A new strategy has been devised to reduce grazing pressure on the Simien Mountains National Park (Ethiopia) (SMNP) World Heritage site and its surroundings through measures that harmonize grazing and conservation needs.
SMNP in northern Ethiopia is a spectacular landscape, where massive erosion over millions of years has created jagged mountain peaks, deep valleys and sharp precipices dropping some 1,500 m. The park is of global significance for biodiversity conservation because it is home to globally threatened species, including the iconic Walia ibex, a wild mountain goat found nowhere else in the world, the Gelada baboon and the Ethiopian wolf.
However, park has been under serious threat from the expansion of settlement and cultivation, overgrazing and deforestation and was therefore inscribed on the List of World Heritage in Danger in 1996.
In order to address overgrazing and land degradation in SMNP the ‘Grazing Pressure Reduction Strategy’ was developed through a consultative participatory process involving local communities and other key stakeholders, under the auspices of the African Wildlife Foundation (AWF), in collaboration with the Ethiopian Wildlife Conservation Authority (EWCA), in partnership with the World Heritage Centre and with the financial support of the UNESCO/Netherlands Funds-in-Trust (NFiT).
Starting in November 2014, consultative meetings were organized with thirty communities and EWCA park staff. Maps for land use change of the Park and resource use zones were generated based on these consultations and research data. Six consultative workshops were subsequently held, bringing together some 500 participants from government agencies, universities, administrative bodies and local communities.
This strategy provides for a zoning scheme, which includes no grazing/protected zone core areas; controlled/limited grazing zones; and sustainable resources use zones. The strategy further calls for grazing rights to be limited to eligible users. Sustainable stocking rates are to be determined for limited/controlled grazing zones.
The strategy provides for a development of sustainable livelihood options, an increase in SMNP staff capacity, the strengthening of law enforcement, the updating of the General Management Plan and enhanced monitoring, including ecological monitoring.
Finally, the AWF in collaboration with EWCA has developed a new tourism plan for SMNP that is to ensure responsible tourism development, with fair and equitable sharing of benefits generated from tourism.
The implementation of the strategy will help the EWCA achieve the Desired state of conservation for the removal of the property from the list of World Heritage in Danger.