Pius Sawa Murefu
The number of people, where they live and how they live affect the condition of the environment. People alter the environment by clearing land for development, using natural resources and producing wastes. Changes in environmental conditions, in turn affect human health and their well being.
What was seen as a punishment has turned out to be a blessing to the people of Oromia region, one of the densely populated areas in Southern Ethiopia.
Before just ten years ago, during the political transition period, all the mountainous land was a forest. But mass devastation occurred because government owned the land and people were forced to plant trees. They saw planting trees as a punishment.
part of deforested land in Oromia region
Through an environment agency The Environment and Development Society of Ethiopia, a program was initiated where a group of five serious farmers were selected and educated on how to improve their livelihoods through population control, linked with their health and environmental conservation.
“ The program started five years ago in schools with an idea of people to family to people, to change the attitude of the whole community. The program later identified a group of five farmers who were trained on how their livelihoods was interrelated with conservation,” says Morgues Worku, the executive director of the Environment Development Society.
Through a long struggle, government accepted to give the degraded land to the program, which consists of thirty men and four women, each representing more than 2000 people, an administrative zone called Kabale.
The farmers are involved in soil conservation, forestry, fruit planting horticulture, piggery, bee keeping and promotion of appropriate technologies and skills in family planning.
Journalists walking through part of the rehabilitated land.
The chairman of the group Ade Zeude says before the program, their living conditions were very poor. He was trained in family planning skills, which he offers to women in the region to control the population.
“Now we have a lot of resource, knowledge, technical education and we have succeeded in rehabilitating the deforested land.” He says.
They have more than two hundred beehives, which generates a lot of money. The farmers have also been able to own savings accounts and can access loans from banks to invest in other projects. Every homestead now has enough trees and their children can go to school and feed on a balanced diet.
Bee keeping area.
Ade Zeude says a lot has been achieved but they still need to do more because people from other regions are taking up the ideas by learning from them.
“The program is personal, individual, local, regional and international” says Morgues Worku.