Written by Ligia Clara
Ethiopians have recently established botanical gardens to promote sustainability and conservation practices throughout their country. Gullele Botanic Garden was founded in Addis Ababa, the nation’s capital, in 2005, but it was not officially inaugurated until January of 2019. The 1,740-acre park, which citizens have referred to as Addis Ababa’s “green lung,” is the country’s first well-established garden of its kind that covers semi-forest and forest vegetation.
The garden has employed many local people since September 2018 to clear more than 100 additional acres of land and cultivate indigenous plants. One of the garden’s main goals in 2019 is to introduce and harvest endangered plant species like Euphorbia burgeri and Erythrina burana. The institute has also removed Eucalyptus globulus trees from 1,040 acres of its total land. Many scientists have warned that these plants threaten local species, release toxic substances into the ground, and require greater amounts of moisture than indigenous vegetation.
The botanical garden has partnered with local schools so students can plant indigenous trees like the Acacia abyssinica as part of the “Model Gardening” Project. More than 10,000 people have visited the garden since it was inaugurated earlier this year, with the majority being local students as well as higher education institutions throughout Ethiopia who’ve shown an interest in ecological science education. The garden has even become a cultural center and served as the site for various weddings.
Smaller but similar botanical gardens have also emerged in the towns of Jimma and Shashemenec under the guidance of the Ethiopian Biodiversity Institute. The 42 acre botanical garden in Shashemene, located 249 kilometers south of Addis Ababa, was established in 2005 and began its ecotourism, conservation, and plant nursery activities in 2013. It includes the Lephis Forest field gene bank where the Prunus africana and Albizia gummifera indigenous trees are cultivated and protected. The garden is also home to more than 12 species of endemic plants and 200 indigenous plant species. While the institute faces financial limitations and must adapt to water shortages in Shashemene, the garden annually produces more than 100,000 seedlings that are distributed to the nearby community to help restore the region’s degraded land.