Where We Work

Ethiopia is a land of contrast, a mosaic of traditions and cultures, diverse landscapes and habitats, and numerous rare and endemic species. With a population exceeding 80 million people, Ethiopia is the second most populous country in Africa. The country features an array of ethnic cultures that cling to ancient traditions associated with Orthodox Christian and Islamic religions, traditional African tribalism, and nomadic pastoralism and hosts more than 80 indigenous languages. Ethiopia's topography is as diverse as its people; the Danakil Desert, lies 120 meters below sea level and the northern and southern highlands rise to over 4,000 meters. Although widely known for recurring drought and famine, Ethiopia is a vital source of freshwater for many East African countries. The Ethiopian highlands facilitate orographic rains that provide 90% of the water to the Nile River and support several major watersheds that yield water to Somalia, Kenya, and Sudan. Ethiopia also hosts a diverse compilation of ecosystems, including deserts, semi-arid bushlands, rainforests, savannas, tropical montane forests, heathlands, and the continent's largest expanse of Afro-alpine. As a result, the country is rich with specialized flora and fauna with an exceptionally high incidence of endemism. More than 1,400 plant species are believed to be endemic to Ethiopia representing 10 to 20% of the flora, and, of the 227 mammal species, at least 31 are endemic.

imageDespite Ethiopia's rich array of cultural and biological diversity, its people and environment are under enormous strain. Eighty-five percent of Ethiopians live in rural areas and rely heavily on subsistence farming and natural resources for survival. Deforestation is widespread throughout the country, causing a host of problems including diminishing resource productivity, alteration of hydrological processes, soil erosion, and loss of biodiversity. It is estimated that Ethiopia's forests once covered 65% of the country and 90% of the highlands. Today, forests cover only 2.2% of the country and 5.6% of the highlands with a current deforestation rate of 150,000 hectares per year. Loss of forests and woodlands is largely attributed to the need for cultivated lands and livestock range. Approximately 95% of the country's agriculture belongs to family households that cultivate areas greater than two hectares. Furthermore, Ethiopia has an estimated 30 million cattle, 24 million sheep, and 18 million goats. Nearly 90% of livestock grazing is restricted to natural areas where farming potential is limited. To enhance livestock forage, vegetation is often burned and cleared, degrading critical wildlife habitat, promoting soil erosion, and reducing biodiversity.

The Bale Mountains

Ethiopian WolfMuch of TMF's support has gone to projects in the Bale Mountains of south-central Ethiopia, one Africa's largest and least studied massifs. Elevations range from 1,500 meters to 4,377 meters a.s.l. and cover approximately 23,500 square kiometers. Temperatures vary from -15º to 26º C seasonally along elevation gradients. Orographic precipitation from the Indian Ocean charges over 40 streams, four major rivers, more than two dozen alpine lakes, and numerous springs that are a source of water to more than 12 million people throughout Ethiopia and Somalia. There are three broad eco-types found in the Bale Mountains: the northern plains, which were once forested (and now largely settled); the Afro-alpine, which is the largest extent of this unique ecosystem type in the world; and the Harenna Forest, which is one of the last remaining tropical montane forests in Ethiopia. Internationally recognized for its high incidence of endemism and biodiversity, the Bale Mountains is listed as a potential World Heritage site and supports an array of rare and unique species. It has been estimated that more species would go extinct if the biodiversity of the Bale Mountains were lost than any other area of equivalent size on the globe. For example, 26% of the mammals found in the Bale Mountains are endemic, including the largest remaining populations of mountain nyala (Tragelaphus buxtoni) and the Ethiopian wolf (Canis simensis). Additionally, more than1,300 species of flowering plants are found in the region; of these, 163 are known endemics to Ethiopia, 23 are found only in the Bale Mountains, and at least 400 are used for medicinal purposes.

As most of Ethiopia's country-side was cleared of forests and natural habitats, human populations in the Bale Mountains began to steadily grow in recent decades. In 1974, Bale Mountains National Park (BMNP) was created to protect the area's forests, biological diversity and endemic species. The park encompasses 2,200 square kilometers,including most of the Afro-alpine and a significant portion of the Harenna Forest. Despite its protected status, more than 30,000 people (with 168,300 head of livestock) reside within the park's boundaries with many more estimated to live within close proximity; all are heavily reliant on the natural resources for subsistence and other direct and indirect ecosystem services.

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Updated: June 14, 2013 © 2011 All Rights Reserved
The Murulle Foundation P.O. Box 1442 Fort Collins, CO 80522 USA