In January 2012 the State Party submitted a comprehensive report on the state of conservation of the property, addressing the corrective measures adopted by the Committee at its 30th session (Vilnius, 2006). It focuses particularly on the three measures that had not been completed at the time of the joint UNESCO/IUCN reactive monitoring mission in October 2009, and reviews further progress on other issues.
In respect of the three outstanding corrective measures, the State Party reports the following developments:
a) Improve the on-the-ground demarcation of the proposed extension of the property and finalize its gazetting into national law.
The State Party notes that the re-gazetting of the property’s boundaries has been delayed, despite the successful alignment of the new boundaries with the participation of local communities. The State Party attributes this delay to the uncertainty over whether re-gazetting would require a new nomination. It states that the gazetting of the new boundaries will be completed soon, provided that a new nomination would not be required.
As mentioned in previous reports, the World Heritage Centre and IUCN welcome the progress made in the alignment of the new boundaries but observe that the gazettement of these new boundaries has been stalled because of misunderstandings on the process for re-aligning the boundaries of the World Heritage property. They note that the State Party report does not provide information on the recommended improvements with on-the-ground demarcation and geo-referencing of the proposed extension. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN emphasize that gazetting the extension into national law is necessary to provide adequate legal protection to the National Park and should be completed regardless of the World Heritage process. They clarify that once the notification under national law is completed, the State Party should consider submitting a proposal for boundary modification of the World Heritage property. Given the area concerned, the boundary modification has to be considered as a significant modification, according to paragraph 165 of the Operational Guidelines. While this means that the documentation that has to be submitted is based on the requirements of a nomination file, the World Heritage Centre and IUCN would like to clarify that this does not put into question the World Heritage status of the area. They also note that unless the newly aligned boundaries of the park coincide with the World Heritage property, critical parts of the range of the Walia ibex and Ethiopian wolf would be excluded from the property’s inscription under criterion (x). They encourage the State Party to clarify with the World Heritage Centre the requirements for the boundary modification. IUCN notes that it is willing to provide technical advice and to assist the State Party in identifying a suitable consultant.
b) Review the Grazing Pressure Reduction Strategy, identify elements of it for immediate implementation under existing projects and programmes, and seek additional support for implementation of other priority actions.
The State Party report notes that the grazing strategy which was developed foresees the establishment of a zoning scheme, with different levels of restricted access for community grazing (core zone, limited use zone, multiple use zone). However, it notes that to implement the objectives of the strategy, a coordinated approach amongst different local stakeholders and the mobilisation of resources from the international community will be needed. It further notes that it has not been able to complete the strategic action plan to reduce grazing pressure due to financial constraints. The report further mentions that the Ethiopian Wildlife Conservation Authority (EWCA) is working in collaboration with the Austrian-funded North Gondar Sustainable Resource Management Programme and the Agriculture Department to reduce grazing pressure within the property through on-farm fodder production, introduction of zero-grazing (cut-and-carry) livestock management techniques and introduction of improved livestock breeds. Furthermore, it notes that park patrolling has been intensified to restrict livestock grazing in core wildlife areas of the park such as Chenek, Sankaber and Geech.
The World Heritage Centre and IUCN welcome the efforts undertaken to address the grazing issue by the introduction of improved animal husbandary techniques. However, they stress the importance of introducing the zoning foreseen in the grazing strategy and recall the Desired state of conservation for removal of the property from the List of World Heritage In Danger (DSOCR), adopted in Decision 34 COM 7A.9, which requires the establishment of no-grazing zones covering 30% of the park area, and ‘forage harvesting zones’ (for cut-and-carry forage production) covering a further 20% of the park. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN acknowledge that additional resources will be needed to support implementation of the Grazing Pressure Reduction Strategy, and that this will depend on a successful outcome to the proposed donor conference, which has been postponed since 2010 but is now scheduled after the 36th session (see point e) below).
c) Develop alternative livelihood opportunities for those currently living within the park to enable a systematic reduction in the amount of illegal cultivation and the number of park residents.
The State Party reports continued progress with youth vocational training which has enabled some park residents to establish viable businesses in nearby towns and relocate to these places. However, a lack of funding has limited the implementation of the livelihood improvement programme. According to reports received by IUCN the number of beneficiaries of the youth vocational training and other activities aimed at providing alternative livelihoods has been severely limited by this low level of funding available. Furthermore, the successful voluntary relocation of residents from the Akwasiye village (which was located in a critical wildlife corridor) in 2008/9 has not been replicated elsewhere, again due largely to lack of funding.
The World Heritage Centre and IUCN note that the 40% reduction in the number of households living within the property, which would be required to restore its ecological integrity to an acceptable level for its removal from the List of World Heritage In Danger (as established by the DSOCR), has not yet been met. They consider that the achievement of this corrective measure will depend on a successful outcome to the proposed donor conference in October 2012.
d) Progress in the implementation of other recommendations identified by previous monitoring missions:
The State Party reports that the construction of the Debark – Sawerea – Beless – Inchet kab – Mekane Berhan road is now being undertaken, thus providing an alternative to the present road which runs along the top of the escarpment through critical wildlife habitat in the middle of the park. The new road will by-pass the park altogether and eliminate the need for heavy traffic to pass through the property. The State Party also notes that a possible re-alignment of the main road north from Debark through Limalimo to by-pass the new western extension of the park is also under discussion.
The State Party notes that in an effort to protect the highly endangered Walia ibex and Ethiopian wolf from possible transmission of sheep pox, mange mite and rabies a total of almost 50,000 domestic animals in 4 districts were vaccinated in November 2011 and training provided to farmers and veterinary technicians on the importance and techniques used in vaccination.
The State Party report indicates that tourist numbers have increased by 50% since the time of the mission in 2009, with corresponding increases in revenue and local employment in the tourism services sector, and that government revenues from park entrance and vehicle fees have increased by 300% over the same period.
The State Party reports that park management responsibility was transferred from the regional administration to the Federal EWCA in 2009, and has been undergoing ‘Business Process Re-engineering’. This has resulted in an increase in the number of park personnel; the recruitment of technical specialists; provision of staff training; increased park budgets; and the introduction of new management structures and practices. The new park authority is now well established and a key indicator of success is the significant increase in populations of the park’s two flagship species, with Walia ibex now numbering 895 (up from 740 in 2008) and Ethiopian wolf numbering 102 (up from 84 in 2009).
The World Heritage Centre and IUCN welcome the reported progress and continued implementation of the recommendations of the previous monitoring missions and acknowledge the significant advances reported in increasing the management effectiveness of the property.
e) Donor Conference
The State Party reports that it has established a task force of government and non-governmental officials in August 2011 to plan, organise and convene the proposed donor conference. According to the latest communications with the State Party, the conference is now tentatively scheduled to take place in October 2012 and following a request for International Assistance, the World Heritage Centre decided to allocate USD 20,000 under the 2012 World Heritage Fund budget line for sites on the List of World Heritage in Danger. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN note that a successful outcome to the conference is critical in resolving the outstanding issues of alternative livelihoods and grazing pressure reduction.