The Sheka Forest is one of the few forests in Ethiopia that is rich in biodiversity and has an irreplaceable value in terms of providing a healthy ecosystem for the entire area.
An event to celebrate the Population, Health and Environment (PHE) day and integration of the PHE activities has been organized, on the 28th of June 2011, at Goro Kerensa Primary and Junior Secondary School. The school is one of the model schools selected to implement the PHE activities in Holeta Town.
It is to be recalled that MELCA-Ethiopia has launched its second PHE program in its Suba-Sebeta project area on May 14, 2011. And it was declared during this launching program that five model schools and one rural peasant association were selected as the centers for implementation of the program.
The model schools selected for implementation of the program are supposed to be engaged in the program by way of forming a PHE club in which students participating in SEGNI, Health (Anti HIV/AIDS), and Family Planning (population) clubs come together and integrate the activities in their respective clubs. So coordinated, members of these clubs would work toward raising the awareness of the school and wider community with regard to family planning, personal hygiene and sanitation as well as protection of the environment. They also disseminate information regarding the interrelationship and interconnection among these three social issues: Population, Health and Environment, which should be given due regard and proper handling for better living.
Mini-media materials, which include tape recorder with two players and CD/DVD players in one, megaphone amplifier and sound recorder have been provided to each of the model schools selected for implementation of the program with the intention of enhancing the ability of the students engaged in the awareness raising activities and strengthening mini-media service of the school.
After having been engaged in the PHE activities for some time since the second half of May 2011, the students and teachers of Goro Kerensa primary and junior secondary school in Holeta Town, has organized an event to celebrate a PHE day and present their activities and achievements in the past few weeks.
Ato Dereje Gudisa, Vice Head of Holeta Town Administration Education Office, opened the event of the celebration held in the school compound. In his opening speech Ato Dereje mentioned the value of such extracurricular activities to inculcate the subject matter of current topical issues such as population, health and environment in the students as well as in the wider community. He has also thanked MELCA-Ethiopia for introducing such an integrative and educative program in the schools and the Austrian Development Cooperation for funding the program.
The various PHE activities carried out since the commencement of the program and the achievements attained have been reported by teachers in charge of leading each of the activities. The reports include activities done and achievements attained with regard to family planning, activities done by the mini-media club and the overall PHE related activities and achievements.
Variety of shows including songs, poems and dramas which focus on the subject matter of population, health and environment have also been presented by club member students of the school.
Among the shows presented by the students is a drama with a theme of the importance of using family planning to have a healthy and happy family. In the drama, there is a poor family but with many children and, as a result, lives a miserable life and on the other side there is a healthy and happy family that uses family planning and, as a result, has few children. Ultimately the unhappy family with many children realizes that the misery of the family is mainly the consequence of having too many children when they have no enough income to feed and educate them and in fact the parents regret their ignorance of family planning and promise not to live in the same manner in the future.
On the celebration there was also a live interview with a poor mother of seven children, named W/ro Werkinesh Alemu. “I make a homemade alcohol called ‘araki’ and my husband is a daily laborer. I gave birth to seven children because I did not know about family planning. Now we can hardly feed the children with the very small income we get let alone send them to school. Some time in the past I told my problem to the director of this school and he allowed accepting two of my children with out school fee. So the rest are not attending any schooling. Now that I learned about using birth control I am ready to make use of it hereafter, though it seems late. But I tell my experience so that others learn from me and use family planning” W/ro Werkinesh said.
After Werkinesh shared her life experiences and problems to the participants of the event, the board of Goro Kerensa Primary and Junior Secondary School allowed scholarship for remaining five children beginning from the next new academic year.
The celebration also includes a traditional coffee ceremony on which student Bezawit Girma has presented a pictorial description of the PHE activities.
Mr. Heinz Habertheuer, who is the head of Austrian Development Cooperation in Ethiopia (funder of the program) and who participated on the program to see its progress, has commented that he is very impressed by what he has seen at the event. He said it is very impressive that the teachers and students have come up with such an educative and entertaining shows in such a short period of time. It shows their commitment and active engagement in implementation of the program and the fact that there is an excellent participatory approach in the implementation process. He added that the event has been well prepared to show the consequences of environmental degradation and not giving due consideration for family planning.
Mr. Heinz has also visited the Participatory 3 Dimensional Model (P3DM) of Suba-Sebeta area, which includes the Wechecha complex, which was built two years back through the facilitation of MELCA, and appreciated the experience.
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Major Events to be held during the 2nd half of 2011 by months
- Regional Workshop on EIA and National and International Environmental law training for Amhara Regional State
- Regional Workshop on EIA and National and International Environmental law training for Benishangul Gumuz Regional State
- Sheka Biosphere Reserve Public Consultation meetings.
- UNESCO nomination document on Sheka Biosphere reserve
- Submission of Sheka Biosphere Nomination document to national UNESCO committee for approval
- Regional Workshop on EIA and National and International Environmental law training for Gambela Regional State
- Media sensitization workshop on Farmers variety seeds and ecological Agriculture
- National workshop on institutional issues of Environmental governance in Ethiopia
- Workshops for research institutes, academia, key stakeholders on farmers variety seeds in Ethiopia: Opportunities, Challenges and way forward
- Cultural Biodiversity (CB) celebration at Holeta and Sheka
- National Workshop on EIA and Institutional issues of Environmental Governance in Ethiopia for Parliamentarians
- Organizing a National Sensitization workshop for parliamentarians and federal level decision makers on the generic seed issues, Global and National trends: Opportunities, Challenges and way forward.
- CB celebration at Bale
- Annual Report and Planning
- Zonal level inauguration ceremony of Sheka Biosphere reserve
Sheka is an administrative zone in Southern Nations Nationalities and Peoples Region where one of the few remaining wet forests are found in Ethiopia, which covers more than 47% of the total area. Sheka zone comprises an extraordinary natural and cultural landscape mosaic of dense natural forest, sacred/cultural forest, managed forests for coffee and beekeeping, bamboo thicket, wetlands, agricultural land, historical sites, natural landmarks like waterfalls, caves, interspersed with settlements. The rich culture is an omnipresent part of the biosphere reserve, shaping the landscape and the sustainable development of the area.
Sheka forest possesses a high biodiversity, with unique and endemic flora and fauna, being part of the eastern afromontane biodiversity hotspot. The forest of Sheka is also important for the role it plays in protection of watersheds that have local and international significance. It is highly regarded for flood and erosion control, and carbon-sequestration to mitigate the effects of climate change.
Moreover, the Sheka forest is a crucial asset for local communities because it represents the main source of livelihood for many indigenous people. In addition, it provides a connection with the spiritual realm through the preservation of sacred natural sites, and contributes to the maintenance of a balanced ecological system.
Despite these facts the Sheka forest is currently being threatened by a variety of negative pressures, including: expansion of monoculture and private investments (e.g. tea plantation), deforestation and forest degradation resulting from the expansion of agricultural activities, deforestation from an increasing need for energy (fuelwood and charcoal are being sold from forest resources), and the diminishing strength of the traditional cultural protection system (e.g. degradation of sacred natural sites is observed).
These threats represent a critical challenge to the ecological and biological capacity of the forest as well as a direct challenge for the people who had successfully lived with the forest for hundreds of years through sound traditional ecological practices.
To effectively tackle these challenges hand in hand with all the relevant stakeholders, MELCA has been working in Sheka since 2005. The objectives of MELCA’s Sheka project are to contribute to the protection and conservation of the Sheka forest while conserving its bio-cultural diversity and improving local livelihood through endogenous and sustainable development.
To that end, MELCA has been undertaking numerous activities:
MELCA has established itself as a strong environmental advocacy agent in Sheka, as well as in other areas, with a focus on raising the awareness of all stakeholders on the forest and the environment, including government organs. In response to a baseline study conducted in 2005, MELCA coordinated a workshop with different NGOs and researchers to develop a strategy for advocacy. MELCA later decided to work with these NGOs in the Sheka Forest Alliance (14 NGOs in total) to carry on the advocacy work in Sheka as well as regionally and nationally, through awareness raising, trainings and promoting the recognition of community and environmental rights. These activities reached a large number of community members and local officials. Additionally, MELCA also trained numerous eco-advocates who reached an important part of Sheka zone’s population.
Publications and communication are a key aspect of our environmental advocacy work. In addition to brochures and articles, MELCA has commissioned a multidisciplinary study to expert researchers who all had prior experience in Sheka to analyse the impacts of landuse/landcover changes in the area. The result of this extensive research work is found in Forests of Sheka, published in 2012.
Up to now and in the future, MELCA aims to work with all Sheka’s stakeholders (NGOs, officials, community members) to improve the implementation of existing environmental and community-related laws (including marginalized groups like women or Manja), to strengthen the protection of cultural and natural features of Sheka zone (workshops, trainings, community events, etc.), especially in the context of Sheka biosphere reserve (see below), and to increase people’s environmental awareness, notably by conducting in-depth researches and publishing advocacy materials.
Creating alternative means of livelihood
Since most of the local people are highly dependent on the forest for their living, MELCA is convinced that supporting endogenous development projects is a key approach to lessen possible negative impacts on the natural environment and improve local livelihood. For this reason, MELCA has been working for the creation and strengthening of sustainable income generating activities for the local communities, with a focus on women, youth and marginalized groups of the society (Menjas, a traditionally and socially outcasted group). These include the development of home gardening and saving credit projects for Menjas (training, tools, information sharing), supporting beekeepers and women spice’s cooperatives (training, tools, cooperatives setting and strengthening) and a Youth Entrepreneurship training programs.
In the coming years, MELCA is dedicated to strengthen and expand these successful experiences, set up new and innovative projects for alternative income generating activities (e.g. eco-tourism) and share its expertise and knowledge with other actors.
Elders and traditional knowledge
Being a clan leader – gepitato – is the most influential traditional position that an individual acquires through inheritance among the Shekachos, the most represented indigenous community of Sheka. They are both ritual leaders and administrators, and are still important communitarian leaders, performing different social, cultural (religious) and economic activities that are substantially related with resource management and the livelihood of the community. Nonetheless, due to recent cultural changes, their leadership has diminished in the zone as well as their influence regarding the sustainable management of natural resources. Since 2008, when MELCA hold a meeting for 56 Sheka Zone clan leaders to facilitate clan leaders’ initiative to form legally recognized associations, our organization has been working to build and strengthen clan leaders associations as well as to assist them in revitalizing and protecting the traditional culture and values, in an effort to ensure that these values and traditional ecological practices will continue to allow the effective conservation of the forest and sustainable development of human activities. Additionally, MELCA has facilitated the participatory writing of a Shekacho Community Bio-Cultural Protocol, which states the terms and conditions Shekachos require to allowing outsiders to undertake activities related to the forest and their traditional knowledge and practices.
In the coming years, MELCA will be engaged in empowering existing clan leaders associations as well as in developing and supporting other clan leaders associations in Sheka, in particular regarding their work on the protection of sacred natural sites, sharing the traditional knowledge and values among the community and promote the local bio-cultural diversity.
Participatory eco-cultural mapping
In 2008 and 2009, a participatory eco-cultural mapping process was conducted in Masha woreda, especially 3D modeling. These mapping projects have many values for MELCA and the community: In addition to come to identify and register natural and cultural resources in the area, it foster discovery learning, visualizing knowledge, cultural revival, intra and inter-generational knowledge exchange, supporting community cohesion, identity building and collaborative planning.
The mapping process was facilitated by MELCA staff as well as experts, and was successfully led by local community leaders who were selected based on their age, knowledge and gender, with an effort being made to incorporate minority groups. During the mapping process over 450 data points were collected and plotted, and the final product was said to provide a clear image of Sheka’s resources for effective land-use management planning.
This map has been used since then by clan leaders and other community groups, and we hope to develop similar mapping sessions in the two remaining woredas of Sheka (Andracha and Yeki) to eventually compile and promote a community map of Sheka biosphere reserve.
Environmental Education/intergenerational learning/youth for biocultural diversity
SEGNI program is one of the spearheads of MELCA. This intergenerational learning program linking youth with elders and nature through forest expeditions, cultural revival events and school activities has been a success since it was first carried out eight years ago in Bale.
Although MELCA’s SEGNI program has started to be implemented in Sheka only since 2010, lots of SEGNI activities have been performed and good results achieved in this period of time. These activities included numerous sessions of the 5-days SEGNI programs in the forest, creation of SEGNI clubs in schools, bio-cultural celebrations, schools activities and eco-advocacy. SEGNI program has now the full support of government administrative organs and community members, and is expanding successfully in Sheka.
MELCA intends to duplicate these SEGNI programs in even more schools and to have in the long term SEGNI clubs in every school of Sheka, in order to ensure that all pupils are aware of their community’s bio-cultural diversity and may become eco-advocates and informed decision-makers in their own locality our outside of Sheka.
In 2010, MELCA together with the Sheka community and the local government launched a process to get the forest of Sheka registered as one of the world’s biosphere reserve areas by the United Nations Education, Science and Culture Organization (UNESCO). To this end, MELCA coordinated numerous consultative and training workshops in Sheka and the participatory writing of Sheka biosphere reserve’s nomination form to apply for being a biosphere reserve in UNESCO’s Man and Biosphere (MAB) program, responsible for their nomination. On july 2012, Sheka forest was officially accredited as a man and biosphere reserve MAB by the International Coordination Council of UNESCO-MAB. This registration was welcomed as a tremendous success for us as well as for the community and officials in Sheka, and an official and festive inauguration took place on the 28th of January 2013 to collectively celebrate this event.
MELCA is now supporting the biosphere reserve structure, and aims to fully contribute in the future to all of Sheka biosphere reserve’s functions (research and monitoring, local sustainable development, conservation, communication, management and coordination).
In the near future, MELCA is willing to develop and strengthen its work on community based agro-ecology in Sheka zone. This will include the promotion of organic and ecological agriculture (notably in cooperatives); supporting farmers to conserve, use and develop genetic diversity of crops of local importance and improve their access to better seeds; promote and develop sound environmental practices in coffee production and finally foster research and projects on agro-ecology through networks and research institutes/centers’ and universities’ partnerships in Sheka.
Suba is an area where the oldest protected area (Menagesha-Suba Forest) in Africa is found. It is where the oldest afro dry montane forest and rich in biological diversity is found. Despite these historical facts, however, the status of conservation being rendered to this forest is becoming weaker and weaker from time to time. One of the reasons for the weakening of the conservation status is believed to be the expansion of towns, as the forest is found just a few kilometers away from the capital Addis Ababa, and the erosion of cultural values accorded to the forest and trees as a consequence.
Hence MELCA opened its second branch office in the Suba- Sebeta area with the aim of contributing its part to efforts for the conservation of not only the old Suba-Sebeta forest and its biodiversity, but also the culture of the local community from being totally dominated by the western culture and values.
To this effect MELCA is currently undertaking different programs in the area including Environmental Education (SEGNI), which mainly involves school children, Environmental Advocacy, which focuses on different stakeholders including government organs, soil and water conservation activities. Alternative livelihood improvement and it has also recently, launched, Population, Health and Environment (PHE), a program implemented in schools in integration with SEGNI. MELCA is also implementing participatory mapping program in Suba-Sebeta project area. The P3DM next to Bale has been done here.
The Bale project office is the eldest branch office for MELCA. It was opened in 2005, just a few months after the establishment of MELCA and the opening of its head office in Addis Ababa.
Bale was chosen to be MELCA’s project area firstly because of its rich biodiversity and indigenous culture as well as its endemicity. The area is not only rich in biodiversity, but is also known for its variety of representative ecosystems starting from grassland through alpine climate to cloud forest.
Although the zone has a long history of an area designated as protected area since the reign of Emperor Hailesillasie, there has been an increasing pressure on the conservation of the area and its biodiversity due to expansion of agriculture, towns and pastoralists.
Hence MELCA was interested in opening its first branch office in Bale with the aim of contributing to the effort by different stakeholders to conserve the biodiversity and culture of the people from being eroded by the factors mentioned as threats.
To that end MELCA is currently undertaking different programs in the zone including Environmental Education (SEGNI), which mainly involves school children, Environmental Advocacy, which focuses on different stakeholders including government organs, soil and water conservation activities, and integration of Population, Health and Environment (PHE). Moreover, Participatory Forest Management (PFM) is also implemented around Bale project area. The first Participatory 3 Dimensional Modeling (P3DM), which is part of MELCA’s participatory mapping program, has also been done in Bale.
|African Biodiversity Network||Bale Eco-Region Sustainable management program||Bale Mountain National Park||Techinical Center for Agriculture & Rural Cooperation||The Development Fund|
|Frankfurt Zoological Society||Ethiopian Wolf Conservation Programme||Ethiopian Wildlife and Natural History Society||Ethio Wetlands and Natural Resource Association||Forum for Environment|
|Forum for Social Studies||Gaia Foundation||Heinrich Boll Foundation||Horn of Africa||Norwegian People Aids|
|Oromiya National Regional State||Sustainable Land Use Forum||PHE||Sweedish Society for Nature Conservation|
|International Union for Conservation of Nature http://www.iucn.org/||Institute for Sustainable Development|
MELCA employs different approaches to work with the local community at the grass root level for conservation and rehabilitation of forest, mountain and agriculture bio-diversity of the country. In addition to that, with a view of having a holistic approach to mobilizing concerted effort to that effect it also organizes awareness raising and sensitization forums especially for government organs at different levels.