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Afternoon Session, 25 November 2003

Chairperson: Dr Kidane Giorgis,
Ethiopian Agricultural Research Organization, Addis Ababa

Integrated conservation and development of the Simen Mountains area, by Eva Ludi, University of Berne, Switzerland

Presenter: Dr Eva Ludi,
Centre for Development and Environment, University of Berne,

THE SIMEN MOUNTAINS AREA HAS A HISTORICAL SIGNIFICANCE AND IS THE ONLY AREA WHERE THE WALYA IBEX EXISTS AS ENDEMIC. THERE ARE 39 REGISTERED MAMMAL SPECIES IN THE SIMEN MOUNTAINS ECOSYSTEM, OF WHICH AT LEAST EIGHT ARE ENDEMIC TO SIMEN AND/OR ETHIOPIA. The Simen Mountains National Park (SMNP) was established in 1969 and was registered as a World Heritage site in 1978. A high-level fact-finding mission composed of the regional government and officials of the various bureaux visited the Simen Mountains in March 2000. Objectives of this mission were to:

The mission recommended conducting a park boundary adjustment (exclusion of some areas while including some other alternative management zones), re-alignment of the road, bringing about development within the buffer zone, reorienting the approach towards the "Park and People" concept instead of focusing on the development of the park alone, which is unattainable. Integration of tourism in the park development process was also put as a strategic choice.

1. The mission recommended the establishment of a steering committee that would coordinate efforts by various bureaux, departments, wereda and kebele administrations, development agencies, and the SMNP management. The committee should be supported by a permanent coordination office/secretariat.

2. Park boundary issues: there are 30 000 inhabitants in villages surrounding the SMNP, of which about 10 000 inhabitants live or use land inside the park while 22 villages lie partly or fully within the territory of the park boundaries. It was recommended to conduct a park boundary adjustment through realignment of the official boundaries. This includes two main actions: exclusion and inclusion.

a. Exclusion: excluding villages that partly lie within the park boundary, especially the cultivable lands and are prone to conflict with the park management. Potential villages for exclusion are: Dihwara, Truwata, Tiya, Dirni, Antola, Agidamya, Aykotba, Flasha, China, Angwa, Michibiny.

b. Inclusion: bringing within the park boundary areas which are not used by people. Potential inclusion areas are Lemalimo to the West, Bwahit and Mesarerya to the Southeast of the present park boundaries. Further phases were recommended to extending the park towards Silki - Abba Yared - Kiddis Yared/Ras Dejen. Realignment of the park boundary must be based on the principle that any expansion of the park should not interfere with the cultivation land of local residents.

3. Alternative management zone: much inclusion and exclusion might at the time not necessarily result in a gazetting of new park boundaries, but in the definition of specific management zones. For example, the Ethio-Swiss study team of 1994, which did extensive field work in and around the Simen Mountains National Park proposed a management zoning of the park whereby specific areas in the west of the park were included in a prime protection zone, whereas in the north, specific areas could be used for agriculture. To the southeast and east, areas above the cultivation line are considered as biodiversity protection zones, where temporal grazing of livestock or grass cutting at specific times could be possible, but otherwise the areas should be free from human interference. Areas around villages are considered as restricted use areas, where agreements with villages need to be reached. Areas outside specific management zones should be considered as a development zone where concentrated investments in social and economic infrastructure, agricultural development and resource conservation should be pursued.

4. Road realignment: the road constructed between 1995 and 1998 was built on the highest elevation to avoid major bridges and rock cutting. This resulted in cutting formerly undisturbed forest areas, which have now been exposed for deforestation. In other areas, the road comes extremely close to the escarpment, which is the major habitat of the endangered Walya Ibex. The Ibex, however, also needs flatter areas to graze and rest - areas which are now only accessible if the road is crossed.

5. Development initiatives: one of the major issues in the Simen Mountains area is poverty and lack of sustainable development. Poverty of the local population and the need to use all possible areas is one of the factors threatening the unique wildlife and the natural resources in the Simen area. There are a number of issues that need to be addressed to improve livelihoods in the Simen area such as: underdeveloped infrastructure, poor access to education and basic health care, unprotected water sources which are a major source of disease and an enormous burden on women. As no other energy sources exists, children and women are forced to collect large amounts of wood for cooking and heating - in the highlands at altitudes of 3 600 msl. Pressure on remaining forests is enormous - irrespective of whether these forests are inside or outside the National Park.

As in other areas of the Ethiopian Highlands, there are limited alternatives to land use other than farming. Farmers are used to cultivating all the land. Increasing human population forces farmers to use the land more intensively and more frequently. Intermediate fallow years have to be given up. Cultivation on steep slopes has led to severe soil erosion - in many areas, formerly deep Andosols have been reduced by more than 70 cm to a mere 30 cm. In many areas, topsoil has been eroded altogether as can be seen in fields in the vicinity of Michibiny. In the lowlands in the north of the National Park, using fire to open new land is a common practice. In more than one occasion fires have escaped and destroyed considerable areas in the steep escarpment - the main Walya Ibex habitat.

6. Addressing the issue of the park and people: in order to reduce pressure on existing natural resources it was considered necessary to invest in sustainable rural development outside the National Park area. Components include building rural roads, social infrastructure, agricultural development (including high value crops), natural resources management as well as soil and water conservation. In some cases, boundary realignments are necessary to reduce the number of people who are entirely dependent for their survival on the resources of the National Park often resulting on conflicts with the park authorities. Relocation to areas outside the park are an option, but extremely difficult to put into practice. The options available are negotiations with the village inhabitants, which should be initiated to find out what they think about such ideas and what their ideas would be regarding areas to move to and compensations.

7. Tourism: tourism certainly has a high potential in the Simen Mountains area. However, it has hardly been coordinated with park management issues so far. The mission clearly identified the need to integrate tourism development and park management. Such integration includes also the zoning of the area and the definition of what is allowed which area. Specific tourism development zones, where all the necessary facilities are available, should be planned carefully.

8. Future steps: the development of the Simen Mountains should have two goals: i) to protect the Simen Mountains area as a World Heritage site where the survival of the extremely threatened Walya Ibex and other endemic animal and plant species can be guaranteed, and ii) to develop the buffer zone and areas outside the park so that the local people will have a source of livelihood and will not endanger the rich flora and fauna and wildlife to meet their basic needs. There are also a number of activities related to the conservation and development of the Simen Mountains area that would be of great interest for support by the GEF and other bilateral agencies. These include:

Lake Tana biodiversity potentials and threats, by Eshete Dejen, Amhara Regional Agricultural Research Institute

Presenter: Dr Eshete Dejen,
Centre Manager for Fisheries, ARARI, Bahir Dar

Lake Tana is the largest fresh waterbody in the country (area 3156 km2) accounting for 50 percent of the total inland waters and a major source of the Blue Nile. It harbours a diverse fish fauna, including the only remaining species flock of cyprinid fishes (15 species) left in the world. Lake Tana and its wetlands have a multipurpose value for the surrounding area, including: home of the various fauna and flora, home of unique endemic species of fish, an important bird nesting and sanctuary area, home of the historic Orthodox Church monasteries, the largest wetland area that supports different livelihoods of indigenous people, habitat of the Fogera cattle breed unique in the country, water supply, transportation, major tourist attraction, adding quality of life to Bahir Dar residents, source of hydroelectric power, waste processing and others.

The lake ecosystem and the water resources as a whole are in danger due to deforestation, erosion, sedimentation, water level reduction, erratic rainfall, flooding of the wetlands, competing uses of water resources, increased pollution and pressure of the growing population. There is an erosion of Lake Tana and gene pools affecting the stability and resilience of the system and endangering sustainability of the Lake and the surrounding wetland resources.

Given Lake Tana and its immediate surroundings have a multipurpose function that has global, national and local significance, the following issues are of general importance in considering its development:

It was stressed that the development of the Lake's resources can only be meaningful and sustainable when the following principles are met: precaution, prevention, integration and public participation.

Lake Tana has also a unique composition of the fish fauna: an endemic species flock 15 'large' Labeobarbus species (length up to 100 cm); three 'small' Barbus species (< 10 cm); four Garra species; Varicorhinus beso (Beso); Oreochromis niloticus (Nile tilapia); Clarias gariepinus (African catfish); probably other small, not well known species in flood plains and papyrus beds.

Major concerns were raised on the exploitation and management of fisheries resources, notably:

A major recommendation to deal with the threat of fishery resources and biodiversity is that there is an urgent need for fisheries regulations restricting fishing near river mouths and upstream on spawning ground during the breeding period to prevent extinction of unique large barbs. This needs immediate action otherwise there will not be any more our unique large barbs in Lake Tana.

Some of the recommendations and actions to deal with the threat and to move towards the conservation and the sustainable use of the Lake Tana resources include:

In conclusion, it was underscored that Lake Tana's resources can be sustainable utilized in adhering to the following principles: "precaution, prevention, integration and public participation".

Historical sedimentary records of Lake Tana and other experiences in Ethiopia, by Mohammed Omar, Addis Ababa University

Presenter: Dr Mohammed Omar, Addis Ababa University

Dr Mohammed highlighted the process and results of a research project on Lake Tana. He started by showing that natural resources are part of the environment and the environment has been under constant change. Environment has a potential to recover if we can remove existing human activity and pressure.

The research project has developed various methods of measuring recent land degradation through excavation of historical records. These records showed where land degradation and dry conditions have been increasing. Semi-arid climate started to appear over the last thousand years and is impacted by evaporation and reduction in the water level of the Lake.

The type of land degradation varied over the last four thousand years while the intensity of gully formation intensified over the last century.

One of the main questions the Lake Tana Project attempted to answer was to find the reason for the decline in productivity by examining the sedimentation process. Such a study could also contribute to predicting the future events such as drought conditions as well as understanding soil erosion dynamics from past historical assessment. Preliminary findings showed that there are early indications suggesting that many dry climatic conditions had taken place some 4 500 years ago matching the drought situation in Egypt.

Protecting the Lake Tana Basin and key environmental issues, by Amare Getahun

Improved management and use of land and water for sustainable development

Presenter: Dr Amare Getahun,
Former ICRAF Staff and now in Private Sector

This study deals with the agricultural development in the Lake Tana basin of the Amhara Region, which was done on behalf of ARARI. It tries to assess past and present trends in natural resources degradation in agricultural development. The study also addresses the present situation of the Lake Tana basin in the context of the lake, its tributary rivers and the surrounding land. There are two important developments in the Lake Tana basin. These are the Dembia Fogera wetland areas and overpopulation will reach 200 persons per km2.

The study examined development prospects of the basin and its policy implication, support for a research and development programme, partnerships and commitment and operational strategy.

The development pathways for the Lake Tana basin is in line with the five-year plan of the Amhara Region for the attainment of food self-sufficiency, improved crop and livestock production and conservation of the natural resources base. Some of the action plans suggested by the study and the means to achieve these include:

The study also recommends promoting a tree-based rural development strategy. Tree-based technology and practices would include home gardens, hedgerow intercropping, agroforestry for soil water conservation, village and farm woodlots, windbreaks and boundary trees, fodder production, high value tree crops, swamp reclamation through high density tree/shrub planting, bamboo reed and phonix palm growing.

ARARI is expected to undertake the finalization of the programme/project; conduct a stakeholders' Workshop for reviewing and approving the programme; and introduce the programme to regional authorities and donors, NGOs and other partners to implement it the recommendation of the study.

The tree farming programme: The way for ward for highland Ethiopia, by Minwuyelet Muse

Presenter: Dr Minwuyelet Muse, Formerly USAID staff and Manager of TAM Agribusiness

Dr Minwuyelet started his presentation by introducing the private sector initiatives taken by TAM Agribusiness to address food insecurity and poverty in rural Ethiopia. TAM Agribusiness is:

Its objectives are improved livelihoods from tree-based land use practices and its approach is promoting public-private-NGO partnerships in Ethiopia.

Three enemies today strangle our Ethiopia: poverty (deep and widespread poverty), degraded natural resources, and dependency on food aid. Perpetual dependency on food aid even when there is no emergency has to be overcome. These forces are adversely affecting the well-being of the rural population and are major causes of:

This could eventually undermine the sovereignty of the nation and dignity of the people. We are in a tragic era.

Solutions are its children - you, all participants and me. The destiny of Ethiopia is in the hands of its sons and daughters. It calls for dedicated, committed Ethiopians guided by one vision and goal: "Save the country and reverse the trend of the three enemies of Ethiopia"

What to do?

Programme components include:

Tree planting/farming could be introduced in various areas including:

TAM Agribusiness also proposes the establishment of farmers' schools in partnership with others that could provide seed technology, nursery development and management, fodder and forage production techniques, provide education on the environment and natural resources as well as on value added processing technology.

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