Gedeo Mixed Cultural and Natural Landscape

Date of Submission: 27/12/2012
Criteria: (i)(iii)(v)(vii)(x)
Category: Mixed
Submitted by:
Ministry of Culture & Tourism, Authority for Research & Conservation of Cultural Heritage (ARCCH)
State, Province or Region:
Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples State, Gedeo Zone
Coordinates: N5 7 E38 40
Ref.: 5787

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The Gedeo Mixed Cultural and Natural Landscape is located in Gedeo Zone, Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples Regional State (SNNPRS) of  the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia. The Gedeo Zone lies between 50 and 70 North latitude and 380 and 400 East longitude, in the escarpments of the southeastern Ethiopian highlands overlooking the Rift Valley, in the narrow strip of land running from North (Sidama zone) to South (Oromiya region). It shares the largest boundary with Oromiya regional state and only in the north-east with Sidama Zone.

The Gedeo Mixed Cultural and Natural Landscape is the combination and the presence of a harmony of combination between nature and cultural civilization. The Gedeo Mixed Cultural and Natural Landscape is the result of Human contact with nature. Gedeo is the place where one can see great and magnificent ancient megalithic stones dispersed in the breadth and width of the natural heritage i.e the agro-forestry zone.

Cultural Properties

Chelba Tuttiti Megalithic Site. Chelba Tuttiti Megalithic Site is located in Wonago Woreda Deko Kebele 3.5 K.M from the main road there are around 7500 household living in the area Chelba Tuttiti bordered to the  East with Bonqo Okato Mountain North Tuttiti Deko West Wodeye South Chitobicha There are more than 1360 stelae in an area of 12.5 hectare. The height of these stelae measured from 0.5m to 6 m.

Sede Megalithic Site. Sede Mercato is found in Yerga Chefe Woreda in Sede Kebele at a village called Kib. It is far about 8 km south west of the town of Yerga Cheffe. Bordered North  with Yirgachefe South with Kochere West with  Haru  and  East with  Udessa.

Sede is located 6km from the main international road that connects Ethiopia with Nairobi. An altitude of 2186 a.s.l Geographically, it is located at 6o 07‘ 06.0‘‘ north latitude and 038o 10‘ 59.8‘‘ East of longitude and at an altitude of 2186 meters above sea level. It is found at the top of a hill. It is a protected area which has thirty five meters of length and 30 meters of width. Though it is a protected area, it does not have a fence and currently, the area is covered with bushes and trees. No one knows when and who erected the stelae at Sede Mercato. More than 470 stelae, associated with tumulus and the majority of them are found still standing. Sede Mercato is a cairn roughly oriented north-south. The site contains numerous stelae of various size with cylindrical shaft or quadrangular ones, with or without the Tuttofella type decoration or Tutti type.

The height of the cairn seems to be about one or two meter in its central part. Some of the occupation are likely recent and especially in the outer and northern part of the cairn, marked by roughly hewn monolithic stelae made from basaltic prism. The height of the stelae measures 2.60 in meter and its circumference is 1.28 meter. The strong possibility in this was a funerary cairn whose tombs were built successively by acceleration, quite like Tuttofella cairn. Phallic stelae are numerous, some were shaped using hammer stone and others have been obviously been worked with metal tools.

Tuttofella Megalithic Site. Tuttofella Megalithic Site is located in Wonago Woreda. Archeologist  R. Joussaume discovered seven megalithic sites in three woredas of Gedeo. His intensive excavation in Wonago in Tutu Fela from 1993-1997 resulted in the discovery of human remains buried in different layers. More than one dead body was buried in one tomb in different periods (Metasebia, 1996).

According to R. Joussaume (1997), the top layer constituted corpses that are dated from 12th - 13th century A.D. with household utensils.  The bottom layer is dated to the 10th century A.D. Thus, he assumed that two different generations used the same site for burial in different periods .In Tuttofella, The stelae are carved from ryolites of various kind and basaltic prism (columnar basalt).

Sakaro Sodo Megalithic Site. Sakoro sodo site is located in Gedeb Woreda in Halo Hartume Kebele some 3.3 km to the north of the town of Gedeb and some 300 meters from the main international road at a village called Sakaro Sodo. The geographical location of the site is 05056‘55.1‘‘ North of latitude and038015‘17.8‘‘ East of longitude and at an elevation of 2367 meter above sea level. The site measures .6 hectare . The area is protected as a heritage site by Gedeo Zone Culture, Tourism and Communication Department.

Sakaro Sodo megalithic site contains an alignment of 27 standing stelae and seven stelae that lay in the ground. All of these stelae are found encircling a big indigenous Dokema tree. From these stelae only ten of them are standing or intact. The longest stelae measures 3.50 meter and has a circumference of 2.50 meters.

Odola Gelma Rock Engravings Site. The Odola Gelma Rock Engravings site is located in Dilla Zuria Woreda in the South Eastern part of Gedeo Zone.  It is located on a river named Hanshi Malcho. This is a sacred river used for a ritual ceremony that is related to purity.  The area is not yet explored by archeologists, however it is believed that the site is one of the ancient settlement areas. Odola Gelma Rock Engraving Site is surrounded by red volcanic lava. It shows images of long- and short-horned cattle. The Odola Gelma  area is densely peppered with rock engravings, and megaliths which is a testimony of a very heavy and significant concentration of Neolithic people.

Natural Properties

The Gedeo indigenous agro forestry is located along the eastern escarpment of the rift valley system of Ethiopia. This was formed during Miocene epoch 26 million ago. Over 80% of Geode lies along the escarpment of the rift valley system with slopes reaching up to 70 percent.  It is found with altitudinal ranges from 1300 to 3064 m.a.s.l. (Bogale, 2007). This is one of the indicators of how far the landscape diversities are important in the view of world center for flora and fauna diversities. This has also boosted landscapes connectivity and is maintaining wider watersheds areas. Moreover, the landscapes also create their own scenic beauties which serve as potential ecotourism sites. Registration of the system safeguard these unique landscapes, and visitors may enjoy by looking at the physiographic and geological features and get a good understanding of the formation of the rift valley system in general and escarpment in particular. The escarpment also contains a hot spring which is also one of the tourist attraction features of the area.

Gedeo Mixed Cultural and Natural Landscape is also exceptional, it carries the highest population density in Africa. For instance, a carrying capacity of about 500 persons/km2 for well managed home gardens has been authenticated (Fernandes et al., 1989). The Gedeo agroforestry in Ethiopia supported up to 1300 persons /km2 (Bogale, 2007; Mesele, 2007). This figure is also by far higher as compared to  the country’s average of 72 persons /km2 (Kidanu et al., 2009). In reality, the population densities of 10 selected home gardens in different parts of the tropics lie between 40 and 700 persons /km2 (Nair, 1993). Higher carrying capacity of the system is mainly attributed to the existence of Enset (E. ventricosum). E. ventricosum looks like a large, thick, single-stemmed banana plant and is domesticated and used as staple food in Ethiopia only. About 20 million people from central and southern highlands of Ethiopia depend on this crop to supply family food (Asnaketch, 1997). Thus, registration of this unique and drought tolerant food plants paves the way to maintain the genetic pools and perpetuate the species in indigenous agroforestry. Moreover, this can be a best example for people with higher population density anywhere in the world to learn how to harmonize population pressure with sustainable production and conservation on mountainous landscapes. These are: Wote (Yirgacheffe Woreda); Qisha(Kochere); Kurumi (Kochere); Hoticcha (Dilla Zuria); Wogida Amba (Wongao).

Justification of Outstanding Universal Value

The Gedeo  Mixed Cultural and Natural Landscape is considered to be one of the most outstanding mixed Cultural and Natural areas in Africa. Aside from the agroforestry landscape the abundance of thousands of megalithic stones of ancient times as well as the presence of Rock Engravings of Neolithic period. The whole area of Gedeo Zone is incomparable, however ten sites are chosen for their unique and superb exceptional values these are: Chelba Tutti , Sede  Tuttofella and Sakarosodo megalithic sites and Odola Gelma Ancient Rock Engraving Site, and from the natural properties the agroforestery landscape of Wote, Qisha, Kurumi, Hotticha and Wogida Amba Sites.

Criteria (i): The Gedeo Mixed Cultural and Natural Landscape represents a masterpiece of human creative genius in its diverse archeological and natural heritage sites. The existence of over 6000 megalithic stones in the zone is a testimony for human creative genius in stone tools. The Odola Gelma Roc Engraving site is also another testimony of human creative genius of the Nelothic period. The agroforestry culture has also benefited farmers for centuries without at losing its environmental services, and sustaining food and wood security. The indigenous knowledge of farmers and the culture represent a masterpiece of human creative genius.

Criteria (iii): The archaeological sites of Chelba Tutti, Sede  Tuttefella and Sakarosodo megalithic sites and Odola Gelma Ancient Rock Engraving Site  reveal the evolution of various life's periods in the area which started since the Paleolithic period and continued up to modern times. The area is testimony to various cultural periods and diversity in the burial patterns and traditions.

Gedeo people still preserve the tangible heritages through  intangible heritages that is part of their living cultural tradition under the Balla system of Gedeo through their traditional Gedda system. Both the Cultural and Natural properties are administered through the Balla traditional governing system of Gedeo . The intangible heritage of Gedeo  people entirely depend on the preservation of cultural and natural properties from the past. In this case the unique national anthem of Gedeo people Known as Harsuninni Fullennee still serve as a medium that calls the Gedeo  people to stand in unison  and preserve its cultural identity and natural heritages. Through these traditional living cultures the Gedeo people are able to conserve   Cultural Heritage Sites as well as the biodiversity. Gedeo people are able to sustain and keep preserve the management of complex structural diversity sustaining high population density with no environmental damages.

Criteria (v): The Gedeo cultural and natural landscape is representative of human interaction with the environment when it has become vulnerable under the impact of deforestation and habitat loss resulting in loss of biodiversity and low adaptive capacity to climate change. The presence of trees species contributes to climate change adaptation in at least two ways: (i) most tree species are deep rooted and can have large food reserves, and are less susceptible than annual crops to inter-annual climate variability or short-lived extreme events like droughts or floods. High diversity of trees and other perennial species offer food diversification options that can reduce production risks and enhance adaptive capacity of smallholders to climate change. (ii) Trees are a perennial resource that can be exploited to provide increased income during difficult periods, thereby reducing income risks associated with climate change related shocks for smallholder farming families. Agroforestry, like the Gedeo system, offer the highest, next to forest, potential for carbon sequestration.

Criteria (vii): The Gedeo landscape’s has the most spectacular aesthetic value. Gedeo consisting of plateaus (2700 to 3064 meters altitude), escarpments (1500 to 2700 meters altitude) and the rift valley (below 1500 meters altitude), offers a unique natural feature for landscape tourists. It is the landscape shaped by volcanism, faulting and denudation. A west-east block transects through the Gedeo reveals diverse landscape. As one moves further to the east, the slope rises, the escarpments ends where the plateau starts. In addition, the waterfalls and hot springs are also important ecotourism attractions. Other attractions include the songos, burial places, the megalthic sites , caves and cave paintings, rock arts. The grace of the stelae lying here and there could not be easily dismissed. The same is true of peaks, caves and cave paintings. At present, there is little if any visitor/tourist pressure on the Agro Forestery. This may, however, be due to lack of publicity and this will soon change. Signs of changes are being observed with the discovery of archeological artifacts under the stelae at Tuttofella and Tuttiti.

Criteria (x): The Gedeo Mixed Cultural and Natural Landscape is characterized by more fragmented spatial structure of various mountains and hills. Due to the presence of agroforestry, however, habitat/landscape connectivity (thereby facilitating movement of animals, seeds and pollen) that sustains high biodiversity is a typical socio-cultural identity of Gedeo community. The habitats of this AF are not the same to that of original forests. In Gedeo there are two biodiversity conservation approaches namely in-situ and circa situm conservation. Dominantly the Gedeo biodiversity management strategy is more of Circa situm, which refers to conservation while utilizing. This biological conservation is a more reliable approach under agricultural landscape. In Gedeo AF, diversification of the species is manifested in the vertical multistrata and spatial arrangements. Spatially up to 50-187 species, of which (39%) tree species, (7%) shrubs, (33%) herbaceous and (21%) others ((Tadesse Kippie, 1994; Mesele Negash and Negussie Achalu, 2008). Indigenous tree species such as Millettia ferruginea, Cordia africana, Erythrina spp, Ficus Sure, Albizia gummifera, Vernonia amygdalina, Croton Macrostachyus Podocarpus falcutus, Polyscaias fulva, Prunus africaum, Isyzygium guineese, etc are most ecologically and economical important in the system.

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

The Ballee system / traditional administration in Gedeo/ which has been practiced long ago and still being exercised to some extent has  played a crucial role in shaping up the public attitude towards the conservation of both the cultural and natural sites.  Many of the plants and animal components of the Gedeo Agroforestry system are required in the exercise of Baalee tradition and thus preserve them for the purpose.

The stelae of Gedeo, one of the outstanding properties of the nominated area, have been studied by archeologists and anthropologists. The stelae site at Tuttofella was excavated from 1990-1997 by French and Ethiopian Archeologists. The study identified two layers of burials found on the same site; the first layer constitutes corpses that dated from 12th - 13th C.A.D. with household utensils and another layer of burials lying under the first layer dating to the 10th C.A.D. (Merewa Magazine, 1999). They also identified diverse types of stelae which they categorized under phallic, anthropomorphic and decorated. The stelae at Tuttiti were also studied by Abiyot. The presence of prehistoric sites like Odola Gelma Rock engraving areas together with the historic megalithic proto history enrich the precious wonders of past human achievements in Ethiopia.

Comparison with other similar properties

Various elements of the sites can be compared with other similar features found in other parts of the world Stonehenge; Avebury is a good example for comparison with Gedeo Mixed Cultural and Natural Heritage site in particular for its representation as a masterpiece of human creative genius. The megalithic properties of  Gedeo Zone has similar characteristics with that  Tiya  and  Konso World Heritage sites of Ethiopia.

It is also possible to compare Geode Mixed Cultural and Natural Landscape with that of the Coffee Cultural Landscape of Colombia due to  man’s adaptation to challenging geographical and climatic conditions of this area, known as the Eje Cafetero. In Gedeo like that of Colombia Coffee Landscape  Aspects such as traditions, language and other forms of intangible heritage, have been preserved, mostly by owners and the local community, who have a high sense of social appropriation of their cultural heritage in  the preservation of the agroforestry.