TERRAINS / FIELDWORKS
Potential of further UNESCO-Biosphere Reserves in Ethiopia
By Renée Moreaux
Renée Moreaux, diplômée en écologie du paysage, a effectué ses premières recherches en Éthiopie sur la réhabilitation des forêts dans la région du lac Tana. Depuis juillet 2014, elle travaille à la Fondation Michael Succow à l’organisation de projets internationaux, principalement au développement des réserves de biosphère en Éthiopie. La dernière prospection de la mission dirigée par Renée Moreaux a été soutenue par le CFEE. Elle avait fait l’objet d’une présentation le 23 mars 2015 dans le cadre du CFEE Seminar on Contemporary Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa.
Renée Moreaux is graduated in landscape ecology. Her first research in Ethiopia was on rehabilitation of forests in the lake Tana area (Ethiopia). Since July 2014, she manages for the Michael Succow Foundation several international projects, and principally the development of biosphere reserves in Ethiopia. The last survey of the mission lead by Renée Moreaux has been supported by CFEE. It has been presented on March 23rd 2015 in the framework of the CFEE Seminar on Contemporary Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa.
In 2010 Ethiopia joined the World Network of Biosphere Reserves of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) with the successful nomination of its first two Biosphere Reserves following the UNESCO Man and the Biosphere (MaB) standards. Two further Biosphere Reserves were successfully nominated in 2012 and 2015. Based on these recent developments, the Michael Succow Foundation (MSF) conducted a project to analyse the potential for the development of further biosphere reserve areas in Ethiopia. The project was financed by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and implemented by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ)with means of the Studies and Expert Fund.
Ethiopia is assessed as a global biodiversity hotspot by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). At the same time, economic development, urbanisation and population growth increase the existing pressure on natural resource use, e.g. fire wood, pastures and arable land, which leads to high deforestation rates, soil degradation, overgrazing and conversion to agricultural land. This affects in turn Ethiopia’s nature protected areas such as its 15 national parks.
The biosphere reserve principle, as promoted by UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere programme, combines biodiversity conservation with a strong cultural focus. It is therefore considered a promising approach to mitigate the loss of biodiversity and to foster sustainable land use while putting the needs of local people and ethnic minorities at its core. This is particularly appropriate in such a culturally diverse country as Ethiopia, where more than 80 ethno-linguistic groups live, following a broad spectrum of economic strategies including mixed agriculture, horticulture and pastoralism.
In the project of the analysis of potential, possible biosphere reserve areas are therefore assessed concerning their socio-ecological suitability. Additionally, the collected data provide a sound basis to carry out further studies of prioritised areas within the framework of MaB-approach in Ethiopia. Primarily areas around national parks were pre-selected to investigate their potential as biosphere reserves. This focus on national park areas was based on their high ecological value and current endangerment through unsustainable resource use and sometimes missing legal frameworks.After the pre-selection, certain study areas were then assessed in detail for their suitability as biosphere reserves according to ecological (i.a. biodiversity, threats) and social (i.a. stakeholders, socio-cultural, administrative-political) criteria.
The project was undertaken from November 2014 to June 2015. Data collection comprised field assessments about biodiversity and ecological conditions of following study areas: Borana National Park, Nechsar National Park, Awash National Park with Allideghi Wildlife Reserve, Chebera-Churchura National Park, Asayita and surrounding lakes (Afar Region), Simien Mountains National Park, Bale Mountains National Park, Maze National Park, Abijata-Shala National Park, Alatish National Park and Kafta-Shiraro National Park.Additionally ethnographic surveys about the socio-cultural situation were carried out. Interviews concerning ecological, social and political issues were performed with local and international experts, local community members and political authorities.
As a result of the project, the considered study areas were classified as potential biosphere reserve areas according to the ecological and social criteria in four categories: high, medium, and low-prioritised, as well as not suitable areas.
Link to the project website: http://succow-stiftung.de/ethiopia-analysis-of-potential-for-further-unesco-biosphere-reserves.html
Header photograph: Borana houses and Acacia trees with Weaver bird’s nests, Daritu Community (© R. Moreaux)