Ethiopian Church Forests: a socio-religious conservation model under change

Authors: Peter Klepeis*, Colgate University
Topics: Human-Environment Geography, Cultural and Political Ecology, Africa
Keywords: common property, conservation, deforestation, Africa
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/13/2018
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Regent, Marriott, River Tower Elevators, 4th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


For centuries, the core religious values of Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church communities have ensured the protection of church forests. Despite this strong and longstanding tradition, however, communities are now facing a host of new challenges and opportunities. Interdisciplinary research highlights ways in which the ecological status of church forests may be threatened due to new practices as well as the changing economic status of church forest communities. The adaptability of these communities to changes associated with modernity might, inadvertently, be a key factor in ecological degradation. But their adaptability might also offer a window of opportunity for agents of forest conservation. Based primarily on ethnography, this paper presents Ethiopian church forests as dynamic socio-religious spaces, explores the types of changes affecting the communities and their forests, and offers insights for strengthening the church forest conservation model.

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