Local Community Perceptions towards the Preservation and Protection of Church Forests, the Case of Gondar City and its Surrounding, Northwest Ethiopia

Emwodew Melkegnaw


These days, forests are hastily degraded, vanished, and damaged globally as a result of human activities, destructive industries, and population growth. But, there are exceptional sacred places which preserved forests and have contributed to the biodiversity and ecosystem. In this regard, the Ethiopian Orthodox Churches are the most eminent sites that could be considered as the home of indigenous trees. The main aim of this study was to explore peoples’ perceptions towards the preservation and protection of church forests in selected Orthodox churches of Gondar city and its surrounding. Accordingly, a qualitative research approach was used. Within this, key informant interview and focus group discussions were carried out. Study participants were chosen using a purposive sampling technique and a total of n=38 participants were interviewed. Based on this, the results showed that the local community had a strong perception on church forests and they firmly believed that destroying church trees at the cost of personal or family benefits would result in undesirable penalties in their overall life. They said that cutting trees may result in curse, death or the destruction properties. In general, people saw church forests as ‘untouchable’ although religious followers may use them as a sunshade to protect themselves from sunlight and to carry out some religious events. Indeed, this strong attachment towards church trees is the outcome of religious teaching and beliefs which base on the Holy Bible. Thus, taking this incomparable practices of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo followers into account, other institutions, professionals, entrepreneurs, factory owners, investors, policymakers, and development planners should adopt this moral commitment to save our native trees and biodiversity.

Keywords: church forests; Gondar; local community; perception; preservation

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ISSN : 2251-1571