Two dialogue workshops were organized at both regional and zonal levels to discuss on the implementation of the MFBR Management plan, which was endorsed by the zonal cabinet on 30 June 2018 and the MFBR that was issued by the regional cabinet in November 2017.
While the dialogue workshops organized on implementation of the MFBR Management Plan were organized on o3 and 08 August 2018 at regional and zonal levels in Gambella and Meti towns respectively, the workshops on the challenges facing implementation of the MFBR regulation were organized on 04 and 09 August 2018 at regional and zonal levels in Gambella and Meti towns respectively.
The workshops organized at regional level were opened with an opening speech by Ato Ukuy Buya, Vice President of Gambella Peoples National Regional State and Head of GPRDM Central Committee Office. In his opening speech, Ato Ukuy explained that conservation of forests and other natural resources is getting more and more attention in Ethiopia, as it is the basis for sustainable development and our survival as people in the future. He also mentioned that conservation of natural resources is getting more and more attention at both national and regional levels because the threats depleting the resources are increasing from time to time.
In this regard Ato Ukuy mentioned Majang forest as a good example. He stated that a few decades back, Majang forest was free of the threats that we see today and as a result the total forest cover of Majang zone, which was 86.15% toward end of 1980s has declined to 54.6% by 2013. Mentioning expansion of coffee plantation, agricultural lands, illegal settlements, increased demand for timber and fuel wood as well as allocation of forestlands for agricultural investments without proper EIA as the major threats that have resulted in such drastic reduction of the forest cover in the zone within a few years, he also stated that there is a concern these threats are still persisting despite adoption of the forest as Biosphere reserve.
Ato Ukuy further mentioned that although getting the forest registered as Biosphere reserve shows the commitment of the community and local government administration in Majang to conserve the forest sustainably and it can be mentioned as a success, it cannot be an end by itself. He said, sustainable conservation of the forest requires the commitment and contribution of all stakeholders at all levels, including those at regional and national levels. As such, all stakeholders at the various levels are expected to contribute toward effective enforcement of relevant laws, including the regulation, for sustainable conservation of Majang forest.
The objective of the workshop on implementation of the management plan is to familiarize five-year management plan of Majang Forest Biosphere reserve, which will enable all stakeholders at regional level to provide all necessary support (technical and financial) for the success of the plan and those at zonal and woreda levels to implement it effectively.
During the workshop, implementation of the activities indicated on the management plan is clustered to sectors to clearly show the areas of their responsibility and discussed thoroughly.
The objective of the second workshop organized on the challenges facing enforcement of the MFBR regulation is to refresh the awareness of the government officials on national environmental laws, in general and the Majang Biosphere Reserve Regulation, in particular and open a discussion forum on the implementation of these laws with a particular focus on Majang Biosphere Reserve so as to minimize threats on the biosphere reserve through better enforcement of the laws thereby creating conditions for sustainable conservation of the biosphere reserve.
On these workshops organized both at regional and zonal levels, major threats facing conservation of especially core areas of the MFBR were cited with concrete evidences from the ground and discussed in light of the regulation and other relevant national laws.
Major threats to the forest raised and discussed as needing urgent measure were:
- Wild fire resulting from traditional ways of collecting honey in the forest
- Illegal expansion of coffee plantation in the core zones
- Allocation of forestlands for large scale agricultural investments
- Expansion of home and office furniture industries that resulted in illegal logging
- Illegal migration and expansion of settlements in forest areas
- Illegal transfer of land use rights
While the workshop organized at regional level was concluded by reaching a consensus to monitor status of the forest regularly through the relevant line departments the workshop at zonal level was concluded by reaching a consensus to organize a zonal level meeting of all concerned stakeholders and sectors to hold a thorough discussion on the threats to the forest, enforcement of relevant laws and shaping the way forward.