The plan is aimed at protecting and preserving national parks
The 13 national parks in the country will receive a 10-year management plan, which aims to protect and preserve the park.
Prepared by Ethiopian Wildlife Conservation Authority, the Management Plan will be implemented this year with a yearly estimated budget of 78 million Br.
"Its main aim is to reduce ecological threats," said Girma Timer, director of protected area development & protection at the Authority. "By creating awareness, fulfilling legal and international convention requirements and creating equitable and optimal sharing of benefits generated from tourism."
The plan will reserve buffer zones that are protected for human intrusions, feral animals, investment and infrastructure development activities. It includes methods that will move the parks toward financial self-sufficiency and donor-independence by implementing income generating mechanisms. The plan also includes penalties that will be imposed for conducting illegal activities at the parks.
"The plan is specific to each park. It contains detailed objectives and designs that consider nature, inhabitants, resources and threats present in the parks," according to Fanuel Kebede, director of wildlife research & monitoring at the Authority. The 13 parks generated 123 million Br in revenues last year from 133,628 tourists that visited the national parks.
Initially, the Authority prepared a plan for Awash National Park, at a cost of 1.5 million Br. The plan, which took a year to prepare by a team of experts, focuses on the park's environmental, social, economic and governance issues.
Habitat degradation through farming and deforestation; ineffective law enforcement; lack of capacity of the park's staff; lack of effort to protect endangered species; and lack of mechanisms to share the benefits of the parks' revenue with local communities have been identified as major areas of concern in the plan.
"Mega projects located close to the parks are also major threats," the plan reads. "The projects do not incorporate plans to alleviate environmental impacts."
The study was presented for public discussions with local communities with close proximity to the parks, representatives of universities, environmental NGOs and factories that operate near the parks.
After the discussions, it was agreed to form a specific task force dedicated to protect the parks; make the parks free from livestock encroachment; curtail illegal settlements; and force development projects to incorporate environmental sustainability, according to Girma.
The management plan for Awash is expected to be approved next week.
Yacob Melaku, president of the Ethiopian Tour Operators Association, lauds the move of the Authority. He believes that the parks, which have the potential to attract tourists and generate revenue, have not been given enough attention by the government.
"Major effort should be exerted to create a sense of belonging in the community," said Yaqob. "Lessons should also be learned from countries like Kenya that have been able to generate considerable revenue from such parks."
Simien Mountains and Afita Shiraro national parks, which previously had prepared management plans, will follow the new plan developed for Awash National Park.
"The plans of the two parks were never properly implemented," Girma told Fortune.
The Authority is planning to design a similar plan for the remaining 12 parks with an additional 19.5 million Br.
"Our next move will be searching for funding," said Girma, "which will be challenging."
The German GIZ, African Wildlife Foundation and Wetland International are the Authority's partners in the project, which the park management hopes will provide the funding for the project.
Each park needs an average annual allocation of six million Birr for maintenance and renovations.
Zerihun Mekonnen, a lecturer at Lion Tourism & Hotel College for the last 10 years, believes the Authority has made a good decision in preparing the plan for Awash National Park, which he characterised as being in a highly degraded state.
"A real change can only come if the parks get restructured," he said. "The parks should be administered by boards composed of industry players."
The Authority, which operates under the Ministry of Culture & Tourism, administers parks that stretch across two regional states. In addition to the 13 parks that operate under the Authority, there are 14 parks run by the regional states.