Bedilu Shegen of ESTA

Bedilu Shegen of ESTA

The USAID-funded Ethiopian Sustainable Tourism Alliance (ESTA) aims to enhance biodiversity conservation and economic development through sustainable tourism products, services and other opportunities throughout destination regions of Ethiopia.

Capital Ethiopia talked to Bedilu Shegen, Country Director.

Capital: Can you tell me about ESTA and what it does?
Bedilu Shegen:
 First of all let me try to explain ESTA. ESTA has a lot of member companies in it but the main company that over looks at the activities is Counterpart International.  Our main goal at ESTA is to create a connection between protecting the environment and helping the community through tourism. We want societies to have an alternative way of existing without harming the environment. We mobilize them and work with them so that they can have a sustainable way of living through community tourism.

We also teach them to take good care of the bio-diversity in their area and give them awareness of how keeping the environment safe will help them. For this community tourism project we selected six areas in different parts of the country including areas around Lake Zeway, Lake Langano and Konso. The areas were chosen because of their potential, the attractiveness of the areas as well as the fact that they were in danger of being destroyed. We wanted to work with vulnerable places that do have tourist attractions. We wanted to work with the communities that live in these areas, so we partner with them to protect the area while coming up with alternative solutions for the community’s need.

In Ethiopia there are no community led conservation areas, it is not well known, and that is why we are working on this pilot project, to bring this concept to life. If communities are able to learn to protect their environment it will be sustainable.

One of the main reasons for communities not to protect their environment is that they don’t have alternatives of income except for firewood. They are forced to cut down trees and use them as firewood. You can’t go to these communities and tell them to just stop cutting down trees without providing them with other solutions. That would not be sustainable.

So we go into these communities, consult with them, and we try to come up with common grounds. Other sources of income such as certain kinds of art crafts they could sell or like I said before by conserving the environment they can attract tourists and providing service for the tourists, that can also earn them some money. Read more