Majang zone of Gambella Peoples National Regional State and Sheka zone of Southern Nations Nationalities and Peoples Region (SNNPR) are two areas in Southwest Ethiopia endowed with abundant biodiversity and rich in captivating cultural diversity of the indigenous communities. The two zones border with each other. These zones are custodians of the few remaining afromontane wet natural forest in Ethiopia.
MELCA-Ethiopia has been working with the local government and community of Sheka for about ten years now and with the local government and community of Majang zone since January 2014.
Major objective of MELCA’s intervention in these areas is ensuring sustainable development for the local communities through conservation of the local bio-cultural diversity.
One of the approaches MELCA is using toward realization of its set objective in these project areas is intergenerational learning (SEGNI program), which is meant to empower the youth and create a young generation well aware of the cultural values and biodiversity of their communities as well as the interconnection between these two key subjects and play active role in conservation of bio-cultural resources of their communities.
One of the manifestations of SEGNI program is a Cultural-biodiversity (CB) celebration whereby SEGNI club member students showcase the various activities related to conservation of the culture and biodiversity of their communities they have been performing in their respective schools.
The third Majang zone CB celebration has been celebrated colorfully in Meti town of Majang zone on the 18th of December 2016.
The celebration was organized in the compound of Akashi primary school in Meti town.
The compound of Akashi primary school, where the celebration was organized, started to be alive and busy starting from as early as 7:00 am. More than 300 SEGNI club members of participant schools from both Godere and Mengeshi woredas of Majang zone started to flow in to the compound early in the morning. Community members interested in attending the celebration followed them and the school compound looked full of people just before 9:00 am. Finally invited guests, including government officials from regional, zonal and woreda levels and NGO representatives took their places and the celebration started to unfold.
The celebration was officially opened by an opening speech of Ato Paul Jack, Director of Gambella Peoples National Regional State Mass Media Agency. In his opening speech Ato Paul stated that Ethiopia is home to multi ethnic people with diverse cultural values. Young people should understand that the country is rich in both cultural and biological diversity and these are the main factors on which the development of the nations is based. These cultural values of the different local communities and related biodiversity should be conserved and transferred to the next generation. This needs a concerted effort of all government and non-government organs. As a local non-government actor working on conservation of culture and biodiversity, MELCA-Ethiopia is doing great work to shape the youth and children in school to have a deep understanding of their culture and environment. As these are the people who determine the future of the country, it is crucial that we equip them with insights needed to bring sustainable development for the people of the nation. So we need to give this celebration organized by youth in schools supported by MELCA a special attention.
As MELCA is a non-government organ with limited capacity to reach all places, government and other non-government organs should render support in expanding such an exciting program and the annual celebration.”
He further stated, “…this celebration is special in that we are about to get our forest registered, by UNESCO, as a biosphere reserve. The celebration is an event on which the youth show and share what they have learned about their culture and biodiversity as well as their commitment to play an active role in conservation of bio-cultural diversity of their community. The forest is an invaluable resource we received from our fathers. We also have to conserve and transfer it to the next generation. So a lot is expected from the youth who are the main actors in this celebration.
I would like to congratulate MELCA for the great work it is doing in Majang zone and that the regional state of Gambella is ready to support the organization in all the endeavors it is making to conserve the Majang forest and related cultural values of the community.”
The CB celebration organized in school compound has been full of festivities. Youth and teachers from the various primary and secondary schools in Majang zone presented different performances they have been preparing in their respective schools. The performances by the students include traditional songs, dances, dramas, poems and traditional dressing styles of the different nations and nationalities in Ethiopia. Exhibition of cultural artifacts, traditional dresses cultural foods, specimen of medicinal plants, traditional agricultural tools, musical instruments, household utensils, local seed varieties as well as eco-cultural calendars they prepared together with elders in their communities.
On the occasion, MELCA-Ethiopia has also awarded mini-media materials for 8 schools selected from the zone to build capacity of the schools, to educate the school community and support SEGNI activities.
More than a thousand people, including invited guests from government offices at regional, zonal and woreda levels, about 326 SEGNI club member students and teachers as well as communities of Meti town and its surrounding attended the celebration.
In a similar manner, the 6th Cultural Biodiversity (CB) celebration of Sheka zone was organized on the 17th of December 2016 in Masha town.
The CB celebration of Sheka zone was also full of festivities and exciting cultural performances. Speeches by invited guest of honors from government sectors at zonal level preceded the various performances by the students.
The first is a keynote speech by Ato Azene Adasho, head of Sheka zone Education Department. In his keynote speech, Ato Azene said, “Education is the key to creating citizens who can solve different social, economic and political problems and realize sustainable development. Education about the cultural and natural resources of our communities and how to utilize the natural resources in a sustainable manner is the pillar to the sustainable development we anticipate. Hence equipping young people, who are the leaders and professionals of tomorrow, with these kinds of knowledge is crucial. We need to have young generation who well understand the value of conserving our cultural and biological resources and integrate local traditional ecological knowledge with the scientific knowledge they learn to solve social and economic problems.
We need young people who appreciate nature, art and cultural values along with development of science and technology. Extra curricular education programs play vital role in this regard as all are not covered through the formal curriculum.
MELCA’s SEGNI program is one of the extra-curricular education programs that focus on educating the youth about conservation of cultural values of communities that have sustainable connection with conservation of nature. SEGNI club is one of the vibrant clubs in schools. It has managed to create young people who are actively engaged in various activities related to conservation of culture and nature. Members of the club perform these activities in their clubs during their stay in school and present some of these activities on this annual event to share their experiences with the wider community. This is a great work to empower the youth and create responsible citizens of the future.
MELCA has also contributed in preparation of books in the local language to widen the understanding of youth about their environment, language and history. And above all MELCA has been the leader in facilitation of adoption of Sheka forest by UNESCO as Biosphere reserve. Hence MELCA is doing immense things in our zone to bring a holistic development.”
Finally Ato Azene stated “Hence I would like to express my sincere appreciation to MELCA on behalf of Sheka zone education department and would like to take this opportunity to say that my department is always ready to render any support needed from its part to strengthen and expand what MELCA is doing in our zone”
The forgoing was followed by an opening speech by Ato Nigatu Mulatu, Head of Sheka zone Administration office and representative of the Administrator. In his opening speech Ato Nigatu welcomed invited guests and participants to the event and said, “Our country, and especially our region is inhabited by people from different ethnic groups having diverse cultural and traditional values and norms. This diversity is both a beauty of our nations and at the same time strength of the unity among them.
Making young people understand the beauty in the diversity and appreciate that as well as understand the connection between culture and nature is critical. That is because the youth should understand the connection between culture and nature and the value of conserving both so that they actively engage in realizing the Climate Resilient Green Economy (CRGE) policy our country is promoting.
In this regard, the engagement of MELCA in educating the students in schools about culture and nature through its extra-curricular education arrangement is much appreciable.
We as government organs are also keen to support MELCA in its endeavors to educate the youth and improve the life and livelihoods of our communities.”
Finally the stage was announced open for the students from different primary and secondary schools in Sheka zone to show up their performances. The performances presented by the students include dramas, traditional songs and dances, poems, different cultural shows as well as exhibition of traditional artifacts, dresses, household utensils, local seed varieties and specimen of traditional medicinal plants.
About 700 people, including SEGNI club member students and teachers who organized the event, invited guests from government offices at zonal and woreda levels as well as communities of Masha town and its surrounding attended the celebration.