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Committee Decisions

35 COM 8B.18

Cultural Properties - Konso Cultural Landscape (Ethiopia)

The World Heritage Committee,

1. Having examined Documents WHC-11/35.COM/8B.Add and WHC-11/35.COM/INF.8B1.Add,

2. Inscribes the Konso Cultural Landscape, Ethiopia, on the World Heritage List on the basis of criteria (iii) and (v);

3. Takes note of the following provisional Statement of Outstanding Universal Value:

 

Brief Synthesis

The Konso Cultural Landscape is characterized by extensive dry stone terraces which witnesses hundreds of years of persistent human struggle to harness the hard, dry and rocky environment, which has resulted in the beautifully outlined rows of dry stone terrace.  The terraces retain the soil from erosion, collect maximum water and discharge the excess, and create terrace saddles that are used for agriculture. The terraces are the main features of the Konso landscape and the hills are contoured by the dry stone terraces that could reach at some places up to 5 meter high.

The dry stone walled towns (Paleta) of the Konso are located on high hills selected for their strategic and defensive advantage. These towns are circled by, between one and six rounds of dry stone defensive walls, built using locally available rock.

The cultural spaces in the walled towns, called Mora retain an important and central role in the life of the Konso. Some walled towns have as many as 17 Moras. The tradition of erecting a generation marking stone called Daga-hela, quarried, transported and erected through a ritual process makes them among the last of the megalithic people.

The traditional forests are used as burial places for ritual leaders, which are performed ritually, and for medicinal purposes. Wooden anthropomorphic statue called Waka, carved out of a hard wood, and mimicking the deceased is erected as a grave marker. Their water reservoirs (Harda) are communally built in the landscape and maintained culturally.

Criterion (iii): The Konso could be referred to as megalithic for their intensive and systematic use of stone. The Konso Cultural Landscape is mainly constituted by the most spectacularly executed dry stone terrace works in the world, which is still actively in use by the people who created it. This extraordinary terrace work is a witness of the struggle of man to harness its environment in an otherwise hostile environment in an area that covers over 230 square km and which stands today as an example of major human achievement. The Cultural Landscape also includes a living tradition of stele erection. The Konso erect stones/steles every 7 and 11 years to commemorate and mark the transfer of responsibility from the older generation to the younger generation, and erect generation trees to commemorate a full cycle generation transfer every 18 years. In addition to this, they also erect man-hood stones called Daga-Diruma on tombs. The Konso are perhaps among the last stele-erecting people in the world: and thus they 'bear a unique or at least exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition or a civilization which is living or which has disappeared'.The Konso funerary system involves the tradition of mummification of their ritual leaders (Poqolas). This and the carving and erection of anthropomorphic wooden statuette (Waka) representing the dead is an exceptional living testimony to traditions which are on the verge of disappearance.

Criterion (v): The Konso Cultural Landscape, with its settlement pattern, harness of hostile environment and its highly organized social systems, is forged by a strong tradition which is based on common values that have resulted in the creation of the Konso cultural and socio-economic fabrics. The dry stone terraces, which are the dominant feature of the Konso country side, show the adaptive strategy that the Konso followed in dry environment. The labor needed to construct terraces must have necessitated a strong cohesion and unified bond among all the clans. The social organization that enabled the work forces to execute the terrace construction and the indigenous engineering knowledge applied have required  certain work divisions which still exist in today's Konso traditional system. The Konso consistently perform maintenance and conservation works. They still maintain their strong traditions of harnessing their environment following an effective indigenous knowledge of water and soil conservation techniques. This has served as a lesson in environmental protection to people of similar environments in Ethiopia; and visits to Konso by farmers and students of agriculture from all corners of the country are common.

Integrity

The boundary of the Konso Cultural Landscape is demarcated taking note of the visual, cultural and socio-economic history of the Konso people. The wholeness of the terraced landscape is considered. The landscape is bounded by natural and cultural markers. Thus the wholeness is maintained.

Authenticity

The Konso Cultural Landscape still largely retain its original form and design. The materials used for the original construction of the terraces and the town walls are local and their conservation is done by the community members. The terraces continue their original use and function. The walled towns are inhabited by the communities and organized following the traditional system. The traditionally protected forests are still protected and used for ritual and burial. The ponds are still in use and periodically conserved. The conservation of the terraces, the walled towns, the forests and the ponds is still performed traditionally.  The tradition of the ritual erection of generation and man-hood stones and generation trees following the generations old "age-grading system" is actively practiced. The active age group still use the collective cultural houses (Moras). Wooden funerary statues are still erected on the graves. The communities respect the traditional code of respect to the culture and adherence to the age group (Hela) and the ward (Kanta) which is responsible for the protection and conservation of the walled towns, the ponds, Mora, the dry stone terraces.

Protection and management requirements

The property is protected by traditional, Regional and Federal laws. The traditional code of management of the cultural landscape is practiced side by side with the modern administrative system. Elected community members and elders ensure the protection and management of the cultural properties. Management committees are formed at all levels - community and district - and involved all stakeholders. A Konso Cultural Landscape Management Office (with six governmental personnel) has been put in place, to address the planning, funding, supervision and conservation tasks.

The Constitution (Proclamation No. 1/1995), The Cultural Policy adopted by the House of Representatives (Parliament) of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia in October 1997, Federal law that provides for the protection and conservation legislation, the regional land proclamation, Proclamation No. 209/2000, Rural Land Administration and Utilization Proclamation No.53/2003, and the 'Proclamation to provide for the protection of Konso Cultural Landscape Heritage' provide the necessary legal protection for the Konso Cultural Landscape. The walled towns are all protected by the last decree that no development work is to be undertaken within 50 meters of the outer most wall. The issue of the interface between Karat town and lower Dokatu and other neighboring traditional towns is solved by the new proclamation and the boundary posts that are in place defining the boundaries.

 

4. Recommends the State Party to:

a) Undertake and consider that further inventory and research should take place in the Konso Cultural Landscape to further strengthen the information on in this exceptional landscape, in particular issues related to the walled towns,

b) Revise the existing Management Plan to include community members, in addition to the District Management Committee, from the added greater área,

c) Undertake further research work in order to fully justify criteria (vi) for its eventual consideration in the future;

5. Encourages the State Party to invite an advisory mission to provide assistance in determining a possible further revision to the boundaries to conform to the attributes that convey Outstanding Universal Value.

Themes: Inscriptions on the World Heritage List
States Parties: Ethiopia
Session: 35COM