I would like to say thank you to MELCA-Ethiopia and as a representative of the government would like to express our commitment to support what the organization is doing in our zone.”
Speaking on the occasion MELCA-Ethiopia director, DR. Million Belay stressed the fact that MELCA’s SEGNI program and the CB celebrations are approaches that the organization uses to educate the youth about their culture and environment. He explained that the youth should be well aware of the interconnection between culture and nature and the value of protecting one for the other. He further stated, “The young generations should know about their indigenous variety seeds and plants. As you have seen here, students from different areas are promoting their culture by wearing their cultural clothes, dancing, displaying their local variety seeds and traditional medicinal plants. If the culture of the community is degraded, the knowledge and norm of protecting their environment will also diminish. That’s why we are celebrating cultural biodiversity. The other purpose of this celebration is to facilitate experience exchange between students who come from our four project areas with different cultural backgrounds. It also helps the government officials and community members attending the event remind them about their culture and identity and the importance of conserving their culture and nature. In addition to that; preparing this kind of celebration helps to strengthen the interrelationship between culture and nature.”
The CB celebration organized in Tepi has been full of festivities with youth and teachers from the various cultural backgrounds celebrating their culture and nature. The youth presented various traditional songs, dances, dramas and poems in their respective traditional dresses. They have also displayed traditional artifacts, traditional agricultural and musical instruments, household utensils as well as specimen of local seed varieties and medicinal plants that they have been collecting and documenting in their respective schools through their SEGNI clubs.
On this occasion, MELCA-Ethiopia has also awarded money and mini-media materials for 10 schools selected from Sheka zone to build capacity of the schools and support SEGNI activities in the schools.
The celebration was attended by more than 4000 people, government officials from Sheka and Majang zone, youth and community members in and around Tepi town.
The 2nd Farmers’ Seed Variety and Bio-cultural Diversity Celebration has been organized by Suba-Sebeta project, on December 20, 2014 at Holeta Holeta stadium.
On this occasion, farmers from Telecho area of Welmera woreda have participated, for the second time, by presenting an exhibition of farmers’ seed varieties and traditional foods to participants of the celebration. Men and women farmers showed and explained what they are doing to conserve their local seed varieties as a community and why they are doing it. As an example, the farmers explained on the occasion that originally they had more than 30 varieties of barley but left with only a few of them some five years back. Yet, through the effort they made to regain their lost varieties now they came with 27 of them. They achieved this result after schools and the community together scouted their land to look for their original seeds.
Women farmers brought their traditional foods made of their local crop varieties to show how their seeds are connected to their culture and life.
SEGNI club students from about thirty schools in Welmera and Sebeta Hawas woredas of the project area have also exhibited various culture and biodiversity related things they have been collecting and documenting in their respective schools. These include traditional artifacts, cloths, household utensils, musical instruments and farm tools. They showed how these traditional materials are connected to their environment and biodiversity. The youth have also displayed farmers’ seed varieties and medicinal plants in their areas.
Debela Abebe, is a SEGNI club member from Suba-Sebeta project area. He expressed his views about SEGNI club saying, “I never thought of the interconnection between culture and biodiversity. Before joining the SEGNI club in our school, I even used to think of our culture as backward. Conservation of biodiversity had no place in my life. All I used to think of was how to get some money to spend the days enjoying with my friends. We thought the best places to enjoy are bars and kiosks where alcohols and “chat” are sold.
Then one day, I joined a group going to Menagesha Suba Forest for SEGNI wilderness experience. That wilderness experience happened to be a turning point in my life. I learned about the significance of culture and biodiversity in our life and what role each of us can play to make our environment a good place to live in. I learned how knowledgeable our elders are regarding culture and biodiversity. I was also made to think of my own life and behavior and how I may live a meaningful life being part of my own community. More over, I learned the interconnection between culture and biodiversity and was inspired by that.
Then I started to be an active member of the SEGNI club in my school. Thanks to MELCA, my life and behavior has been completely changed afterwards”
The students have also presented traditional songs and dances, dramas and poems to more than 3000 people that have attended the celebration, including invited guests, students and teachers from the various schools, farmers and Holeta town and its surrounding communities.