UNESCO World Heritage Site Simien National Park: Jobs against COVID-19
As part of a cash-for-work programme, the African Wildlife Foundation used the #SOSAfricanHeritage funds to implement urgently needed maintenance measures on tourist trekking routes and roads in the UNESCO World Heritage Simien National Park. Thereby, sources of income were created for the local population.
The aim of #SOSAfricanHeritage is to contribute to preserving independent and sustainable organisational structures at African World Heritage Sites and Biosphere Reserves with the participation of civil society as well as to secure spaces dedicated to education for global citizenship, sustainability and cultural diversity.
The Simien National Park in northern Ethiopia is a spectacular landscape where massive erosion over millions of years has created rugged mountain peaks, deep valleys, and sharp cliffs that plunge some 1.500m into the deep. The park is of importance for biodiversity conservation as it is home to globally threatened species, including the iconic Walia ibex, a wild mountain goat found nowhere else in the world, the gelada baboon, and the Ethiopian wolf.
Restrictions due to the pandemic
The COVID-19-Pandemic has brought tourism in the Simien National Park to a standstill, leaving communities living in the buffer zone of the National Park without important income and trade. Under these circumstances, they have become more dependent on livestock farming and are turning to grazing herds in the park. At the same time, the quality of the once busy tourist trekking routes and internal roads has deteriorated due to the absence of tourists and has been damaged by heavy rainfall. As a result, some areas of the park have become inaccessible. Simultaniously, ranger patrols are opening access to local communities, allowing them and their cattle illegal entrance to the park. The resulting overgrazing in the park will eventually lead to land degradation and damage to wildlife habitat. As this is the most damaging land use in and around the park, the conservation gains achieved over the years will be wiped out.
Remedy through improved trekking routes and jobs
With the funding provided by the German Commission for UNESCO, the African Wildlife Foundation organised a cash-for-work programme that enabled the improvement of the national park's infrastructure. Urgently needed maintenance work on tourist trekking routes was carried out by the local population on a length of over 50 kilometres, as well as along five kilometres of roads. This greatly improves the accessibility of the national park for tourism. At the same time, for the villages in the region and their inhabitants, the construction work meant that the loss of almost all employment and income was partially compensated. It also reduced the pressure on the park's natural resources. At the same time, the cash-for-work programme improved the relationship and communication between national park officials and local communities. The participants became more aware of the importance of protecting the national park and its resources for tourism and a sustainable future.
On the initiative of the Federal Foreign Office and the Goethe-Institut, an International Relief Fund was set up in summer 2020 to provide rapid support to cultural and educational organisations abroad during the Covid-19-Pandemic. With its special support programme #SOSAfricanHeritage, the German Commission for UNESCO is part of the Relief Fund consortium.
- Site: Simien National Park
- Country: Ethiopia
- Type of Site: UNESCO World Heritage (natural heritage)
- Year of inscription: 1978