BALE UNDER PRESSURE




The juniper forests, endemic flowering plants, rare mammals and bird species found in the half century-old Bale Mountains National Parks are facing threats from growing human encroachment into protected areas.

New settlements are expanding into the Park, especially from Rira Kebele, a community made up of 672 households located deep inside the forest area. These settlers cultivate the lowlands during the growing and harvest seasons, keep their cattle on higher grounds to graze and move their livestock into wooded areas during the dry seasons.

The residents of Rira are growing in population, claiming more of the natural habitat to build homes, clear the vegetation cover for farming and herd cattle. Evidently, the settlers are not considered to be illegal since Rira is an officially recognized kebele, a lower administrative unit in the Oromia Regional State, has an annually stipulated budget, a school, a health centre and a police station.

The park, which is the headwater area for 40 rivers including the Sheble, serves as a source of water supply for around 13 million people. Officials say there is little they can do about the settlements. This is because the government has not provided alternate plans to relocate the inhabitants away from the park.

Experts believe that there needs to be an urgent intervention to the problem by reaching consensus to relocate the residents as well as help them find alternate means of livelihoods to farming.

The community of Rira believes that they are part of the forest ecosystem and they are doing their part to protect the natural habitats by removing the understory and keeping the canopy trees in place. They are also not holding their breath for a solution to come from the government.

“The only reason officials come to us is to tell us to stop farming the area,” Keaye Haji Kasim, administrator of Rira Kebele, told Fortune. “Even the school we have was built during the Dergue regime.” You can read the full story here.



Published on Jan 13,2019 [ Vol 19 ,No 977]


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