SEGNI in Oromiffa, one of the widely spoken languages in Ethiopia, means “seed”. Seed, for the agrarian rural community is a traditionally well-respected thing as it signifies continuity of generation. The acronym SEGNI, on the other hand is a program designed by MELCA to revitalize the transfer of traditional ecological knowledge and culture to the youth in schools.
The overall objective of MELCA’s SEGNI program is to create a means for linking the youth in schools with culture, nature and self by way of intergenerational learning with the intention of creating, in the youth, a sense of responsibility for the conservation of their cultural and ecological resources.
To this effect, the program is designed in such a way that the youth, selected from schools around project sites, would, together with selected elders, be taken to wilderness “on trail”. They would stay in the forest for a period of five days, to experience nature and culture as well as related environment and natural resource conservation mechanisms from elders to connect with themselves. During the course of the program, participants will also be involved in a process called “ discovering your cultural biodiversity”. The daytime is assigned for exploring their biodiversity and the nighttime is for culture. These explorations are undertaken through processes known as trekking and tracking for exploration of biodiversity during the day and story telling and night watch for exploration of culture during the night. Trekking is a movement through the forest to learn about the flora and fauna while tracking is a time for evaluating the learning process. During the night elders tell traditional stories to the children and then after they go out for a night watch to have time to look in to oneself and the connection between self and nature.
It is believed that this process would create an environment whereby the youth learn from their communities (elders) about their traditional biocultural knowledge and practices. In order to keep the experiences so gained sustainable, students would form SEGNI clubs in their respective schools. In these clubs, members create means and ways of disseminating the experiences they learned to the wider community in and out of school. They would also become activists for the conservation of their bio-cultural resources and be involved in advocacy activities for environmental protection.
Members of SEGNI clubs undertake such roles of stewardship and become an “eco-advocates” advocacy by way of exploring their cultural heritages and collecting various traditional artifacts as well as traditional seeds and keeping them in a traditional learning center they construct. They also organize and celebrate special celebration days such as biocultural diversity day, elders’ day, on which they present variety shows about and biocultural diversity to the wider community.
As part of their commitment toward environmental protection and rehabilitation SEGNI club members would also be involved in nursery site development and planting of indigenous trees.
Generic Characteristics of SEGNI
Camping: SEGNI camps are situated in the heart of the protected areas. Campsites are constructed to have the least possible impact on the environment. The participants are also encouraged to leave no mark (waste) at the campsites. At the end of camping, reports have to be compiled on problems, observations and lessons learnt for record and documentation.
Trekking: The SEGNI Elders lead interpretive hikes into isolated areas of the park. Ethiopian cultural values, and traditional plant uses, identification, use/value of plants and wildlife resources are interwoven into each hike. The importance of local crops and traditional foods in providing for basic nutritional needs will also be included in the trekking
Tracking: Solitary time is spent after the walks to encourage deeper reflection and individual connection between the participants and the natural environment. The end of the day, participants will take their mind back to the beginning of the day and recall their experience through out the day.
Story telling: The African method of sharing knowledge through the age-old art of storytelling around the night fire is practiced. Communication is always in the local language, with interpretation provided as needed.
Night Watch: Each participant has the responsibility of looking after the safety of his or her peers during an hour-long lone fire watch rotated throughout the night. This also gives opportunity for the participants to be aware of the night and develop their sense of hearing.
Additional exercises: In addition to the above practices, a whole variety of exercise will be designed to get the participants look into their life and develop their personal and group mission. They will also get trained in the tree nursery and compositing sites of the park to learn how to do compositing, raise tree seedlings, harvest water and produce vegetables.