”For us, protecting the forest is must. The life of people around here is highly dependent on forest that we cannot live without it. If it disappears, the life of the people would be at risk. If we lose the forest, we lose everything. Forest is the source of honey, coffee, rain…. It is the source of income for our people.’’
(Habtamu Hambisa, Chairman of Chomen Bereda PFM Cooperative)
Ato Habtamu Hambisa, is an exemplary and hardworking farmer. He lives in Chomen Bereda Kebele in Dabo Hana wereda of Buno Bedele Zone. The area is located in the Western part of Oromia, and one of the greenest areas in the region. It is endowed with the richness of natural resources such as jungle of natural forest, among others.
Ato Habtamu has, for long, been living on the side of a huge natural forest known as Chamen, located 68 KM away from Bedele Town, the capital of the zone. He is currently chairman of Lelistu Bereda PFM, a local Forest Conservation Cooperative in his kebele.
The Cooperative was established in 2021 with a key objective to protect the natural forest in the kebele. It has now 300 members with 128 of them female. Prior to the onset of the PFM activity by their cooperative, Ato Habtamu says, the forest had been under severe pressure of deforestation and degradation. The surrounding people used to massively cut trees in search of farmland, firewood and charcoal. Forest fire, illegal settlement and encroachment had also been extremely threatening the survival of the forest.
Thanks to experts from REDD+ Oromia, Ato Habtamu and members of the cooperative were lucky enough to get awareness, technical and material support to start a historic action to avert the prevalent danger against the forest.
Ato Habtamu says they were convinced and organized into CBO, demarcated 4007 hectares of forest in their locality and started safeguarding the resource. As a result, the deforestation and almost all the treats against the forest have been reduced in an incredible manner.
‘‘First they provided us with awareness and trained us. We were highly convinced, organized into CBO and got into action. After the forest was demarcated, we classified it into blocks, assigned members per blocks and started guarding it day and night.’’
Ato Habtamu and members of Lelistu Bereda PFM cooperative are now highly motivated and planning to keep watching over the forest, plant more trees to further enrich the forest and pass it to the coming generation. In due course, the cooperative has acquired 265,000 Birr as part of OFLP’s livelihood enhancement effort. This has enabled them buy 13 oxen and engage in animal fattening so as to generate more income and improve members’ living.
Ato Tolesa Kumbi has been coordinating OFLP supported activities in Bedele Cluster since 2020, including PFM interventions. He says OFLP intervention was started by due community consultation and training representatives of key implementing actors. This has abetted to enhance public awareness and deepen cooperation among implementing entities
Currently, PFM activity in Bedele Cluster in general and DaboHana wereda in particular is going well. There are six PFM sites in six kebeles of Dabo Hana wereda. One of these sites is Chamen Bereda which covers 4007 hectares of forest. In general, 8,325 hectares of forest has been demarcated and put under PFM across the wereda. Tolesa says OFLP has made significant contribution in enhancing forest protection and hence reducing deforestation and forest degradation in the area.
He added OFLP has been closely working with key actors and partners to insure sustainability of the activity. Necessary arrangement has been made to hand over the cooperatives to Oromia Cooperatives Promotion Agency for continuous follow up.
The World Bank financed Oromia Forested Landscape Program envisions to Reduce Carbon emission thereby reducing deforestation and forest degradation in Oromia. The program has, so far, effected demarcation of over 137,000 hectares of forest. Over 123,000 hectares of forest has been put under PFM and over 100 local cooperatives have been established and engaged in PFM activity.