Two tales of a mountain

 Dr. Henok Wendirad (DVM)

When life becomes routine my friends and I often try to do something different. That was what happened last month.



Our plan was to walk all the way from Addis Ababa to Debre Zeit, the beginning of the Great Rift Valley 45 kms South of Addis, trekking through the Mt. Yerer. None of us had ever been in such a trip; what we all had was our common sense that the mountain was visible both from Addis Ababa, our start point, and Debre Zeit, our destination. We thought Mt. Yerer was the boundary.

So we packed our bags and went straight to the short cut road leading us to Mt. Yerer via CMC (north of Addis Ababa). Easier said than done.  We spent the next six hrs trying to reach to the base of the mountain. On our way, which turns out to be the hardest part of our adventure, we crossed five small rivers and a vast farm land. The road was devoid of trees where we dreamed of shading ourselves from the scorching sun. Just plain agricultural fields extended from the suburbs of Addis to the tip of the mountain.

In our little plight it was hard to avoid discussions about the degraded environment, and how it had affected the atmosphere.

Luckily the other side of Mt. Yererwas waiting for us with a completely different story; it’s located amidst an extremely green and well preserved forest. The only non-green area is the drive way which extends from the tip to the base leading to Dukem, a small town 37 km south of Addis Ababa.

On our way down hill towards Dukem we met one of the scouts guarding the forest. He told us the forest was preserved by the regional administration. While talking with him a flock of bush bucks crossed our way. The scout also told us there were many other creatures including endemic birds, primates, wild cats and a variety of butterflies. It was hard to think of the other half of the mountain as plain and eroded as it was.

Use and abuse of land

A lot has been said on the burden increasing population has on nature.  A drastic change in the use of land has been clearly identified as a main driver of changes in the abundance and geographic distribution of organisms at scales ranging from local habitats to regions to the entire globe. It is also the major driver of the erosion of biodiversity. To mitigate this problem most countries use incentive-based policies, such as subsidies, to influence effective agricultural land use.

According to a research by Ian Campbell, an environmental consultant, in these areas farms are 1-2.5 ha, with mixed crop and livestock. In addition, apiculture development is also observable in and around Mt. Yerer. According to this report the major existing environmental issues in the area include soil degradation and nutrient loss, arising from deforestation mainly on slopes, and consequent flooding in lower-lying areas; springs are drying up due to poor watershed management and an energy-deforestation-fertility loss cycle.

The solution near by

The case of Mt. Yerer is an exemplary alarm for environmental preservation.

For me Mt. Yerer was like a flip of a coin with two completely different stories. It’s somewhat ironic; a single mountain with two extremely different tales. But the experience had allowed me to witness that it is still possible to create a positive influence on the environment that surround us. The green side of the mountain is the result of commitment and determination to create positive influence; the will to bring back the good.

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