The National parks in Ethiopia are returning to better conditions as a result of the active involvement of the local community
Most of the national parks in Ethiopia are returning to better conditions as a result of mainly the active involvement of the local people in protecting them, according to Ethiopian Wildlife Conservation Authority (EWCA). In an exclusive interview with ENA, EWCA Director-General Kumara Wakjira said the parks are relatively in better conditions since the authority has managed to develop a management platform enabling it to work closely with key stakeholders.
The Ethiopian Wildlife Conservation Authority has organized fifteen consultative forums that helped carry out integrated activities in pastoral areas, including law enforcement activities and awareness creation campaigns which support the local people to have a better understanding about the benefits of protecting the parks.
According to the Director-General, materials, counselling, technical and vocational training were provided for 54 associations to strengthen the lifestyle of inhabitants residing very close to Nechisar National Park, Awash National Park, Aletash National Park and Senkelle Hartebeest Sanctuary. The awareness and attitude of the local communities towards wildlife development and conservation is growing through public awareness campaigns given about national parks protection, he added.
An association of 13 institutions, which has 366 members, was established and has been working on raising awareness among the community on the benefits of protecting the national parks and its habitats. Kumara revealed that over 55.4 million birr revenue was generated from domestic and foreign tourists who visited the parks during the past six months, and 19,156 residents living in the vicinities of the national parks have directly benefitted from the conservation efforts in the areas.
The authority has also managed to rehabilitate about nine thousand hectares of degraded land through the involvement of key stakeholders in the Simien Mountains, Bale Mountain, Nechisar and Awash national parks, he stated.
The Director-General stressed that active involvement of the local people in protecting and developing the parks is very much helping the authority to improve its management of the national parks. For instance, the residents which used to live inside the Simien Mountains National Park have voluntarily vacated the place enabling rehabilitation of indigenous trees.
Despite improvements in most national parks, however, there are still illegal settlement and agricultural expansion activities inside some national parks, Kumara added. “Though there are no national parks free from human and livestock encroachments, the problem in Abijatta-Shalla National Park is very critical where there are more than 3,000 settlers inside the park,” Kumara said.
Moreover, Babile Elephant Sanctuary is almost entirely occupied by farmers that have become a threat to the survival of elephants, the Director-General underlined. In addition, Bale Mountain, Nechisar and Awash national parks have been facing problems related to illegal settlement and expansion of farmlands into the parks in some seasons.
According to Kumara, “the root cause of illegal settlement and agricultural expansion activities, including deforestation activities, are connected with the livelihood of the local inhabitants around the national parks.”
“There should be a holistic approach in which all sectors should get involved to transform the livelihood of the local people so that the pressure on national parks could gradually decrease,” he elaborated.
The Director-General pointed out that although there are attempts to enforce the law, the emphasis is on working together with stakeholders, the local people and building partnership with regional and international organizations the authority has identified.
He further underscored the crucial need for improving the livelihood of the communities around the parks as means of reducing their dependence on the parks.
Ethiopia has 27 national parks, of which 11 are new.