Conservation in Ethiopia
The biodiversity of Ethiopia is extraordinary with many rare and unique species inhabiting its forests, lakes, and high plateaus. Within these ecosystems there are rare flora and fauna including 625 endemic plant species, 16 endemic birds species, and 35 endemic mammal species, found nowhere else in the world.
Ethiopia also harbors a number of charismatic and endemic flagship species, most notably the gelada (the world’s only grazing primate), the mountain nyala, the Ethiopian wolf, the walia ibex, the dibatag, and the giant lobelia. In the Gambella region, the country shares with Sudan the second largest mammal migration in Africa—the migration of the White-eared Kob, which involves approximately one million individual animals.
The wildlife and forest areas of Ethiopia also has huge value to people locally, nationally, and internationally through the environmental services they provide. This includes direct goods and services from grazing or forest products such as honey or coffee, as well as climate stabilization, carbon sequestration, erosion control, etc. These areas are often center pieces of wetlands and watersheds and thus provide clean water and regulate river flow. For example a number of important rivers such as the Nile, Awash, and Wabe Shebelle flow from Ethiopia’s highlands and sustain over 20 million people and their livestock downstream in Ethiopia, Somalia, Sudan, and Egypt.
Ethiopia’s natural heritage is however under severe threat. Eighty-five percent of Ethiopia’s 85 million people are almost entirely dependent on natural resources such as soil, grazing land, timber, and fuel wood for their livelihoods. However this ever increasing human population is causing environmental degradation throughout the country and an accelerated rate of habitat loss. The last remnants of Ethiopia’s natural ecosystems, including many globally unique species, face an uncertain future, as do those people dependant on natural resources. Ethiopia desperately requires solutions to conserve its remaining biodiversity and ecosystem services, whilst striving to ensure sustainable livelihoods and reducing the vulnerability of resource-dependent communities.
Recently, the formation of a new government authority the Ethiopian Wildlife Conservation Authority, increased government and donor support, and the development of new partnerships has begun to address conservation through community involvement. Communities are seen as key partners for conservation in Ethiopia and a strong network of participatory forest and wildlife management areas is currently being developed throughout the country, with considerable success.
The development of tourism also is seen as a key initiative to assist communities in benefiting more from their natural resources. Not only does tourism provide additional income for the management authorities of national protected areas but it also helps communities understand the latent value of their natural resources. Through tourism, communities can reap the benefits of their natural resources over and over. Both government and non-government conservation actors are therefore involved in developing tourism and ensuring revenue flows to communities.