Assessing and enhancing the impact and sustainability of biodiversity conservation initiatives in Ethiopia’s outstanding Afro-Alpine Ecosystems


Bale Mountains NPThe Afro-Alpine ecosystems of the Ethiopian highlands constitute nearly 60% of the total Afro-montane habitat in Africa, and include the single largest expanse of Afro-montane habitat in the world. Isolation and climatic instability in these high altitude areas have led to exceptional levels of endemism. There are number of charismatic flagship mammals such as the Mountain nyala, Ethiopian wolf, and the Walia ibex - all of which are listed as endangered or critically endangered on the IUCN Red List - as well as a wealth of endemic and endangered birds, amphibians, insects and plants. In addition the Afro-Alpine ecosystems are also a vital water catchment regionally and internationally, with rivers flowing from Ethiopia’s highlands sustaining as many as 20 million people and their livestock downstream in Ethiopia, Somalia, Sudan and Egypt.

It is estimated that over 80% of Ethiopia’s human population are dependent for their livelihoods on highland ecosystem services and natural resources. However, high human population pressure coupled with unsustainable resource use practices are rapidly degrading and destroying the Afro-montane ecosystems, and as a result, 97% of the natural vegetation of the Ethiopian highlands has already been lost due to encroaching agriculture, grazing, settlement and the unsustainable use of fuelwood and non-timber forest products.

In an effort to reverse these trends and to conserve and restore Afro-Alpine habitats, the Frankfurt Zoological Society (FZS) has been working for a number of years in four key highland refuges across Ethiopia: Bale Mountains National Park, Guassa and Abune Yoseph Community Conservation Areas, and Simien Mountains National Park. These areas cover 70% of the remaining Afro-Alpine habitat, and are a crucial component of Ethiopia’s unique biodiversity and natural heritage. FZS’ work in the Afro-montane ecosystems has been financed by the European Union through the Afro-montane Conservation in Ethiopia (ACE) Project, as well as other donors such as the UK’s Darwin Initiative. The ACE Project, which was implemented in collaboration with the Ethiopian Wildlife Conservation Authority (EWCA), has taken a holistic approach to halting biodiversity loss in the Afro-montane ecosystems, by addressing the root causes of habitat loss and unsustainable use of natural resources by highland communities, including working to improve the management and protection of conservation areas, strengthening community natural resource governance and institutional mechanisms, developing alternative income-generating mechanisms, and raising local and national awareness of the critical conservation and human livelihoods importance of the Afro-montane ecosystems. .

Our contribution

Ethiopian WolfCDC was enlisted by FZS to carry out both the Mid-term Review as well as the Final Evaluation of the ACE Project. As part of these exercises, CDC provided a variety of recommendations about how to improve the project’s impact and sustainability. These included proposals for how best to design community-based institutional and governance mechanisms for the Guassa and Abunie Yoseph Community Conservation Areas, proposals for developing the Bale Mountain’s significant tourism potential, and advice on the further development of the Guassa CCA’s community ecotourism venture to make it more attractive for visitors and tourism operators.

As part of the ACE Final Evaluation, CDC also provided a number of recommendations to FZS and EWCA for resolving critical problems associated with expanding human settlement and livestock grazing in Bale Mountains National Park. Specifically, CDC proposed the development of a BMNP settlement and resource use action plan that set out a phased approach to reducing in-park settlement and resource use, brought about by negotiation and consensus-building with adjacent communities, rather than confrontation. An important component was support for alternative community livelihoods and improved resource use outside BMNP, for example livestock husbandry improvement and productivity schemes, to ensure that the communities can fulfil their livelihood needs without relying on in-park resources.


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