Conserving our planet's botanical resources and ecosystems

Are church forests key to conservation in Ethiopia?

Article from Deutsche Welle (DW) that provides an excellent summary of TREE Foundation and Dr. Lowman’s conservation efforts in Ethiopia:

In the highlands of Ethiopia efforts are underway to protect the cultural and biological resources of an ancient landscape. The key to regeneration may be as old as the book of Genesis itself.church.forests

The watershed surrounding Lake Tana in the highlands of northern Ethiopia faces multiple environmental threats, ranging from deforestation to overfishing. But salvation may start at the waters’ edge.

Ranging in size from a few acres to several hundred acres, ancient stands of trees contain islands of biological diversity in a region largely devoid of woodlands. Called church forests these stands comprise what remains of Ethiopia’s original forest canopy.

The woods have been preserved by priests of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, a Christian sect that have served as stewards of these ancient groves since the 16th century. In Ethiopia, thousands of these groves remain in a landscape stripped of native vegetation. The followers of this group believe church forests are to be preserved for God’s creatures. Symbolizing the Garden of Eden from the Book of Genesis, the woods are revered as places of worship to be cared for and cherished but are not considered to be living deities.

Unfortunately the woods are in jeopardy. In a region where faith and farming commingle, expediency takes precedence over trees. When viewed from above, it becomes apparent church forests are patches of green surrounded by a mosaic of fields, pasture and human settlements. No stranger to drought or strife, the pressure to plant crops for the sake of food security and economic development in Ethiopia is acute.

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