Local Efforts Restoring Barren Land: A move toward forest    

Ato Gobena Bekele is resident of Boke Bulala Kebele in Adola Rede Wereda, one of the deforestation hot spot areas of OFLP intervention. The area is found in Guji Zone of the Oromia Regional State. Ato Gobena is 48 and father of thirteen children, eight male and five female. Currently, he is working as a chairman of a local Community-based Organization, Boke Berko, named after a hilly area found in their kebele. The local Organization was established in 2019 with an intention to contribute for the ongoing climate change mitigation effort through conserving natural resources at risk and afforesting devastated areas in the locality.

Given Ato Gobena was born and grown up in the same area, he clearly remembers the feature of ‘Gare Berko’ and its periphery. Also, he has realized how the climate has been changing over the past few decades. He says that many residents were also too much worried about the drastic change as the situation kept going worse and worse for the people as well as their cattle. The more the land in their kebele went degraded, the more their agricultural yield declined and the weather went harsh. 

Gare Berko is a hilly area found in Boke Bulala kebele. It is located 20 KM away from Adola town, capital of the wereda. The area is a typical example of the areas in the wereda that have been going through drastic devastation.

 ‘‘I was born and grown up here that I have known this area since I was too young during the Derg Regime. It had been communal land for many years. For decades, it had been used by the surrounding people as an open and free grazing area for their cattle. Gradually, the condition of the land went worse and worse as everything on the spot was eaten up and the soil extremely eroded. Finally, it became bare land with just a stony soil and too ugly even to see. It was useful for nothing until two years ago.’’

Portion of the land before it was afforested

As a result of due discussion on the issue and support they got from the Oromia Forested Landscape Program and Wereda Environment, Forest and Climate Change Authority, they managed to secure 108 hectares of highly eroded communal land on the base of residents’ consent. Since then, Ato Gobena and his fellow CBO members, have been working to recover the area over the last two years.

As a result of due discussion on the issue and support they got from the Oromia Forested Landscape Program and Wereda Environment, Forest and Climate Change Authority, they managed to secure 108 hectares of highly eroded communal land on the base of residents’ consent. Since then, Ato Gobena and his fellow CBO members, have been working to recover the area over the last two years.

W/o Martha Elima resident of same kebele, is 46 and mother of 10 children. Martha has been active member of Boke Berko since its establishment in 2019. She says she has been gladly doing all she can for the success of their CBO’s objective. She also remembers the picture the hilly area of Gare Berko and its periphery few years ago and explains how the effort that saved the land was launched:

‘‘Thanks to the experts from REDD+ Oromia and Wereda Environment, Forest and Climate change Authority who came to our kebele and taught us the risk of desertification and climate change. They advised us that we can change our area by planting and protecting trees. As a result, we were convinced enough to get organized and get into action in 2019. Also, they provided us with necessary technical support as well as seedlings that we planted trees on this hilly area.’’

As a result of all their efforts, the area has now recovered dramatically and changing to forest. The appearance of the land as well as the weather has totally changed.

Portion of the land after it has been afforested

Martha says the change is impressive and is more than they expected. On top of that, she advises other women to engage in such conservation activities: ‘‘No one has expected this area would recover in such short time. We are so happy to see all the changes. We have learned that it is possible to change everything if people get organized for a common goal rather than acting separately. Now we have got much grass all over for our cattle and the trees growing faster. The whole area has become greener and so beautiful. The weather has also changed. Two years ago, it was so difficult to stand at this place at this season. As you can see now, it is so convenient. Moreover, we have got sufficient rain this year. I would advise that all women be involved in this kind of rewarding activities.’’

Chairman (Ato Gobena Bekele) and Secretary (Ato Beleko Anbese) working in CBO’s Office

   Atinafu Alemayehu OFLP wereda coordinator in zone said OFLP supported PFM and A/R activities are going well in the zone. He added that Boke Berko is one of the licensed and in good status CBOs in the zone. He said the members of the CBO have accomplished an exemplary work that needs to be intensified to other areas.

‘‘We have been implementing OFLP supported PFM and A/R activities in 14 weredas in the Zone one of which is Adola Rede. In this wereda, 108 hectares of barren land has been demarcated for A/R activity. Boke Berko is one of the CBOs in the zone that have accomplished an exemplary work in this regard. They have so far successfully afforested more than 90% of barren land demarcated for same purpose.’’  

He added that Boke Berko’s accomplishment has created motivation in the wereda that other neighboring kebeles are asking to engage in same activity. He says this is a good opportunity to intensify the work. Atinafu added that it is highly important that such activities be supported by livelihood options in order to insure their sustainability. He, therefore, urged that the ongoing livelihood activities should be implemented swiftly.   

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