“…whereas the idea of biosphere reserves is relatively a new introduction to Ethiopia, getting more natural sites registered and recognized as biosphere reserves will help the country meet the Climate Resilient Green Economy policy it is pursuing.”
MELCA-Ethiopia in collaboration with the Ministry of Science and Technology has organized Southwest Ethiopia biosphere reserves planning meeting. The meeting was held from 15-16 August 2014 at Jimma University.
The objectives of the meeting were:
- To create a conducive environment where by the three biosphere reserves in southwestern part of the country as well as those coming in the future come together, share experiences, learn from each other and work hand in hand for mutual development.
- To discuss on and design a strategy for connecting universities and research centers to the biosphere reserves to enhance the logistic support and research function of the biosphere reserves.
- To create an information exchange network among the biosphere reserves.
The meeting was started by an opening speech of Mr. Solomon Getachew, Chairperson of the MAB national committee and advisor to the minister at the Ministry of Science and Technology and a welcome speech by Dr. Birhanu Belay, Vice president and head of research services at Jimma University. Both the speakers noted in their speeches that whereas the idea of biosphere reserves is relatively a new introduction to Ethiopia, getting more natural sites registered and recognized as biosphere reserves will help the country meet the Climate Resilient Green Economy policy it is pursuing. Hence all stakeholders should join hands to spread the idea to more areas and enhance the benefits to be gained from biosphere reserves.
Furthermore, Dr. Million Belay, Director of MELCA-Ethiopia explained in his key note speech that biosphere reserves differ from other protected areas known for long in Ethiopia in that biosphere reserves focus not only on conservation of natural resources but also the culture of communities and their living in harmony with nature.
During the meeting, the three biosphere reserves in southwest Ethiopia, namely the Yayu Coffee Forest Biosphere Reserve, Kafa Forest Biosphere Reserve and Sheka Forest Biosphere Reserve shared their experiences of accomplishments and achievements gained as well as challenges they faced since their establishment. All the three biosphere reserves reported that the sense of belongingness of the community has increased and flow of investments in the biosphere reserves have decreased since adoption of the forests as biosphere reserves. They also reported absence of institutional set up that is responsible for the management of biosphere reserve, lack of trained manpower and financial system as their common challenges.
Then participants discussed in groups on four topical issues in relation to the biosphere reserves. The issues were positive/encouraging aspects gained as a result of the forests being adopted as biosphere reserves, challenges faced, why collaboration among the biosphere reserves is needed and ways and means to make it effective and the need to connect universities/research centers and the biosphere reserves to support developments and sustainable use in the biosphere reserves with researches.
After discussing on the issues in small groups and plenary, participants agreed on two major outcomes of the meeting:
– The need to create a network of stakeholders of the biosphere reserves for better collaboration and experience exchange and
– The need for creating a link between the biosphere reserves and universities/research centers and coordinating demand driven researches in the biosphere reserves.
As an initiative to take these outcomes a step forward, it was agreed by the participants to hold the first meeting of the three biosphere reserves toward end of 2014 and call the first meeting of working group on research in relation to the biosphere reserves in November 2014.
A total of 55 people from relevant government offices at federal level and the zones and woredas where the biosphere reserves are found, universities, research centers, NGOs/CBOs have participated on the meeting.