The Bale Mountains Eco-Region REDD+ Project (BMERP) is an initiative designed to provide a sustainable financing mechanism for Oromia Forest and Wildlife Enterprise (OFWE) and local community that are committed to the sustainable management of natural resources in the Bale Eco-region.
There are numerous reasons to prioritize the management of the Bale Eco-region. It is a region with major ecological and socio-economic significances. It hosts the largest Afro-alpine ecosystem in Africa and is one of the two major biodiversity rich rainforest blocks in Ethiopia. It is the water tower for the entire southeastern and eastern drainage basin serving the pastoral and agro-pastoral communities in the arid, drought-prone lowlands of Ethiopia as far as Somalia and north Kenya. More than 40 rivers flow from the Bale Mountains, which feed five major river systems that flow through the arid lowlands in the drainage basin. The eco-region is a global biodiversity hotspot and home to several important species including the genetic pool of Coffea arabica and several endangered endemic species such as the Abyssinian wolf and the Mountain Nyla.
Deforestation is threatening the forests of Bale and its ecosystem services. Improved management and conservation is crucial to sustain the eco-region and its forests, and to enhance the livelihoods and resilience of a population of 1.2 million, 30% of whom are living below the poverty line, plus another 12 million living in the downstream areas.
The Bale Mountains Eco-Region REDD+ Project builds on the Bale Eco-Region Sustainable Management Programme (BERSMP), which ran from 2006-2013. The new agreement includes a pilot of REDD+, and the Bale Eco-Region project is the first large scale REDD+ pilot project in Ethiopia. As a result, the project will generate carbon revenue, which will give a financial benefit, in addition to benefits for the climate, biodiversity and the community. The Embassy works together with Farm Africa and SOS Sahel to implement the project.
The Embassy, together with SOS Sahel, Farm Africa and Oromia Forest and Wildlife Enterprise (OFWE), visited the Bale Eco-Region, where they met the community living in the region and working on managing the forest in a sustainable way.
The forest works as a main income for many people in the region, either by producing honey, collecting wild crops like coffee and spices from the forest, or cutting down trees for firewood and other uses. One of the essential goals of the project is to make the people get an income more valuable than cutting down trees. During the visit, the Embassy saw that the community has learned how to harvest more coffee and honey from the forest, without deforestation and negative impact on the environment. Deforestation has been reduced with 81%, and the Embassy is impressed by the work and engagement from the community. The people expressed the feeling of doing an important job, not only for themselves and the forest, but also for the world and the global environment.