494 Ethiopia - Sustainable Development of the Protected Area System

494 Ethiopia - Sustainable Development of the Protected Area System
Photo: Ludwig Siege / UNDP

The biogeography and biodiversity of Ethiopia is characterized by two dominant geographical features: the Ogaden, one of the three centers of endemism of the ancient arid Horn of Africa, and the highland plateau. While the arid Horn and highlands are relatively impoverished in species numbers, they have high levels of endemism. Overall, the country has over 6,000 species of vascular plants, including 625 endemic species, 669 near-endemic species and one endemic plant genus; 860 avian species, including 16 endemic species and two endemic genera; and 279 species of mammal, including 35 endemic species and six endemic genera. Ethiopia also harbors a number of charismatic and endemic flagship species, most notably the Gelada (an endemic genus and the world’s only grazing primate), the Mountain Nyala, the Ethiopian Wolf, the Walia Ibex, and the Giant Lobelia. In Gambella region, the country shares with Sudan the second largest mammal migration in Africa—the migration of the White-eared Kob, which involves approximately one million individual Kob. Over the past decades, an accelerated rate of habitat loss has led to declines in threatened populations of fauna and flora. The current protected area (PA) system provides an inadequate bulwark against these pressures, with past donor support for the PA system tending to be piecemeal—focusing on individual PAs rather than on the enabling environment.

This GEF-funded project, the Sustainable Development of the Protected Area System of Ethiopia (SDPASE), aims at strengthening capacities to manage the Ethiopian PA estate in order to improve its sustainability. The project has been designed to address the relatively weak sectoral situation in which the PA system has been under-resourced and marginalized in the national development agenda. The project is spearheading a suite of interventions, focusing on the national system in terms of capacity-building and training, and integrating the PA system into mainstream development. On-the-ground PA management models will be piloted at two or three major PAs with funding from co-financiers, and will feed into national capacity-building processes.

SDPASE operates with and through Ethiopian institutional capacity, focusing on Ethiopian Wildlife Conservation Authority (EWCA), which has limited implementing capacity. This approach enhances ownership and increases capacity also on operational level. A second stage of interventions, beginning in the fifth year of this first stage, will consolidate the capacity gains, implement the PA business plan, and spearhead the replication of good PA management practices. Partners in this project include the Government of Ethiopia, EWCA, Frankfurt Zoological Society (FZS) and GTZ-IS.

Though less than one and a half years into its implementation, this project has already had important impacts. With SDPASE support, the Government established the EWCA, and re-federalized nine parks and sanctuaries, thus creating a truly national PA system. The project also helped to raise awareness among policy makers regarding the valuation of the PA system and its livelihood implications; an economic assessment of the contribution of Ethiopia’s PA system to the national economy, commissioned by SDPASE, found that the main value of PAs is in the environmental services that they provide to poor rural communities, many of which are food insecure. It calculated the annual value of select environmental services: US$13 million for medicinal plants; US$432 million for hydrological services; and potentially US$2659.59 million for water quality control services, such as reducing sedimentation and recycling nutrients. These values dwarf the annual value of the PAs in terms of park entrance fees, which was US$19,000 for 2008 – 2009. Overall, the results clearly show that the economic value of PAs is of immense benefit to the sustainable development of the Ethiopian economy and plays a significant role in the fight against poverty. The results of the report are being incorporated into the Ethiopia Poverty Strategy—which sets the framework for development and outlines development priorities that guide government and donor funding flows.

Since the start of this project, the Government has become increasingly aware of the importance of PAs, and is now willing to support the PA system in any way necessary. The Government, for instance, is incorporating the PA system into the national strategy to adapt to climate change. According to the strategy, more than 60,000 km2 of PA will be rehabilitated to ensure the provision of water for human consumption, irrigated agriculture and electricity supply. This ecosystem service was determined to have the highest value of the PAs of Ethiopia in the project-commissioned economic assessment. The PAs provide catchment stabilization, regulate water flow, and store water in forest and vegetation. These valuable services help Ethiopia’s people and economy to cope with climate change; investments in PAs therefore assist with climate change adaptation.

Donor support of the PA system is improving, with many national and international donor agencies and NGOs—such as Ethiopian Wildlife and Natural History Society, Forum for Environment, Horn of Africa Regional Environmental Center, European Commission, USAID, the Dutch Government, WCS, the Foundation for Transhumance and Nature, and Wildlife for Sustainable Development—now financially supporting the system. Additionally, environmental impact assessments are now conducted in any development that takes place within PAs. Ecotourism and lodge construction is increasing, and relevant regulatory procedures are being developed. SDPASE presently concentrates on capacity-building within EWCA; in this context, the project has made the following achievements:

Gazettement of PAs. The lack of legal boundaries beset the PA system in the past. To address this problem, the project supported the demarcation and gazettement of four PAs with a total area of 3,500 km2. This work has been a lengthy consultative and legal process; therefore, these efforts are ongoing.

Training wildlife scouts and EWCA staff. In collaboration with SDPASE, EWCA trained approximately 170 wildlife scouts in wildlife protection, ecological monitoring, tourism, and community-based wildlife management. Chosen from six national parks, these scouts were trained over the course of two months, and—now graduated—will apply their newly gained knowledge and skills to their daily lives to improve the protection of wildlife. Similar trainings will take place in other national parks across the country. Additionally, SDPASE works at solutions to develop a more stable training environment for the lower and middle cadres of EWCA, a total of 1,300 employees. The project also financially supported two MSc-level trainings in Spain, one of which was a two-week-long course in endangered species management.

Strengthening the EWCA. Other major investments in the institution-building of EWCA include: the creation of business planning guidelines for PAs, developed by FZS with SDPASE support; the strategic procurement of essential supplies such as uniforms, vehicles, and communication equipment; the preparation of many studies, such as a gap-analysis, an organizational analysis of EWCA, and a carbon potential analysis of the PA system; and the engagement with the Omo-Gambella taskforce, a multi-partner effort with a transboundary outlook under the leadership of EWCA that seeks to improve the management of the landscape and to secure its ecosystem functions.