Ethiopia: Awetu Park - Stimulating Tourism Economy, Restoring Societies' Interaction

Being one of the areas that support the economic growth of a given state; tourism plays significant role in accelerating foreign currency earning via attracting tourists from all corners of the globe. Besides, it has undeniable role for creating jobs for the growing youths in the country. Blessed with natural and manmade resources, Ethiopia is the home of various touristic destinations.

Following this, tourists from abroad frequently travel to explore such endowed touristic areas. Among the ample of tourist attractions, the iconic Awetu Park located in Jimma City should be entertained here. It is the only oldest Park found in Jimma city of Oromia Regional State. It was known for providing various services for the surrounding people and visitors since long ago. Unfortunately, the park was closed for several years due to absence of maintenance activities. Following the closure of the park, various social and economic activities were terminated.

Commendably, Awetu Park renovation activities are underway to restoring Jimma City to its earlier position and fame that will enable it a preferred city by both domestic and foreign tourists for recreation next to Addis Ababa and some other cities just like before, the park partners disclosed.

This park is ancient Park which is now entitled as OASIS Awetu Jimma Recreation Center. Mohammed Ahmed, an investor, entrepreneur and partner of the park said: "This Park is very historic with over half a century of age. Hence, the renovation of this park in the city will give a chance to restores some stopped art and other activities. The renovation activities will revive and play its part for reintegration of the youth and the society for purposive life in the city."

Upon its completion, The Park will be expected to create over 100 job opportunities for the citizens whereas by now it has created job opportunities for some 42 people. The partners have made a five year contract deal with the city administration to renovate the park and provide various services.

Various ceremonies and public meetings were hosted in the park previously apart from its being of recreational center for the youths and the society though all this activities were terminated following its lock down. But now, the renovation activities undertaken in the park are aimed at restoring this entire multipurpose park in more diversified, attractive and accessible manner via providing services with affordable price, he ascribed.

"This park initially was built during Haile Selassie regime. It is nearly 70 years old and very historic park in Jimma. The Awetu River adds beauty to the city when crossing through it," he remarked. "Regrettably," he added: "Problems had arisen in the mid of the park's operation and stayed closed for the past few years due to various complex problems in addition to lack of maintenance and renovation activities."

Mohammed further said that when saying this park is historic, it means it used to host many weeding ceremonies, meetings, musical concerts of prominent artists, and many other events were taken for a long time. It had raised strong social integration among the communities. By the time, up to ten weeding ceremonies were held in a day. The closure of this park however, has broken the heart of the people those lost all the services they used to access from it. Winning attention of the concerned bodies, the renovation work of the park is running with the investment worth general capital of 10 million Birr.

In addition to the aforementioned problems, the city lacks recreation place for its kids. Understanding these shortcomings, Awetu park partners have identified the site and ordered modern kids' recreational materials that will go to be installed inside the park. But for the time being, the river side project interchange bridge has touched the area. Due to this, the installation of kids' recreation was delayed. The inauguration of the park also suspended. Following the completion of constructing the kids' playing ground, the park is expected to be inaugurated in the coming September.

On the other hand, the Awetu River has repeatedly affected the residents during the rainy seasons. On top of creating conducive recreation area, the city administration has commenced river side projects to overcome these difficulties. Though the park is ancient and historic one, it can be considered as a part of the river side project. This move treats the water and will make the river more healthy and beautiful. Hence, the city administration has planned to build water spring/fountains.

"Restoring Jimma to its previous beauty and fame status cannot be achieved without integrated efforts of all concerned bodies. Jimma circus team, which used to perform in the park, was the first and famous at national level. By the time, it was one that represented the country and participated in Africa and other competitions. It was a model for other circus teams but it was dismantled due to various reasons while one is the park's closure. Restoration of the park hence, gives golden opportunity for the revival of the circus team and resume its performance in the park and other parts of the country," he opined.

Abduselam Abajebal, the other partner of the park for his part said: "We can transform our country working together hand in glove and investing the resources we have. We can contribute our share by investing what we have that is financial capital, talent or skill to complement the effort to renovate the park. Hence, all the resources and talents combined together can profoundly change and bring dignity and golden value for the country and the cities apart from brining cohesive reform team that changes the area with good things for the better hope of all the societies."

OASIS Awetu Jimma Recreation Center is a historic recreation park but due to lack of renovating activities it has stayed for long without providing desired service for the public interest. As a result, the city administration has taken some renovating activities last year. Previously, this park was administered by the government but now due to its inability to renovate and provide service for the public, the government has decided and transfer to the private sector via rental agreement to renovate and provide service for the public. Now the park is actively providing several services even if it is under renovation, Kassahun Jober, Jimma City Deputy Administer said.

Fekede Wogu, a Jimma city resident on his part said: "In this park I have unforgettable memory of my childhood. I had been enjoying wedding ceremonies and various musical concerts as well as contests between different entities held in the park. Its closure for several years and cessation of service provision upset many of the dwellers of the city who used to entertain the services. But now, its reopening is great news for us and our city as there is no other recreation center for Jimma city. All who were born and grown up in Jimma have rich memory with this park. Hence, its reopening is a joy for all. I am as a father of three daughters feel very happy to bring them here to recreate in this historic park."

Ahamed Ayredni another Jimma city boy said that in the park all Jimma residents have memory. The closure of this park was painful for Jimma society because it was the only park on the heart of people for recreation and other purpose. "The fountain was high and beautiful. I think the renovation activities undergoing here will restore such a beautiful sense. I hope I will arrange my wedding ceremony here because the service here is fair and affordable to all," he said.


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