Ethiopia’s church forests need cultural revival

Mar 12, 2019, 7:57 AM EDT
(Source: Rod Waddington/flickr)
(Source: Rod Waddington/flickr)

The uninterrupted swathes of lush green forests in northern Ethiopia have faded into sporadically distributed patches of trees, each of which encircle an Ethiopian Orthodox Church. There are 1,022 such sacred forests in Ethiopia’s South Gondar region, bearing testimony to an ongoing assault by human disturbances that are reducing species richness, density, and biomass.

For centuries, these forests have existed in a symbiotic relationship with churches. They are, in a way, the boundaries defining and preserving the sacredness of churches and, in return, deriving protection from the community of church-goers — a relationship that stands fouled by certain external factors now, reports Inverse.

Planted exotic species, structures, and walls, built to block grazing animals, have adversely affected the seedling community, writes Science Daily. Since the natural and the spiritual environment in these forests is closely knitted, the scientists recommend culturally-sensitive conservation approaches to protect these last remaining bursts of green in northern Ethiopia.

Unlike conventional models that would advocate limiting human presence at such sites, the focus should be on restorative planting within and between forests, in addition to removing exotic species and weeds.