You are here: Home > What we do > Resources > Newsletters > Raising a glass to sorghum success

Ethiopia's female forest patrol

Ethiopia’s Bale Eco-region is home to the Biftu Beri Women’s Village Savings and Loan Association (VSLA). Set up with the support of Farm Africa and the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Ethiopia, members help each other strengthen their small businesses. But what truly unites this group of women is their passion for protecting the 15,230 hectares of forest that surrounds their homes.

On setting up the VSLA, Farm Africa delivered training to Biftu Beri members on the importance of natural resources to their day-to-day lives, highlighting areas in their local forest where valuable organic coffee plants and indigenous trees grow.

Invested in the future of the forest, the group soon established a forest- monitoring schedule where a committee would patrol the forest and report illegal acts of deforestation. Mrs Momina Adem Gutu, chair of Biftu Beri VSLA group, explains:

“Women in our area are highly attached to the forests and I believe our contribution to the protection of such resources is way bigger than men. As the responsibility at home requires us to collect firewood, we visit the forests daily; in the mornings and evenings. This has given us a chance to closely monitor and report on the status of the forest.”

“Nowadays, when we have to gather firewood, we purposely go in groups in case we catch people cutting branches off trees. When we see this happening, we bring the illegal practitioners to the law.”

The commitment of the group to preserving the environment knows no bounds. Momina Adem Sida, a group member, recounted:

“I remember one day we received information that a group of eight people had been cutting branches off trees. My friend and I rushed immediately to the forest. When we got there, most of the perpetrators ran away. Though we asked him to stop, one man refused . He was cutting our trees in front of my eyes. I couldn’t bear that feeling and took action. I took away his hatchet and my friend helped me chase him out of the forest. I am glad we saved that particular tree.”

The brave actions of Biftu Beri members are going a long way in preventing deforestation. But they have other incentives up their sleeves to encourage more people to protect their environment! Members are also encouraging forest communities to reduce their use of firewood by promoting fuel-saving stoves which reduce household fuel consumption.

To ensure that the stoves are accessible to all who want them, Farm Africa is linking the communities to businesses who produce the stoves, as well as assisting with transportation. And to make them more affordable for low-income households, Farm Africa is covering 50% of the purchase price of the stoves. So far our teams have distributed 5,961 fuel efficient stoves!

“These days, in order to reduce pressure on our forests, we have started to use fuel-saving stoves. We have become careful not to burn a lot of wood for cooking,” - Momina.

Momina and her friends are an inspiring example that small actions can often make a big difference. There’s no arguing that when it comes to protecting their forest, Biftu Beri mean business!

This story is one of five personal stories featured in our new report Making forests sustainable: lessons learnt from the Bale Eco-region REDD+ Phase II project, Ethiopia. (PDF file, 4MB)

Farm Africa implemented the REDD+ project in the Bale Eco-region with partner SOS Sahel Ethiopia with funding from the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Ethiopia.