“…this event is being conducted in a compound of a secondary school in a small town. Nonetheless, for me, it is more important than any other gathering held in halls with armchairs in big cities. That is so because it is about being committed for conservation of nature and protection of the environment, which is vital for both the current and future generation.”
No one can deny the fact that Bale is among parts of Ethiopia in the forefront when we talk of places endowed with immense natural resources and cultural heritages. It is a place where one can enjoy diverse ecosystem ranging from hot low lands covered with dry land trees and then mid land dense natural forest to the highest peak which is the coldest and where you can find only small tropical kinds of shrubs. The beautiful Bale Mountains, which are home for numerous flora and fauna, including the endemic Mountain Nyala and Ethiopian Wolf, are also the sources of water for the different big rivers that start from right at the foots of the mountains and flow hundreds and thousands of kilometers down stream sustaining life all throughout their way.
MELCA-Ethiopia started its Cultural Biodiversity focused projects in Bale back in 2006. Since then MELCA is engaged in undertaking various projects and programs aimed at conservation of the culture and biodiversity of the communities in Bale.
MELCA’s SEGNI program, which was also born in Bale, is among these projects/programs; and in fact it is the core of all other MELCA’s programs in the area. In SEGNI, the youth/students learn about nature and culture as one of their extra-curricular activities and start to play the leading role in awareness creation and development regarding the value of culture and nature and the interconnectedness between these two elements. They start to cherish their nature and culture through SEGNI.
Some four years back, other aspects, such as the issue of health and population, which are related to the issue of environment in one or the other way, were also added as components of the extra-curricular activity in the schools. So, in addition to the movement for conservation of nature and culture, the youth are also engaged in raising the awareness of the community on integration of Population Health and Environment (PHE) issues.
A fundamental aspect of the SEGNI program and youth’s engagement in movement for conservation of nature and culture is the regular Cultural Biodiversity (CB) celebrations they organize at school, cluster or zonal level to honor nature and culture together with their community. The celebrations are basically a case show on which the students display the various nature and culture related performances they have done as part of their extracurricular activities. It is a moment they use to convey their messages to the community to keep the commitment flaming.
Five zonal level annual CB and Mountain Nyala days have been celebrated in Bale until 2012, and the 6th Bio-Cultural Diversity, Mountain Nyala and PHE Integration day was celebrated on the 25th of May 2013 at Dinsho, Bale. As usual, the celebration constituted, among others, various interesting shows staged by SEGNI+PHE club schools in Bale zone.
Director of the Ethiopian Wildlife Conservation and Development Authority (EWCDA), Ato Ewnetu Blata, who was the guest of honor on the celebration of the 6th Bio-Cultural Diversity, Mountain Nyala and PHE Integration day in Dinsho, said, in the speech he made on the occasion, that “…this event is being conducted in a compound of a secondary school in a small town. Nonetheless, for me, it is more important than any other gathering held in halls with armchairs in big cities. That is so because it is about being committed for conservation of nature and protection of the environment, which is vital for both the current and future generation.”
Ato Ewnetu also mentioned, in his speech, the fact that Bale is endowed with immense natural resources on which the life of not only the communities in Bale but also thousands of people living outside of the area depend. He said, “The Bale Mountains are the source of water for several big rivers that flow in and even out of Ethiopia and are the basis for the life of vast people living along the streams. So, the community of Bale has the responsibility of conserving the natural ecosystem of these mountains, which have local, regional, and national as well as international significance. That is why this gathering is so important. It is about conservation of an ecosystem, which has a far-reaching effect both in terms of space and time.”
He finally congratulated the students, teachers and school communities in Bale for taking the responsibility of amplifying such an important issue for the common good. He also commended the government administrative organs the community of Bale and MELCA for the commitment they are showing for conservation of the natural ecosystem and resources.
Ato Kedir Wado, Head of Oromo People Democratic Organization (OPDO) of Bale zone on his part said, “The Ethiopian government has incorporated environmental issues in its Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP) of which the main focus is rehabilitation of degraded lands and integrated watershed management. The projects that MELCA is undertaking in Bale zone, both in the rehabilitation scheme and raising awareness of the community regarding the natural resources plays a significant role for achievement of the GTP. As Bale is a zone where the big national park is found, it is crucial to make the community aware of the importance of conserving the natural resources. And what MELCA is doing in this regard with a particular focus on the youth is great. In fact we are seeing the fruits of the works done in the past years. We will join hands and continue working together for better results in the future by learning from experiences in the past.”
The youth in Dinsho town and its surroundings started to announce the celebration on the eve of the celebration day by hanging and saying different slogans about conservation of their natural resources and moving around in the town. On the day of the celebration, students from different elementary and secondary schools in Bale zone presented various shows and stage performances to attendants of the celebration. The shows and stage performances include traditional songs, dramas, poems and cultural shows. Almost all the shows and stage performances focused on the value of conserving nature and culture and the importance of integrating population, health and environment interventions.
Among the dramas presented one showed how a limited family that uses family planning and has few children lives a happy life as compared to an extended family that do not use family planning and has many children. The drama also shows the impact of uncontrolled population growth on the health and environment of communities. Another drama staged by the students showed how deforestation affects the climate and the impact of climate change on the life and wellbeing of communities. Apart from these, the students have presented several poems, traditional dances and songs, which made the occasion quite fascinating.
There was also an exhibition of traditional artifacts, cloths, musical instruments, local seed varieties and medicinal plants collected and documented by SEGNI club member students in the course of their extra-curricular activities.
About 2000 people, including zonal and woreda level government officials, students and teachers of schools in Bale zone, post graduate students of environmental science department of Meda Welabu University, as well as Dinsho town and its surrounding communities have participated on this celebration.