Indigenous ways of environmental protection in Gedeo community, Southern Ethiopia: A socio-ecological perspective uri icon

abstract

  • Culture plays a significant role in protecting the environments and critical ecosystems. The purpose of this study was to explore the relevance's of indigenous beliefs, sacred sites, cultural practices and traditional rules (seera) in promoting environmental conservation and sociocultural values. The study further addresses the cultural interconnection between plants and people (ethnobotanical myths of Gedeo). The study employed broadly a qualitative approach with an anthropological design. The study was used key informant interviews, focus groups, participant observation and descriptive ecological inventory. The results revealed that, songo indigenous institutions, traditional beliefs, taboos, and local rules (seera) have been playing an enormous role in promoting environmental protections and cultural conservation. The setting aside sacred forest for ritual purposes also well entrenched traditions as indigenous mechanism of tree biodiversity conservation. Due to the prohibition systems (taboos), traditionally protected area (e.g. amba sacred forest) has highest tree diversity and well preserved than adjacent non-sacred farming habitats. Social taboos as indigenous belief systems have limiting people from cutting down trees from sacred sites, killing birds and injuring nature carelessly. Trees in sacred forest were not axed except when it is needed for public uses like local bridge constructions and chopping its woods for ritual purposes with consent of cultural elders. Broadly speaking, these cultural practices and prohibition mechanisms informally enhance ecosystem conservation and protection via limiting local people from destroying nature carelessly. Hence, due to the banishment, the sacred forest havens critical threatened plants or trees not found elsewhere special in non-sacred farming habitats. For instance, Aningeriaadolfi-friedeicii, Podocarpus falcatus, Cordia africana, Prunus africanum, O. welwitschii, and Syzygium guineense native tree species were abundantly counted in sacred forest while critically threatened in non-sacred adjacent landscape. The current study concludes that indigenous knowledge (IK) expressed through local practices, indigenous beliefs, social banishment, customary laws (seera) and prohibition systems is very useful tools in conservation of degraded tropical ecosystems and resilient for adverse climate change. In contrast, religious monotheism, changes in social norms, erosion in ancestral beliefs and lack of proper documentation of IK were some of the main factors that contributing towards the degradation and erosion of indigenous mechanisms of environmental protections which need to be looked into and formal law enforcement should be needed to safeguard the sacred forests.

publication date

  • 2020
  • 2020