Pathfinding mission to Ethiopia

During our activities in our three study regions we realized that most of the remaining intact ecosystems are sites which are conserved due to cultural beliefs, such as the Kayas along the Kenyan coast (relicts of the East African dry coastal forest), or sacret sites of cloud forest in Taita Hills, as well as some sections of the riparian forest. Similar situations are known for other countries in East Africa. One of the most prominent example are the church forests in Ethiopia. During our last activities in 2018 in the cloud forests of Taita Hills, the vegetation group of Christine Schmitt performed the activities in close collaboration with Peter Borchard, who is leading the ARBONETH project across Ethiopia. We decided to collaborate in close future, in a new framework on the relevance of cultural beliefs for the conservation of fragile ecosystems. During a first visit in Ethiopia, we learned about the activities of Peter Borchard, and other stakeholders, such as EEFRI (Ethiopian Environment Forest Research Institute), EOC-DICAC (Ethiopian Orthodox Church-Development Interchurch Aid Commission), and ARBONETH (the Ethiopian Tree Network). We visited various church forests and institutions, as well as the Bahir Dar University, to set a Memorandum of Understanding for future activities. The next teaching and research framework will be set in Kenya (Kilifi – Pwani University, Taita Hills – Taita Taveta University), and Ethiopia (Lake Tana region – Bahir Dar University), and will exist as a North-South, and South-South project. Researchers from the field of natural and social sciences will work together, also with people from mosques, churches, schools, tree nurseries and clergies.