“The Majang forest consists of unique areas that are ecologically fragile and functionally important for life like; wetlands, lakes, rivers, forests and other natural landscapes which all needs special care to properly sustain the ecosystem function and conserve bio diversity of the area and its sustainable use.” Dr. Engineer Getahun Mekuriya, Minister of the FDRE Ministry of Science and Technology
Registration by UNESCO of the Majang forest in Gambella People’s National Regional State as a member of the International Network of Biosphere Reserves has been celebrated on the 28th of December 2017 at Meti Town in Majang zone. UNESCO has registered Majang forest as a biosphere reserve on its 29th general assembly held in June 2017 in Paris.
Inauguration of the registration of Majang forest as Biosphere Reserve has been celebrated spectacularly in the presence of higher federal and regional government officials including the Minister and state minister of the FDRE Ministry of science and technology, the Minister of FDRE Office of Government Communication Affairs, the State Minister of FDRE Ministry of Culture and Tourism, the president and vice president of Gambella Peoples’ National Regional State and other cabinet members, the management and staff of MELCA and representatives of other non-government partners.
In a keynote speech he made on the event, the Minister of FDRE Ministry of Science and Technology, Dr. Eng. Getahun Mekuriya stated that registration of the Majang forest by UNESCO as a biosphere reserve is a manifestation of Ethiopia’s commitment to conserve its natural resources so as to mitigate the harsh effects of the global climate change. He said, “This event is a special time that would reinforce our commitment to contribute our part, as a nation, to change the unhealthy relationship between humans in the ‘modern’ era and nature that is pushing the life supporting systems to the edges. The best place to learn a lesson about a life in harmony with nature and sustainable development is where traditional communities like the Majang people live. This time in human civilization is a critical time when we should capitalize on mitigating the effects of climate change through the integrated application of modern scientific knowledge along traditional ecological knowledge of our communities to solve our problems.”
The minister also explained that the main objective of the biosphere reserve is to realize sustainable development in the area through conservation of critical ecosystems that play a pivotal role in supporting the economy as well as the cultural values of the community. After expressing his pleasure for being part of the phenomenal event of the inauguration of Majang forest biosphere reserve, Dr. Eng. Getahun extended his sincere appreciation and thanks for those who played the key role in the process of getting the forest registered as biosphere reserve including the Gambella Peoples’ National Regional State administrations at the various levels, the communities of Majang, MELCA-Ethiopia and the donor SIDA.
Dr. Gatluak Tut, President of the Gambella Peoples’ National Regional State, was the other higher government official who spoke on the event. In his speech, the president emphasized on the fact that as a country, Ethiopia has lost a huge forest resource in the past four decades and the impacts of the loss are being strongly felt in the economic and social development endeavors. The president also stated that the government has committed itself to realize a climate resilient green economy with the aim of ensuring sustainable development that is based on rehabilitation and conservation of the country’s natural resources. In relation to this, Dr. Gatluak mentioned that the government has designed a huge ecosystem rehabilitation and water shade management plan and implementing the plan for the past more than ten years. Parallel to this, the government is also committed to conserve the few remaining natural forests in the country and registration of Majang forest by UNESCO as biosphere reserve can be considered a manifestation of such commitment.
In addition, the president also explained that the Majang forest is registered by UNESCO to be part of the world’s network of biosphere reserves not only because it is a natural forest but also because it is a unique place where nature and culture are seen interwoven and so has a unique feature of bio-cultural diversity. Finally the president expressed his sincere appreciation for Majang people who managed to conserve such a beautiful forest through their cultural values and traditional practices of conservation and urged them to maintain their culture and traditional practices. He also thanked the FDRE Ministry of Science and Technology, MELCA-Ethiopia and SIDA for their valuable contributions to get the forest registered as Biosphere reserve and finally called up on Majang people and the zonal administration to strengthen their commitment to conserve the forest more than ever.
The director of MELCA, Ato Solomon Kebede, has also made a keynote speech on the event of the inauguration of Majang Forest Biosphere Reserve. In his keynote speech, Ato Solomon explained that in addition to its major features that include moist evergreen afromontane forest vegetation, transitional rainforest vegetation and plant and animal biodiversity with considerable endemism, Majang forest is the source of rivers such as Baro, Gilo and Akobo, which have national and international importance. As such, having an arrangement that ensures sustainable conservation of this important resource is a timely question that needs to be addressed. According to Ato Solomon, even though the Majang people have managed to conserve the forest through their culture and traditional practices of conservation, now it is time to give due recognition to the culture and traditional practices of the people and supplement these with a formal arrangement supported by law.
Ato Solomon further explained that the purpose of getting Majang forest registered as biosphere reserve is to preserve one of the most unique natural and cultural landscapes of Ethiopia and to point out and implement new, environmentally friendly ways of development road maps for the local communities. These new ways are ones that will be aligned with conservation, sustainable development and logistic support as per the biosphere reserve functions set by UNESCO.
Ato Solomon also emphasized on the fact that registration of the forest as biosphere reserve is not an end in itself, rather it is the beginning of short, medium and long term plans to be included in the biosphere reserve management plan that is supposed to serve as the plan of government administrations at zonal and woreda levels. As such, it marks the beginning of the alignment of development plans of the Majang zone by government structures at all levels with the biosphere reserve management plan. Finally, Ato Solomon stated that registration of Majang forest, as a biosphere reserve is a result of the concerted efforts of Majang zone administration, Gambella peoples’ National Regional State, FDRE Ministry of Science and Technology and MELCA-Ethiopia and extended his thanks to all those who collaborated in the process.
More than 3000 people including higher government officials at federal, regional and zonal levels, representatives of relevant government sectoral offices at federal and regional levels, NGO and donor representatives as well as the communities of Godere and Mengeshi woredas in Majang zone have attended the inaugural ceremony.