Mount Guna - a New Protected Area in Ethiopia
Mount Guna Key Biodiversity Area
The Organization for Rehabilitation and Development in Amhara (ORDA), with funding from the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF), has been implementing a community Based Biodiversity Conservation project at Mt. Guna in the Amhara region of Ethiopia.
Mount Guna is the source of Gumara, Rib, and other rivers which flow down to form the Lake Tana catchment, one of Africa's most unique wetland ecosystems and the source of 50% of Ethiopia's freshwater. The Lake Tana catchment is the source of the Blue Nile River, which, after joining with the White Nile in Khartoum, flows through Sudan to Egypt. This makes Mt. Guna an area of significant international importance. Millions of local communities directly depend on the catchment and its resources for their livelihoods.
Despite its importance in the region, Mt. Guna had been an unprotected area and was threatened by increasing challenges such as conversion for agricultural expansion and overgrazing. ORDA, which was founded to empower poor communities and enhance environmental security, helped to establish a formally protected area and to raise awareness and capacity of stakeholders to protect this critical habitat.
Protection and development go hand-in-hand
Through a participatory process, ORDA engaged numerous stakeholders including government and local communities to develop a management plan for Mt. Guna. It established 11 community groups to advice on the management plan and help implement it. ORDA also carried out trainings to improve knowledge and skills of community and government stakeholders on ecosystem management. The result was the establishment of a formally protected area around Mount Guna managed by a new Mt. Guna Conservation Office. The office was approved by the Regional Council and now has full authority to maintain the area permanently.
In order to enhance the sustainability of the new formally protected area, ORDA also supported 110 households living around Mt. Guna with training and equipment for alternative livelihood methods. New farming practices such as the use of improved potato, apple and hope seedlings are now being practiced as environmentally friendly income generation activities.
One of the beneficiaries of the project, Mihret Amare, a farmer and resident at Aka Bet, acknowledges that his life and livelihood are highly interlinked with the status of Mount Guna. For a long time, poor agricultural practices such as overgrazing on the mountain slopes were leading to increased soil erosion which negatively affected productivity of his crops and animals. But now, he has adopted the new farming practices which have increased his yield while at the same time reducing soil erosion which affected the landscape.
Revival of a home for flora & fauna
A total of 4, 615 hectares around Mt. Guna is now under formal protection with the full mandate of the Regional Council and local communities. Species such as festuka, erica and thyme which were disappearing have now started regenerating and sightings of a variety of bird and some wild animals have been reported by the locals. The future of Mt Guna KBA looks bright again.
Produced by: Esubalew Dires (ORDA) and Paul Mugo (TBA)
Project period: February 2015 -June 2017
In May 2017, the Tropical Biology Association, together with the CEPF Eastern Afromontane Regional Implementation Team (EWNHS and BirdLife International), organised a training in communication skills for Ethiopian CEPF grantees. This article is one of the products that came out of that training. For other articles, click here.