Protecting the Sheka Forest


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The Sheka forest is one of the last remaining tropical forests in Ethiopia. It is under threat from deforestation and landgrabbing. Melca Mahiber is working with the community to protect the forest and maintain traditional livelihood practices such as beekeeping.

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Protecting the Sheka Forest

  1. 1. Sheka Forest, 400km from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital, is one of the last remaining tropical forest areas in Ethiopia. It is a magical place of rich biodoversity and yet it is now the subject of a growing trend for landgrabbing for tea, coffee and eucalyptus plantations, all causing deforestation.
  2. 2. Many farmers have lost their forest home-land without compensation, and sites of cultural and ecological importance have been bulldozed in front of the eyes of the local Shekacho people. Shekacho clan leaders wears wigs of goat hair as a marker of their standing within the community.
  3. 3. Gaia’s partner MELCA Mahiber works with the Shekacho people who depend upon the forest for income, shelter and medicine. They have sustained the forest for centuries. Honey production is their main source of income, providing for nearly half of all households. As this source of livelihood is so vital, it is critical that it is maintained during changing times.
  4. 4. Traditional methods of honey production involve hanging a hollowed log high in the trees. But these methods are not environmentally sustainable as they require trees to be felled in preparation for the hives. They are also extremely difficult to access, and impossible to protect from pests such as ants and birds.
  5. 5. In order to improve both the sustainability and effectiveness of the honey production by the local Shekacho people, Melca Mahiber have worked with the community to introduce mud and wood based hives which are placed on stilts just off the ground.
  6. 6. The newer hives are far more accessible and therefore easier to maintain as well as to protect from pests. Now women in the community are also tending to the bees and it is no longer a male only occupation.
  7. 7. Alume Galo is 35 years old and lives with her husband in the Welo Kela area of Sheka. She has lived in Sheka for twenty years and been working with bees for the last two. “ Melca have shown me how to prepare the new beehives and provided me with all of the beekeeping equipment. Before melca arrived there was little awareness about other types of beehives, and just the men tended to the tree based hives. I am very happy working with the bees”
  8. 8. Worku Wamo is 23 years old and has lived in Sheka all his life. Having worked traditionally with tree hung hives, Worku has now switched to the modern hives because they are easier to manage and produce a far greater yield. “ I used to produce 15-20kg of honey per log hive, now I can produce up to 40kg”.
  9. 9. As well as ensuring that honey production remains a livelihood option for the community, MELCA have been training local community members to become eco-advocates. They are raising awareness of forest protection issues amongst the Shekacho people. An association of clan leaders has also been formed – it is known legally as the Masha Association for the protection of culture, history and biodiversity.
  10. 10. The results have been remarkable. The clan leader’s association is now fighting and winning many battles against rampant land-grabbing and the desecration of sacred natural sites within Sheka forest. The local community are better aware of their cultural and environmental rights, and the government is becoming more supportive.
  11. 11. But threats to tropical forests like Sheka will continue, and it is critical that communities like the Shekacho continue to be supported to fight against these threats. To find out more about Gaia’s Ethiopin partner, MELCA Mahiber please visit