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Gedeo Cultural Landscape

Date of Submission: 28/01/2020
Criteria: (iii)(v)
Category: Cultural
Submitted by:
Ministry of Culture and Tourism Authority of Research and Conservation of Cultural Heritage
State, Province or Region:
Gedeo Zone, Southern Nation Nationalities and Peoples State
Coordinates: N6 3 25.874 E38 25 18.126
Ref.: 6448

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Gedeo is located in the southern part of Ethiopia. Gedeo occupies the Eastern margin of the Southern main Ethiopian Rift between the Abaya Lake (1200 meters asl.) in the West, and the mountains that reach 3200 meters asl. located to the East. The terrain ascends to the East with slopes between 30-40%. Gedeo as a whole extends for 150 km distance from North to South and 40 km from East to West. This hilly terrain with an area of 1347 km² hosts over 1.5 million people. This makes it the most densely populated zone in the Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples' Region, Ethiopia. It is bordered by the Sidama zone in the north, and by the Oromia region in the south, east and west. The exact location of the Gedeo zone lies between 5 50 26 to 6 12 48 N Latitude and 38 12 48 to 38 13 02 E Longitude. Gedeo is very well known for its Indigenous Knowledge based self-sustaining land use system. The Gedeo cultural landscape has multiple facets. The Agroforestry system developed and adopted locally to sustain lively hood and the megalithic monuments, Rock art sites and traditionally protected ritual forests which abound the land scape are its main components.

The Gedeo have developed an agro-forestry system which is regarded as a sustainable land use system in the country hosting a large number of population density of over 1300 people per km² and harboring a rich bio-diversity. The agroforestry system is the most prominent defining feature of the cultural landscape. The components of the agroforestry are mainly coffee, enset, indigenous trees, root crops, shrubs, etc. in which, every plant occupy distinct layers of the vertical space of the plant community (Legesse, 2014; Teferi, 2007; Kippe 2002). The Gedeo agro-forestry system has evolved for a long time without remarkable degradation and loss of biodiversity because it is based on indigenous knowledge of environmental management and land use system. The Gedeo indigenous knowledge may also contribute for our understanding of cultural response and adaptability to climate change.

Gedeo is also reputed for its abundant megalithic archaeological sites. These archaeological sites are located at higher and prominent locations throughout the land scape, following the natural contours and overlooking the surrounding lower areas. These megalithic sites are among prominent archaeological features illustrating the extraordinary stelae tradition which once had attained its pic in history between the 8th and 15th century. Prehistoric rock art sites which are testimony of the occupation of the region by prehistoric pastoralists are also present in the landscape. These rock art sites depict the occupation of cattle herders prior to the megalithic culture in the region. Until today the Gedeo traditional leaders upkeep sacred forests and sites of ritual importance. These sacred forests serve as refugium for traditional medicinal plants and indigenous floral diversity. This landscape is an example of rich evolving culture, resilience and sustainability.

The Agro-forestry system

Agroforestry is a comprehensive land management system that combines trees and shrubs with crops and livestock in time and space on the same unit of land management (at landscape level) to achieve optimum benefits from biological interactions between soil, plants, and animals (Nair, 2007). It is one of the dominant ecosystems that resemble natural forests but preserved, managed and utilized through culturally embedded indigenous knowledge in different parts of the world (Bhagwat et al. 2008). It encompasses a wide range of indigenous trees that are grown and managed on farms and in rural landscapes. Growing indigenous trees in combination with crops and livestock is an ancient practice particularly in Africa, Asia and Latin America (Nair, 2003 2007). In developing countries including Africa, agroforestry harbors the livelihood of hundreds of millions of farmers and has remained to be the main feature of agriculture (World Bank 2004). Central to the discussion of agroforestry is the tripartite relationship between indigenous peoples, indigenous ecological knowledge and culture.

The GedeoAgro-forestry and its bio diversity

The Gedeo experience provides a unique opportunity for the understanding of human environment relationship that is maintained through indigenous institutions, values and practices. The Gedeo people are reputed for their ingenious agroforestry system. It is a way of survival for them. The land has a remarkable variation in altitude and geomorphology within a short distance. The altitude rises sharply from 1200 m a.s.l. in the East (the Rift floor) to 3200 m a.s.l. in the West within 30 km distance.

Due to the remarkable gradient, soil formation varies between the rolling slopes cut deep by the abundant perennial rivers in the highland and the alluvial deposits in the lowlands. At areas on the highlands where the soil formed on the volcanic rocks (rhyolites), and where slope gradient is higher, the depth of the soil is between 50 cm and 2 meters and is mostly clay to silty mixed with scree. As one descends to the lower altitudes the soil gets thicker and becomes mostly silty clay or clayey silt. This fertile soil and the altitudinal variation favors the proliferation of varied and rich plant life occupying varied eco zones.

Owing to the topographic characteristics, the area is not suitable for settlement and mono­ cropping agriculture. Slope gradient reaches up to70% in some areas and almost 50% of the landscape is steep, with slope gradient above 10%. Thus, according to the land use policy of the country, the area should be free from any agricultural activity. Any activity conducted on such land whose slope gradient is above 30% should be based on the principle of protection. In contrary to the principle, the Gedeo have been cultivating the land with slope gradient above 30%, without major environmental problems. They have managed the challenges of cultivating a very steep slope, which is highly prone to mass movement.

Gedeo's total used land is 134,686 hectares. Out of this, 94.5% is covered by agroforestry, 1.4% by grass land, 0.8% by wetland, 0.5% by natural forest, 0.1% by plantations and 2.7% others, indicating that agroforestry system is very strong (Bogale Teferi, 2007). The nominated area agroforestry cover is more than 95% of the total land coverage.

Of the total Gedeo agro-biodiversity, 40% is occupied by enset and coffee crops (21% is occupied by enset (Ensete ventricosum) and 19% is occupied by coffee (Coffea arabica)). There are dominant native woody species associated with Enset-coffea crops which play a great role in the food security and ecological sustainability.

The Gedeo zone comprises the traditional agro-climatic classification containing a mid-altitude climate (Dega) which accounts for 37%, a sub-tropical climate (Weyna-dega) for 62%, and the remainder 1 % is hot tropical climate (Kolla). Gedeo is characterized by a sub-humid tropical climate which receives a total rainfall of 800-1800 mm and a mean annual temperature of 12.5°C-25°C. More than 80% of the Gedeo land lies along the escarpment of the Rift Valley system with slopes that reach up to 70%.

Among the marking feature of the Gedeo landscape, enset (Enset ventricosum) plant which abound the landscape is the defining flora. Enset (Enset ventricosum) is the basic staple food for the Gedeo. Together with Enset, the Gedeo also cultivate coffee (Coffea arabica); most often together when the altitude favors it, (between 1500 and 2500 meters a.s.l.); and cultivate enset alone in the higher altitude (above 2500 meters a.s.l.), where it is not favorable for coffee trees. Together with enset and coffee the Gedeo keep indigenous tree species to provide shade for the coffee. They also grow, together with the above, root crops such as cassava, magnock, beans, cabbage, medicinal plants, shrubs that they use as fodder for their animals: Thus, these plants form a unique symbiotic relationship in which each occupies its distinct space vertically.

The traditionally managed farming system has thus enabled the Gedeo to plant all the needed crops in a small area in a way that the system helps each plant to support the other.

A total of 195 plant species distributed in 155 genera and 66 families represent the plant biodiversity in the Gedeo agriculture. Fabaceae has the highest number of species (17 species, 8.72%), followed by Asteraceae and Euphorbiaceae (11 species, each 5.64%), Poaceae (10 species, 5.13%), Lamiaceae (10 species, 5.13%), Rosaceae and Solanaceae (8 species, 4.10%).

The tree species which give the forest appearance of the Gedeo agroforestry system include Millettia ferruginea, Croton macrostachyus, Cordia africana, Fagaropsis angolensis, Fagaropsis angolensis, and Brucea antidysentrica. Among the above, Millettia ferruginea is highly preferred by the Gedeo people for soil fertility. Coffee and enset plants benefit from its shade. It has light crown and small leaves. The tree sheds its leaves during the active growing season of coffee shoots and fruits. This view is evidenced from the fact that 96% of the plots sampled were occupied by this tree species along with other woody species. Croton macrostachyus is preferred by the people living in highlands area for enhancing soil fertility whereas, people in midlands think that it is unfriendly for coffee plants as it sucks much water out of the soils. This tree is used to treat skin problem and stomach disorder in people. Brucea antidysenterica is also a native species deliberately retained in the agroforestry system for its medicinal value to treat dysentery. (SLUF (2006), Mesele Negash et al. (2011) and Tadesse Kippie (2002)).

The species in the agrobiodiversity is grouped into four different habits/growth forms such as tree, shrub, herb and climber. Of the total species composition, herb and tree represent 39% (76 species) and 31.3% (61 species), respectively. Shrub represent 22.0% (43 species), and climber 7.70% (15 species). Ensete ventricosum, Coffea arabica, Millettia ferruginea, Croton macrostachyus are among frequently recorded species in the Gedeo agrobiodiversity.

The enset-coffee associated woody species are the dominant groups in Gedeo agro-biodiversity and play a great role in the environmental as well as ecological sustainability of the region. The system is mainly composed of enset-coffee agroforestry which constitutes the major portion of agro-biodiversity. The need of maintaining this system with high agrobiodiversity in the Gedeo home gardens emanate from the objective of self-sufficiency in producing almost all required products for subsistence, minimizing the crop loss from hazards, producing diverse food products that meet the nutritional demands of the household and the need to have food crops harvestable throughout a year. This is confirmed in the findings of Cromwell et al. (1999) and Tesfaye Abebe et al. (2010).

Archaeological sites

The Tuto-Fela megalithic site

The Tuto-fela megalithic site is located at N 6 19 10 and E 38 21 23.9 at an altitude of 2002 masl. overlooking Lake Abaya to the west. Both phallic and anthropomorphic stelae are erected on a large cairn oriented north-east / south-west in an area of 800 m square (40 m long by 20 m wide), which makes it the largest tumuli so far known in the region. The site is situated on top of small hill crest. Until excavation took place there in 1925, the site was obscured by dense vegetation. The funerary purpose of the anthropomorphic stelae was first suggested by the earliest excavations of François Azaïs in 1925.

All stelae in Tuto-fela are still in erect position except 5 of them that are lying on the ground. Only 54 of the stelae are complete, whereas the rest are broken. The Tuto-fela site includes 53 carved stelae depicting different symbols. Most of the stelae were restored and re-erected during the archaeological research program by Roger Jaussaume between 1993 and 1997. The site covers 800-meter square surface. Out of the 800-meter square area, 150 meter square was excavated; and 105 individual human remains were exhumed. Out of these, 85 are from the upper burials from the base of the cairn; whereas 19 individuals are from the especially prepared burials called 'en chaussette'. Eighty-six of the individuals exhumed are associated with anthropomorphic stelae. Out of these, 42 skulls were able to be measured and provided important scientific data.

Azaïs's research led to the conclusion that more than 320 anthropomorphic stelae (the count include the intact and broken ones) were erected on the site associated with a large funerary cairnbelow which was already a cemetery made of tombs in deep pits. The superimposed funeral customs mainly reused the phallic stelae previously erected on this same promontory and transformed them in to anthropomorphic stelae. Currently 230 anthropomorphic stelae are found erect in the site. The size of the stelae in Tuto-fela varies between 0.70 m to 2.50 metres in height. According to R. Jaussaume who excavated the site, the stelae of Tuto-fela are dated between the11th. and the 15th centuries and could be outlined as follows:

The phallic stelae: these are generally cylindrical in cross-section with the apex incised circularly. They are shaped by pounding using stones. These are the oldest stelae which were sometimes reused without further modification, or they were reshaped and were reused.

The stelae with crossing lines (stele a croissiollon): these group are divided in to three types. They are all associated with the upper level burials and the tumulus. Some of these stelae show simple lines. These stelae have circular or plano-convex cross section. They depict lines which were made either by curving out the shape or incised using sharp tools. Some are phallic with lines curved on them. Whereas some are phallic or non-phallic, and depict a human face and lines carved on them. These stelae clearly show anthropomorphic character. They were elaborated or transformed from stelae that were originally phallic through chiseling using metal burin.

It is also reported that phallic stelae were positioned on the ground with the tip upside down; and then carved with rayed lines. Currently, the site is protected by the Regional Culture and Tourism Bureau. It is fenced and has a permanent guard.


The Chelba-tutiti site is located at 38° 11' 48.48"/6° 15' 41.04"; 2500 meters above sea level. Roger Jaussaume and his team have conducted excavation there in 2009 and 2010. The megalithic monuments are distributed over an area of 240 m x 70 m wide. The stelae at Chelba­ tutiti are distributed in over 16,800-meter square area and number 1530 monuments. The majority of the stelae are found lying on the ground; 181 are found in tilted position, out of which 114 are broken whereas 67 are intact. The tallest stelae are between 4 and 8 m high. The tallest stele, which is 8 meters high has 1.80 m diameter. The short massive stelae rarely measure more than 4-meter-high, with an average height of 3. 20m, and an average diameter of 65 cm. There is no much decoration observed on Tutiti stelae except on very few of them. Some of the standing stelae have engravings located in their middle part. These engravings depict a disc engraved at the center with circular incisions. Engraved rays of lines radiate from the central disc to the right and the left sides (Habtamu and Abebe, 2002). The combination of both these curved and straight lines form vegetalshape. The rays that radiate from the central disc are 12 curved lines (Habtamu and Abebe, 2002).The stelae at Tutiti are relatively huge compared to other megalithic sites in Gedeo.

Archeological excavation was conducted at Chelba-tutitti stelae site in 2009. This excavation showed that the phallic steles at the site are not directly associated with graves but may be linked to the tumulus situated in the northern part of the site. In 2012, an excavation conducted at this tumulus have revealed a set of little painted stelae arranged around a deep pit containing mostly lithic tools (polished axes, segments and trapezes made on obsidian rock), ceramic shards and bone remains. Unfortunately, the bones were neither identifiable nor datable. This research led to the hypothesis that these phallic stelae sites would be the result of commemorative stelae accumulation around a grave (Jaussaume, 2010, 2012, 2013, 2015, 2016).

The archaeological excavation was conducted on 116 m² area in 4 loci. Obsidian lithic artefacts collected from one of the pits are composed of scrappers and blades. In the northern part of the excavation, the major finding is a pit associated to a painted stela containing bone fragments, two fragments of polished axes, obsidian flakes and ceramic sherds which are different from those collected during the first survey. The stelae are dated to have been erected before the 11th century and were reused to make anthropomorphic stelae, latter. Currently, the site is protected by the Regional Culture and Tourism Bureau. It is fenced and has a permanent guard.

Sede-mercato Megalithic site

Formerly known as Sodota, the 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. Geographically, it is located at 6° 07' 05.4" north latitude and 038° 10' 59.9" East; and at an altitude of 2189 meter above sea level. It is found at the top of a hill. The site commands the view to the North, East and West. The position of the cairn is like that of Tuto-fela; located on a north-south oriented spur and covers 2950 meters square area. Until 2009, the site was hidden from outside people by bushes and was considered sacred by the local community. The site maintains great integrity At Sede-mercato, the stelae are erected on tumulus and the majority of them are found still standing. The stelae are placed on a cairn roughly oriented north-south.

Six hundred and sixty-three stelae are inventoried at Sede-mercato by the SNNPRS Bureau of Culture, Tourism and Sport in collaboration with ARCCH. These stelae are associated with a tumulus and the majority of them are still standing. The number of still erect stelae is 410. About 224 stelae, complete and broken, are lying on the ground. The megalithic stelae of Sede-mercato arevarious in sizes with cylindrical, flat and quadrangular shape. These stelae were worked and shaped using hammer stones and metal tools.The cairn is about two-meter-highin its central part. The longest stele measures 2.60 meter and its circumference is 1.28 meter. On the outer and northern part of the cairn, roughly hewn monolithic stelae made from basaltic prisms is present.

Phallic stelae are numerous, some were shaped using hammer stone and others have been obviously been worked with metal tools. The steles are carved from ignimbrite rock and basaltic prism (columnar basalt). Unlike at Tuto­fela where most of the stelae are anthropomorphic and decorated with lattice pattern whereas the phallic stelae are few in number and appear to be in reuse, different type of decorations are observed in the stelae of Sede Mercato. Some of them have geometric decoration (circular incised line on its tip part) and some have anthropomorphic decoration. Some Sede­mercatostelae decorations are analogous with that of Tuto-fela and Tutiti stelae decorations. The site is protected and is fenced by the regional Bureau of Culture and Tourism using barbed wire and has a permanent guard.

Sakaro-sodo megalithic site

Sakaro-sodo is located on a promontory in the center of a relatively flat area, high above the surrounding valleys. To the north-west is the source of the Kure river. The Harmufo River flows to the south; and to the west is the Goto River. Sakoro-sodo site is located in Gedeb Woreda (district) in Halo Hartume peasant association (Kebele) 3.3 km to the north of the town of Gedeb and 300 meters west of the asphalt road which goes to Kenya at village called Sakaro­ sodo. The geographical location of the site is 5 56 55.3 North and 38 15 17.5 East and at elevation of 2377 meters above sea level. The demarcated area of the site measures 60 meter in width and 55 meters in length.

Sakaro-sodo megalithic site contains an alignment of 43 phallic stelae which are oriented N I S, of which only 8 are intact and in standing position; whereas 15 broken bases which show one third or less of the original size are found on the ground. 20 pieces of stelae of different sizes are lying around. It is assumed that the site originally had between 20 and 30 stelae. The stelae are made on welded tuff (ignimbrite), save one which is on metamorphic rock.

The stelae are aligned along 61 m x 11 m area. The size of the steles varies between 2.17 metres and 3. 52 metres. The greatest circumference is 2.75metres. The barrel is of oval in cross section and the surface is treated by picketing. Hammer stone pounding mark is clearly observed on the stelae, witnessing the technique applied to smooth the ignimbrite rock and give it cylindrical silhouette.

Almost all of these stelae are categorized under phallic shapes and these stelae have a varied kind of decoration. The most common ones include vertically engraved snake, circular concentric rings (depicting the nave of a phallus) at the apex of the stelae and dots. Currently, the site is found in a good state of preservation. The regional bureau of Culture and Tourism Bureau has designated the area as a protected heritage site and fenced it using barbed wire and has a permanent guard. More than a hectare of land around the site is designated as a protected area and free from human intervention. In 2012, the site was further documented and inventoried by the Authority for Research and Conservation of Cultural Heritage (ARCCH) of the Federal government.

Odola-galma Rock art site

Odola Glama rock art site is located in Dilla Zuria woreda in the south eastern part of the Gedeo zone 29 km away from Dilla town. It is found along the Anshi-malicho River. According to the community, this river is believed to be a sacred river where ritual ceremony related to purity takes place.Based on the rock engravings representing cattle in bassrelief, some archaeologists think that Odola-galma was an ancient settlement or ritual site representing settled life or the movement of pastoralists.

The rock art in Odola-galma is engraved on two panels of rocks. One of these panels measures 8.5m long and 2.5m wide and located on the right bank of the Anshi-malcho River. Whereas the other one is 3m long and 0.70m wide, located on the let bank of the same river. The panel on the left bank has 8 bovids engraved. These bovid engravings depict the cattle lined up in two rows. The upper row depicts 6 bovid engravings (five cows and an ox at the end of the row), whereas the lower line shows two bovids, a calf and a cow. All the bovids on the left bank are facing north. The bovids engravings are between 35 and 27 em in length.

The engravings on right bank of the River on 8.5m long rock panel show 11 bovids facing north, right facing south. Five of these are engraved in two rows, three in the first row and two in the second row. There maining  six are not arranged in rows, but scattered. The length of these engravings vary between 12 cm and 46 cm in length. The udder seems to be drawn behind the umbilical zone. Most of the bovids depict long thin horns. These horns form a widely open arc. The engravings represent hump less cattle with huge udder and only one of their forefeet and one of their hind legs. The forelegs and the hind legs are pooled toone thick line. The engravings of Odola Galma represent bovid only and all of them depict hump less bovid.

The Odola Glama rock art belongs to one of the two stages of a peculiar features known as the Ethiopian Arabic style called Sure or Ganda Bitumen Harar (Cervicek 1971, 1978-79, Jaussaume 1981). The stylistic features used to represent cattle in Odola-galma is estimated to date between the end of the 3rd and the 2nd millennium B.C. (Cervicek 1978-79, Joussaume 1981).

Sacred Forests

Sacred Forests and their cultural dimensions

Sacred forests insure biodiversity conservation due to spiritual and cultural significance to local communities. They are often burial sites and are relatively undisturbed with often large and very old trees. Sacred forests in Southern Ethiopia act as reservoirs of biodiversity. They provide ecological, cultural, aesthetic, environmental and socioeconomic services. Gedeo has numerous sacred forests and sites. Tree species such as Podocarpus falcatus, Cordia africana, Syzygium guineense, Erythrina brucei, andFicus sur are among well-known sacred tree species that are favored as meeting places which are traditionally called Songo (Negash, 2007). It is prohibited to cut these trees either from sacred forests or sacred sites without the permission of Songo leaders. Songo is a traditional institution and sacred place where cultural, environmental, social, and political issues are dealt with; local dispute, and conflicts are resolved by elders, and knowledge is passed onto the next generation. Due to a fear of calamities and ancestral curses indigenous trees are never cut or injured. Such tradition enabled the Gedeo people to sustain the agroforestry.

Gedeo sacred forests are divided into three broad categories, namely graveyard, spiritual and cultural sacred forests. Graveyard sacred forests are burial areas where Gedeo traditional elders, spiritual leaders and culturally respected men and women are buried. Traditionally, the Gedeo never cut trees, kill animals and transgress into such sacred areas believing that ancestral spirits would be angered and invoke inflictions. Spiritual sacred spaces and sacred forests are areas where spiritual practices are performed. In such forests, the Gedeo pray for blessings, harmony, peace and reconciliation. The third category, namely the cultural sacred forest is an area where cultural rituals and practices such as the Songo and Baallee systems take place. These three categories of sacred forest share commonalities in the context that human-environment interactions are harmonious and built on the values of respect and reciprocity.

Strengthening the traditional institutions such as Songo and Baalle in Gedeo supports the management of the existing biodiversity.

Four scared forests are nominated which have significant contribution to ecosystem management and socio-cultural values of the Gedeo people. An inventory of biodiversity of the scared forests and the socio-cultural,  economic and institutional contributions of the scared forests are presented below.

A total of 107 woody species (trees and shrubs) are identified from the four sacred sites, out of these, 22 species have medicinal use, more than seven are used for ritual /cultural purpose, and others have direct socio-economic and environmental uses. There is a strong nature-human coexistence and the associated cultural knowledge, values, and customs about the plants in the community, and trees are considered as life in Gedeo Culture (Debalo et al., 2017).

Wogida Amba sacred forest

Wogida  amaba  sacred  forest  is  located  in  Yirgachefe  woreda  between 6°9'46.096"N 609'54.891"N latitude and 38°15'48.032"E-38°16'2.305"E longitude. The total area of the sacred forest is 6.56 hectares. It is one of protected forest in the zone, consisting of varied plants and animal species. The forest is protected by local elders assigned for this particularly purposes. A total of 63 woody species were identified from this sacred forest of which 21 species have medicinal importance, and 7 species cultural value used to do Xarre (restricting the movement of human or livestock).  Traditionally  people use a symbol to restrict  animals  and humans from accessing into restricted agricultural fields. Such restriction is done just by planting a branch of a particular tree species on the ground. This is called Xarre. Seven plant species were identified to perform Xarre. These are Syzygium guineense, Pittosporum abyssinicum, Rubus apetalus, Trichilia emetica, Teclea nobilis, Hagenia abyssinica and Asparagus africanus. Dominant species of this sacred forest are Syzygium guineense, Macarena capensis, Podocarpus falcatus, andPouteria adolji-friederici, which form the upper story of the forest No special ritual is performed in the forest except traditional practices conducted by the community members to perform Huluqa. Huluqaa is a cultural practices through which local people beseech their God to avoid natural calamites and hazards such as drought, low coffee production, and war. The cultural practices is conducted at any time in the year following an incidence or prior to its occurrence. It is carried out at within the forest. This forest is one of the best protected sacred forests rich with tree diversity that are of bigger diameter. Further, unlike other sacred forests in Gedeo zone, it also harbors wild coffee varieties.

Bolocho sacred forest

Bolocho sacred forest is the largest sacred forest in Gedeo covering a total area of 18.5 hectares. It is located in Dilla Zurya woreda between 6°22'10.336"N- 6°22'29.45"N latitude and 38°21'45.85"E- 38°22'4.264"E longitude. The forest is located in small hilly landscape surrounded by very steep topography in its north western, western and south western margins. It has diverse species of plants and animals which of ecological, economic and cultural significance. A total of 69 different woody species of trees were identified, of which 22 species have medicinal importance, and 7 have cultural value used to perform some cultural practices. The seven culturally used plants include Syzygium guineense, Rubus apetalus, Teclea nobilis, Hagenia abyssinica, Olinia rochetiana, Brucea antidysenterica, and Dracaena fragrans. Among these, Syzygium guineense and Macaranga capensisare dominant. The plant community of the forest belongs to Moist Afromontane plant species of Ethiopia. Others such as Podocarpus falcatus and Pouteria adolfi-friederici are common in the forest. The lower side of the forest is dominanted by bigger trees but highly affected by human activity. However, as one moves upward the dbh (diameter at breast height) gets small, and there is a high regeneration of species such as Syzygium guineense and Macaranga capensis with insignificant human impact.

Birbirota sacred forest

Birbirota scared forest is located at the steep slope covering a total area of 0.91 hectares. Its location is between 6 21 46.676 N 6 21 50.633 N latitude and 38 19 25.778 E 38 19 31.047 E longitude. A total of 28 different woody species of trees were identified. Birbirota (Tumiticha) hosts highly endangered indigenous Afromontane tree species called Podocapus falcatus, which makes 100% of the forest cover. There are very big and aged Podocarpus trees. No one cuts trees. Even fallen aged/dead tree is not allowed to be collected by local people. This sacred forest forms a seed source and also acts as live green corridor for biological diversity.

Basura sacred forest and grave yard

This sacred grave yard covers an area of approximately 1.4 hectares. It is located between 6 19 3.4 N – 6 19 8.18 N latitude and 38 21 39.838 E – 38 21 46.404 E longitude. It consists of about 15 woody species (tree/shrub), of which Wolena (Erythrina brucei) forms the upper story. This tree species is considered as sacred. The trees are also considered as representatives of Songo where God is requested/ consulted upon an unanticipated event such as war, and also elders gather under them to resolve disputes and crimes. The forest consists of 19 bird species.

Rituals related to sacred forests and megalithic sites

Oral tradition and some studies (Legesse, 201, Negash, 2013; Kippie, 2002) show that the indigenous knowledge of the Gedeo has strong interconnection with their cultural practices including norms, belief, rituals and ethics. In the past, practicing local knowledge was not only a marker of manhood/womanhood or maturity but also an important element in achieving food security by tackling resource depletion. Among this community, landscape (forest, mountain, valleys, rivers and plains) have symbolic meanings. There is a common belief among the Gedeo, by maintaining harmony with their environment would please their god who they believe would respond with fertility, abundance, peace and health. They believe that if they destroy the environment, god would inflict harm by holding back rain, and causing diseases and famine upon people and animals. Megalithic sites, too, have been considered as sacred sites and local tradition/or knowledge has been playing a key role in preserving these patrimonies for several centuries. However, recent trends among the Gedeo show that there is a dramatic generational gap; and shift in value system and change in economic engagements that reflect departure from the culturally embedded local knowledge, belief, norms and environmental ethics of regulating human-nature relationship.

Justification of Outstanding Universal Value

The Gedeo people have adopted to an agricultural system which is based on the cultivation of enset (enset ventricosum) and coffee. The people have adapted to these crops according to the suitability of the elevation and climate. Enset forms the basis of the Gedeo staple. In areas that are located in central and south Ethiopia, enset is used by more than 20,000000 people as staple food. The Gedeo cultivate varieties of enset.  In most parts of southern Ethiopia, the crop is cultivated as house garden; where as in Gedeo, it is cultivated as crop out in the field, occupying a good size of land. Together with enset, they cultivate coffee, taking consideration of the altitude. Thus, in the 20 Kms distance, from the lowland to the Alpine highland, the Gedeo cultivate, using the indigenous knowledge of crop adaptability to altitudes and soil types. In the mostly rugged lands of the Gedeo, enset is cultivated irrespective of the degree of slop. In some areas enset is cultivated at slopes that are greater than 70 degree.

Coffee and enset are cultivated together in the same fields in the Gedeo following the landscape contour.  The coffee variety that is cultivated here, especially in Yirgacheffe, is now a world brand for its high quality and is preferred by the global coffee chain, the "Star Bucks".

The sheath of enset plant retain water which it release slowly, during the dry season, this water is used by the coffee plant which also benefits from the shade of the same. This interdependency between the two is attained through generations of observations and practices.

The Gedeo also plant, keep and entertain indigenous varieties of trees. These trees provide shade in the coffee plantations; the shade is badly needed to keep the coffee trees from direct sun heat. Thus, the Gedeo land shows an adaptation in rugged lands through conservation of indigenous tree types and simultaneous interdependent crop types, one for food (enset) and the other, coffee, for market and consumption. Due to the agricultural and soil conservation system practiced, the Gedeo area has so far not gone through drought and food shortage that derive due to climatic hazards. The whole landscape captivates any traveler in the area with its scenic beauty which resulted from its geological setting, rolling landscape covered with enset, coffee and indigenous trees.

In addition  to  the unique  agro-forestry practices, the Gedo region  is also reputed  for  the thousands  of megalithic monuments that dotted the landscape. Since the beginning of the last century, several researchers have visited the area and have witnessed the great abundance and variety of megalithic monuments that dote the whole of the Gedeo land.

The archaeological wealth of the geographic region also shows that Neolithic herders were active in the landscape. Petroglyphic art in ancient caves and ritual sites show the occupation of the region before the advent of the agriculturalists. Two very distinct and unique sites, Shappe and Odda-Galma are witness of the passage of pastoralists herding cattle types that disappeared from the local archaeological records before the turn of this era. The artistic style and their execution make these sites unique.

The Gedeo land is also dotted by fragmented but culturally important forest systems that conspicuously contain cult sites and indigenous plant species. The Songo, the generations long traditional management  system run by Gedeo elders oversee the protection  of these forests; and their protection, preservation and use system which made Gedeo enable to preserve its nature. Together  with the Songo,  the local management  system which  is run  by local  Gedeo scholars insure  the  protection  of  the  property;   together  with  the  regional   and  national  institutions concerned with this task.

The Gedeo cultural landscape stands out as a unique property of special indigenous agro-forestry knowledge and adaptation, witnessed on the ground and  from space  imagery;  and its archaeological attributes qualify it to transcend local and national boundaries.

Criterion (iii): The Gedeo people have an indigenous agricultural tradition adapted locally to the landscape they are living in. Using the locally evolved system, they cultivate enset (enset  ventricosum),  a food crop  which  resembles  ab banana  tree,  but  with edible  steam  and  corm. They cultivate enset together with coffee and other tuber crops in the middle of indigenous trees. Gedeo is believed to be one of the domestication spots for  enset  and coffee.  Although,   varieties  of  enset,  are documented  in Uganda, south  Sudan  and some other places within  the tropics,  it is only in in South West Ethiopia that it is domesticated  and used as staple food. Research shows that wild enset and coffee were present in Gedeo just 20 years ago. Today more than 20 million people in Ethiopia (in south Western part) depend on enset as their staple food. Gedeo is the only place where enset is cultivated in the fields as any other crop, not in the home gardens as seen in other enset growing societies. Enset is cultivated together with coffee trees to ensure moisture for the coffee and other tuber crops, during dry seasons) due to its water retaining nature. This mixed agricultural system protects the soil from erosion while providing multiple crop varieties insuring sustainability. The Gedeo maintain the agro forestry through traditional institutions. In the middle of this landscape, there are archaeological sites witnessing an important history of several hundred years of megalithic traditions. Megalithic sites that were created through 700 years of history are abundant, and at least 60 are documented. The Gedeo still maintain  these archaeological sites through their traditional institutions.

Criterion (v): The Gedeo occupies part of the East African rift floor and its western escarpment. This setting gives the landscape a fast raising altitude of between 1200 and 3200 meters a.s.l. within an East­ West transect of 20 Kms. distance. The volcanic nature of the geomorphology has resulted in a soil formation, which is on average between 2 and 5 meters thick in the higher slopes.

The Gedeo people have established an indigenous agro forestry system based on locally evolved knowledge, cultivating mainly indigenous food crop  called   enset  and  coffee  trees;  while maintaining the natural forest to sustain the environment. They have created an indigenous food system which enabled them to sustain through several hundreds of years, and without any history of hunger and drought. The agro forestry system allows the Gedeo several layers of canopy, in which the trees provide  shade,  the underlying enset provides  shades and water during drought periods and the  underlying  coffee  benefits  from the  shades  and  the  water,  while  the smaller plants at the base are prospering  with enough water and the limited light. The symbiotic relationship between the various plants is well understood by the Gedeo agriculturalists. In the middle of the enset and coffee farms they have preserved and protected several fragmented forests which harbor indigenous plant species. These spots are also actively used by elders to perform various rituals that focus on the preservation of the balance between nature and man. In addition to the agroforestry, the Gedo have also, since the 8th century, adopted a megalithic culture with thousands of varied forms of stelae in at least 60 locations (so far documented) within their landscape. In deep time, at the beginning of cattle herding in this part of the world, the landscape also witnesses a stage when hampless cattle were prevalent in the region.  Petroglyphs representing earlier form of cattle are engraved in ancient cave walls, and are dated to the 2nd and 3rd millennium BC. All these features are illustrative of the complex social order and in situ cultural development. Thus the Gedeo cultural landscape is thus “... illustrative of the evolution of human society and settlement over time, under the influence of the physical constraints and/or opportunities presented  by their natural  environment  and  of successive social, economic and cultural forces, both external and internal”.

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

The Gedeo Cultural landscape occupies a homogenous set of physio-geographic location on the eastern flank of the southern part of the Main Ethiopian Rift system. Like most of the South western part of Ethiopia, broken by volcanism and rifting activities, it shows a peculiar environment where root crops, enset and coffee prosper under the shade of trees. Ancient societies have developed here a permaculture system highly adapted to the climatic and topographic constraints. The whole physio-geographic area of Gedeo stands out from the surrounding areas on satellite imagery and is clearly visible as it attracts the visitor by the virtue of the beautiful rolling lands and the peculiarity of the vegetation cover between the rift floor in the eastern part of the region (at 1000m above sea level) and the 3200 meters a.s.l. landscapes in less than a transect of 20 km from West to East. The landscape has rich volcanic soil, although not very thick.

The Gedeo cultural landscape with its highland agroforestry system based on indigenous crops associated to a great number of megalithic and cave art sites concentrated in a small area shows the continuously practiced traditional agricultural knowhow, resilience of the people and their adaptive strategy throughout the last millennia in this geographic area.

In 1994, before permaculture and agroforestry became a fundamental ecologic answer for the degradation of our world environment, the research of Tadesse Kippe had demonstrated that the agro forestry system was developed by Gedeo people in their particular ecological nest. This first fundamental study and subsequent research revealed the great complementarity between three layers of vegetation covering 71 % of Gedeo land : the upper layer, made of indigenous trees; the second layers, ensete and coffee; while the third layer is composed of complementary diet species: root crops, cabbage, beans, cucurbitaceous and medicinal plants. Despite the land shortage that is prevalent in Gedeo, sacred lands are designated where traditionally protected forests are preserved. These traditional forests, although not very large, harbors important bio-diversity. Indigenous tree species and flora are preserved in these forests. The traditional elders/ leaders council called the Songo insure the continuity of the traditional system, from these sacred places. The Songo is also important in preserving peace and order among the communities and performing rituals which attribute greater significance to nature and man interrelationship. This system is now in a cross road between modernism and the need of the land to preserve its continuity to insure bio-cultural diversity and there by the food sovereignty of the communities. Megalithic sites are also one of the main components of the cultural landscape. The megalithic sites which were once, at the turn of the last century, were testified to number tens of thousands of monuments, by F. Azais, are located at high points where the sites could overlook the surrounding lowlands in all/most directions. The stelae on these sites are mostly phallic or anthropomorphic, grouped following a certain direction (orientation), mostly overlooking the surrounding low-lying area; adapted to the topographic situation and the scenery. Some of the most important groupings are erected on big tumulus (at least in Tuto-fela and Sede-merkato). Recent inventory works done by archaeologists and the culture sector government offices have so far inventoried 47 sites with megalithic monuments. Some were excavated and have demonstrated that the stelae were associated with tumulus and burials, where as some are not associated with burials. These monuments are mainly phallic and anthropomorphic types. Some show markings/ engravings on them depicting different motifs which include discs, spirals, concentric circles, geometries, vegiti-forms and zoo-forms. The stelae fields are located following major land marks, at higher grounds. Such an association of an abundant and various types of stelae forms dating to the Neolithic period in the region to a very well established agricultural system which is based on nature I man interrelation is not recorded anywhere; at least not known through publication.

Until very recently some sites were used as places of ancestral remembrance. It was observed that at some sites the local inhabitants put on butter and incense on the stelae, as offerings, performing some rituals and adorn the stelae, venerating the ancestral sprits.

The rock art site which depicts hampless cattle oriented in the same direction and attributed to the beginning of the Christian era, based on the style, is also one testimony of the passage of pastoralist communities in the region. Work by R. Jaussaume and Le Queleq at the end of the last century has suggested that the style represented here stands out as Shappe-Galma school, an independent style in its own right. This site and the engravings are under protection of the regional culture bureau; however they have suffered a lot from weathering throughout the last 2000 years, since they were carved. In general, in Gedeo, the traditional management system under the elders, the Songo, has helped preserve the traditions of the balance and harmony in keeping the sacred forests intact and preserved the social system. The Songo is an institution which serves for conflict resolution, rituals and protection of sacred places. This system also protects the sacred lands which include the megalithic sites. However, there were competitions between the traditional system and newly introduced belief systems. This seems to be under control due to the actions taken by the government in conserving the most important megalithic sites. More over the Gedeo people are conscious of their landscape and the cultural properties in them.

Descriptions of plants and trees usefulness have been recorded in Ethiopian manuscripts since the 16th century. Europeans, starting to study Ethiopia's botanic wealth since the 19th century have underlined the great diversity and unique indigenous species due to fragmented and original ecosystems. Among these early researches, forests in Southern Ethiopia were particularly highlighted by E.W.M. Logan in the middle of the 20th Century. All researchers have noted the great diversity of ecosystems in Ethiopia. Among them, the "ensete cultures" and related physio¬ geographic environment appear to have been well noted due to the human adaptation and resilience. One of the greatest of these "ensete cultures" is Gedeo noted for the use of the land mainly with the cultivation of coffee and enset, while at the same time conserving the natural biodiversity of their ecosystem through their traditional agroforestry system.

Coffee is nowadays consumed almost all around the world. Ethiopia is not only one of the main producers and exporters of coffee Ethiopians are also great consumer and amateurs, enjoying coffee ceremonies associated with them since long time ago.

Since 1975, more interest was given by foreigners and Ethiopian scholars to the Enseteventricolcium cultivation and preparation. On one hand it has been shown as a unique case of domestication in Africa; On the other hand, the importance of this plant has been described as drought resistant staple food to avert starvation in Southwestern Ethiopia, particularly relevant for the highest populated area, such as Gedeo.

Thus, the Gedeo agroforestry system represents a culture of sustainable traditional use of the land, while protecting the environment; and nature conservation system, at the same time. Sustenance and protection of ecosystems is nowadays promoted around the world. It appears that it was traditionally implemented in Gedeo for more than thousands of years, as a unique response to an ecological constraints presented by climate and topography. Within this Gedeo landscape, the megalithic heritage testifies the wholeness of this ecosystem which lies between 1800m asl and 2900m asl. The various megalithic sites and associated heritage are known by the scientific community and were studied since the beginning of the last century. Phallic stelae sites and anthropomorphic stelae sites are abundantly distributed in the landscape. The first abounds the whole of the Gedeo land and adjacent areas with the Sidama (to the north of Gedeo) and Guji Oromo (to the South and East), whereas the second type of sites are found in the heart of Gedeo landscape.

Most of the stelae are made on local ignimbrite and basalt (in Sede-mercato) while few are made on metamorphic rocks, depending to closeness of the raw material sources. The source of the latter is not yet identified, but assumed it comes from further beyond the Gedeo land, in the Guji Zone where metamorphic rocks abound and the geomorphology is different from that of the Gedeo. Some stelae reach up to seven meters high (when Phallic) with various types of design depicting enigmatic representations  engraved on them which include, discs, vegetal forms, snakes and sun rays. The megalithic sites were dated to be between the 8th and 14th Century A.D. These stelae were very actively used when the megalithic culture had reached its apex in the central and southern parts of Ethiopia. The function could only be inferred from the findings that were recorded in sites that were excavated by French and American archaeologists. Some sites were used for burial and the stelae might have been used to commemorate the deceased and depict the clan he/she belonged to and to show his/her status. Excavations done under the monuments showed that some stelae were associated with single burials where as others were associated with multiple burials during different times, successively. Some stelae in some are not associated with burials as witnessed in Chelba-tuti.

Comparison with other similar properties

The Gedeo cultural landscape is compared to a number of properties that are on the list and cultural landscapes that are not on the List. This include: Coffee Cultural Landscape of Colombia, Archaeological Landscape of the First Coffee Plantations in the South-East of Cuba and The World Heritage property Stonehenge.

Coffee Cultural Landscape of Colombia

The Gedeo and the Coffee Cultural Landscape of Colombia (CCLC) are located on broadly comparable latitudes and altitude; although they are separated by several thousands of kilometers. The foothills and central ranges of the Cordillera de los Andes have six coffee farming landscapes composed of small plots coffee growing communities. The tradition of coffee growing in the Cordillera de los Andes was introduced in to the area by the Spanish; but constitutes an example of human adaptation over centuries. The CCLC coffee plantations are located on steep mountain ranges with slopes of over 25%. Similarly the Gedeo Cultural Landscape shows a land use of highly elevated and rising landscapes that reach 70 %. The difference being, the Gedeo CLS is an on site developed coffee cultivation. Research demonstrated that until 20 years a go wild coffee was widely known in the Gedeo, but to be found in the neighboring Sidama in Aroresa district in the head waters of the Genale River. The Gedeo cultural Landscape land use system include other essential plants such as enset. The traditional farming system in Gedeo appreciates not only coffee for the market; but agriculture for food sovereignty by indigenous communities. The Gedeo CLS has more components than the coffee element. The Enset growing tradition was always associated with the coffee farming. Enset and coffee are inseparable in Gedeo. The symbiotic relation-ship between the two has been observed in almost all of the Enset/coffee growing landscapes in South and South West Ethiopia. The resilience against draught, bacteria, and advantages gained in soil fertility (fertile humus and high level of hydrogen) are among the advantages of the cocultivation of enset and coffee. The Enset/coffee landscape of the Gedeo CLS has an important component that is not present in CCLC. The abundant stelae fields which flourished in the coffe/enset culture of the Gedeo Cultural landscape are not present anywhere else. This demonstrates the uniqueness of the agro-biodiversity of the Gedeo Cultural Landscape.

Archaeological Landscape of the First Coffee Plantations in the South-East of CubaThe Cuban coffe plantation date to introduced coffee plantation by colonials. The infrastructures are introduced from other areas to maximize products and insure continuity. Where as in Gedeo, the coffee plantations are rooted culturally and may even predate any living memory. The Gedeo farmers are indigenous to their land where as the Cuba coffee plantations are realized by slaves and European know how. Whereas the labor organization in the coffee plantations of Cuba is based on a well-organized management effective labor organization and managed living conditions for the workers in order to maximize profit, in Gedeo, the whole operation is based on sustainable traditional cultivation methods which surrounds the individual homestead and in pieces of land owned by individual farmers. Tree Shades for the coffee plantations by the coffee developers in Cuba is made using local flora as is the case within the Gedeo.The Coffee landscape in eastern Cuba is created based on introduction of a non-indigenous plant in to the area where as the Gedeo cultural landscape is a result of a sustained use and management of indigenous plants. The Gedeo cultural landscape is not a solely coffee landscape, but it includes the plantation of an indigenous plant called enset which serves as staple food for the local people. The co cultivation of enset and coffee in the same field has enabled both plants to prosper in a symbiotically naturally supportive way to each other. The shade and water that coffee plants get from the taller and moisture rich enset plants in their natural setting is unique in traditional farming techniques, in enset and coffee landscape, on record.

The World Heritage property Stonehenge, Avebury and Associated Sites

The World Heritage property Stonehenge, Avebury and Associated Sites represent an outstanding achievement in architecture, ceremonial and mortuary practices and land use during the Neolithic and Bronze age in Britain. Stone circles and henge, and burial mounds are among the major monuments. Stonehenge is recognized for its impressive prehistoric megalithic monuments in the world. The arrangements of the stone circles in this property and the size of the prehistoric mound is referred as an important architectural achievement in the world. The stones used to make the stone circles were well selected rocks, some of which weigh 40 tones were transported from 240 Kms distance. Research in the the World Heritage property Stonehenge, Avebury and Associated Sites have demonstrated that a sizable and significant area of the landscape is part of the site and is interconnected.

The Gedeo Cultural Landscape, like the The World Heritage property Stonehenge, Avebury and Associated Sites demonstrate an important set of megalithic monuments in a completely different setting. The Gedeo megalithic monuments are located on higher elevations, in the landscape, overlooking the surrounding area. Although there is no evidence of an interconnection between the 57 plus megalithic sites in Gedeo, their purpose was for funerary and ritual ceremonies. Like the The World Heritage property Stonehenge, Avebury and Associated Sites, some of the Gedeo megalithic sites and monuments, in Sede Mercato, Chelba Tutiti, demonstrate clear indication alignment and orientation that could be demonstrated that they are aligned using celestial bodies. The Gedeo megalithic monuments are unique in their phallic style carved on huge welded volcanic rocks (sometimes metamorphic rock which were brought from quiet a long distance). The provenance and mode of transport of these rocks is under study.

Like the The World Heritage property Stonehenge, Avebury and Associated Sites earthen mounds are also used at Gedeo. Big earthen mounds were build and phallic and anthropomorphic stele were erected on them. The purpose of which is established as burial. Like the Neolithic communities in The World Heritage property Stonehenge, Avebury and Associated Sites, the Gedeo Cultural landscape demonstrate the use of the sites by agricultural communities, with herders as an important groups as demonstrated by the rock engravings at the Odola Galma site and the adjacent Chabe site which is located about 15 km away towards the rift center.

In addition, owing to its geographic setting, climate, unique agricultural practices, the Gedeo Cultural Landscape include the unique agro-forestry system which is mainly composed of coffee and enset growing landscape. The traditional landscape management system in Gedeo is still preserved around the various components of the landscape such as the sacred sites, the council (Songo). It is thus, the Gedeo Cultural Landscape differs in major ways from The World Heritage property Stonehenge, Avebury and Associated Sites, by the very fact that it is a vibrant and living cultural landscape where the ancestral memories are present around the megalithic sites, the sacred forests; and the unique coffee/enset agro-cultural component is an insitu developed system which insures the food souverainity of the still traditional socio-economic system.