Addis Abeba – The United States through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) launched Biodiversity and Community Resilience in the Omo Valley (BIOM), a new $8.7 million project in the South Omo zone of the Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples’ Region (SNNPR). Over the next five years, BIOM will improve biodiversity, livelihoods, and human rights in Ethiopia’s lower Omo zone through community-based conservation, ecotourism, livestock production, and political advocacy training.
The activity will be implemented in partnership with the local government and members of the community, living between the Omo National Park and the Mago National Park. This land is being considered for the establishment of a new conservation trust—the Tama Community Conservation Area.
USAID’s approach of focusing on both the biodiversity and the people of the Omo Valley recognizes the crucial role of communities as stewards of their own ecosystems. The new activity will directly benefit over 2,000 square kilometers of the Tama Community Conservation Area and will engage over 400 households in employment in the conservation area programs and administration, including work in ecotourism lodges, local craft production and sales, and tourism experiences. A benefit-sharing system will be established for those 13,500 residents of the area not directly involved.
At the launch event for the USAID BIOM activity, partners (International Institute of Rural Reconstruction, Cool Ground, and the Peace and Development Center), local government representatives, members of the private sector (African Canvas and Fredy Hess Travel), and community members from the Mursi, Bodi, and Kwegu communities joined USAID/Ethiopia Deputy Mission Director Adam Schmidt in celebration.
Community members took the stage to describe their appreciation for this focus on their critical problems related to biodiversity, peace building, ecotourism, and livestock production. They commended the project’s grass roots approach of giving the local community the lead on the project’s design and their own development process. Dispatch