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Bale Mountains

I initiated and ran this 5-year project to promote the conservation efforts in the Bale Mountains National Park, Ethiopia. My objective was to document the largely unknown diversity of the Bale Mountains, and make more people aware of their beauty, through a book, articles, a photo exhibit and lectures.

The President of Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, Mr Girma Wolde Giorgis prefaced the book, along with the former director of the International League of Conservation Photographers, Ms Cristina Mittermeier (“Les Montagnes de Balé, une richesse insoupçonnée au coeur de l’Ethiopie”, 2009, 168 pp, Editions Berger). A photo exhibit toured in Europe in 2008 and 2009, after which it was sent to the Bale Mountains National Park to help with its education programs.
Support to the project came from the Frankfurt Zoological Society (Germany), the Regional Government of Oromia (Ethiopia), the Bale Mountains National Park (Ethiopia), the Fondation de France/Bourse Déclics Jeunes (France), Ministère de la Jeunesse des Sports et de la Vie Associative/Bourse Défi Jeunes (France), Ethiopian Airlines (Ethiopia), Lowepro (USA), among many others.

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The Bale Mountains National Park (Ethiopia) was created in 1974, but was never officially gazetted. It was about to collapse in 2004 when the Frankfurt Zoological Society undertook to strengthen it, along with the Ethiopian Governement and other NGO’s, building up a long term management plan that was to take into account local people’s needs.

The conservation challenge is typical of biodiversity-rich developing countries. In thirty years, the population grew from nothing up to 40,000 and just on the plateau the livestock expanded from a few scattered animals seasonally to over 170,000.

Meanwhile, more than 11 million people depend directly on the water flowing from the Bale Mountains. But the overuse of natural resources up in altitude affects people’s well being downstream and all the way to Somalia. If nothing is done, the unsustainable exploitation of grass, wood, water and space will lead to tragic and lasting impoverishment of human populations, locally and in many places of the Horn of Africa.

The real challenge is to protect the astounding biodiversity of the Bale Mountains, while making conservation programs benefit the local population, as an economic alternative ; and to prove that it is protected that natural resources are most valuable on the long run. By succeeding, maybe we will avoid the lost of one the most remarkable natural heritage there is on our planet.