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Textbook, 2013, 108 Pages
1.1. Trends in Biodiversity Conservation
1.2. Research Questions
1.3. Objectives of the Research
1.3.1. General Objective
1.3.2. Specific Objectives
1.4. Significance of the Study
2. CONCEPTUAL AND THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK
2.1. Conceptual Framework
2.1. 1. Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church
2.1.2. The Sacred and the Profane
2.1.3. Biodiversity and Culture
2.2. Theorizing Environmental Ethics and Biodiversity Conservation
2.2.1. Economic and Institutional theorists view
2.2.2. Cultural theorists view
2.2.3. Christian Anthropocentrism (human-centered ethics)
2.2.4. Christian Deep ecology (Creation-centered ethics)
3. FORMER RESEARCHES ON BIODIVERSITY AND ENVIRONMENTAL ETHICS
3.1. Biodiversity and Culture
3.2. Biodiversity and sacred areas in the World and Ethiopia
4. RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODOLOGY
4.1. Description of the Study area
4.2. The Study Site: Churches Selected for the Study
4.2.1. Mika‘el Tsellamo Church
4.2.2. Mika‘el Romanat Church
4.2.3. Khokholo Yowhannis
4.2.4. Mika‘el Dagya Church
4.3. Research Methodology and Methods of Data Collection
5. BIODIVERSITY AND ENVIRONMENTAL ETHICS IN ETHIOPIAN ORTHODOX TEWAHEDO CHURCH
5.1. The churches and their Plant composition
5.2. The churches and their Animal composition
5.3. Community’s View Towards ;Plants and Animals in the Church
5.3.1. Community’s view on plants in the Church
5.3.2. Community’s view on Animals in the Church
5.4. Significance of Church Plants
5.5. The Sacred and Profane Dichotomy in the Churches
6. CONCLUDING REMARKS
APPENDIX I: LIST OF QUESTIONS: INTERVIEW DISCUSSIONS
APPENDIX II: PHOTOS OF CHURCH PLANTS AND THEIR DESCRIPTIONS
APPENDIX III: LIST OF LOCAL AND ENGLISH NAMES OF ANIMALS AND THEIR RESPECTIVE DESCRIPTION
List of Figures
List of photos
The very fast rate of deforestation and killing and hunting of animals in Africa has brought significant decline in biodiversity to the extent that some species are on the verge of local extinction. For Mackinnon, though the available information is limited, it is estimated that two-third of the land that could support habitats for wild plants and animals is being used for other purposes (cited in Biodiversity Support Program, 1993).
According to the Environmental Protection Authority (2003), Ethiopia is one of the richest countries in flora and fauna in Africa. As the Institute of Biodiversity Conservation sited from Tewolde Brehan (1991), there are 6500- 7000 species of higher plants of which 12 percent are believed to be endemic. Besides, the country (Ethiopia) is endowed with 284 wild mammals, 861 birds, 201 reptile, 63 amphibian, 188 fish and 1225 arthropod species of which 10, 2,5, 54, 0.4 and 21 percent respectively are believed to be endemic (Institute of Biodiversity Conservation, 2009). However, due to deforestation which is occurring at an alarming rate, the country is losing much of its unique biodiversity. The findings of Teketay cited in Zewge, (2001), shows that the major reasons for deforestation are the intensive use of land for agriculture and livestock production, and tree cutting for different purposes.
With a number of factors for deforestation and decline in or loss of biodiversity, the problem is evident in the northern highlands of Ethiopia and more severe in Tigray regional state, where forests are downscaled to few protected areas especially the Orthodox Tewahedo Church compounds. To this end, very little of the natural forest and wild animals remains today. These all are the results of both conscious (a long-term human occupation of the area, accompanied by sedentary agriculture and extensive cattle husbandry) and unconscious (consecutive civil and national wars) exploitation of the biodiversity. For this reason, the government made different efforts in various sectors of biodiversity conservation. To overcome problems in biodiversity loss, the ministry of agriculture in collaboration with different national and international organizations is working to implement agro forestry and community tree planting programs for the last three decades. However, yet the challenges of minimizing the rate of deforestation, lack of appropriate technologies to improve conservation practices, and imbalance between the forest resource and the demand of the ever increasing population of the country remain unsolved (United Nations, 2002).
In such devastated areas, conserving and maintaining biodiversity has been a very challenging task, and most approaches did not bring significant change. The only areas where one can observe forests/trees in northern Ethiopia are in some protected areas and the church surroundings and hence, these patches of biodiversity in the church compounds are believed to survive as a result of the religion and tradition of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church’s conservation system and protective patronage (Dagnachew, 2001). In line with this Zewge (2001) underlines that;
The sacred church and monastery lands of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Churches have, however, survived for many centuries as islands of natural forest biodiversity in a sea of deforested landscape in much of the Ethiopian Highlands.
Having the knowledge of the multi-faced benefits of biodiversity conservation, the Ethiopian government is enhancing the activities and organizational structure of biodiversity conservation from time to time. As part of its enhancement activities, the government upgraded Plant Genetic Resource (PGR) to Institute level which is named as Institute of Biodiversity Conservation and Research (IBCR) by proclamation No. 120/98 and re-established it with the name of Institute of Biodiversity Conservation (IBC) by proclamation No. 381/2004 (FDREEPA, 2004). Yet, few protected areas and church and monastery compounds are the only areas in which biodiversity are conserved (Alemayehu, 2007).
As different writers have agreed, sustainable use of environment depends on two main factors: (1) having appropriate local knowledge and technology to use resources, and (2) the environmental ethics that guides the relationship between human and nature in a sustainable way (cited in Alemayehu, 2007). In the development of human beings (either for misuse or wise use of the environment) institutions can play a significant role. For instance, in states like Ethiopia in which religion has a great value, Orthodox Tewahedo Church plays a prominent role in conserving biodiversity.
The Christian Anthropocentrists believe that God created nature for human’s benefit by using the biblical instruction of Genesis which instructs Adam and Eve to be “fruitful and multiply and fill the Earth and subdue it; have dominion over everything that moves upon the Earth.”, which supports the argument of Anthropocentrism: nature should be used as a means (wealth) for the people (Chandran and Ramachandra, 2008). However, the Christian Deep Ecologist, Nash concludes that the massive losses in biodiversity matter morally, not primarily because of the instrumental value of the other species (other than human beings), but rather because of the intrinsic values of the species that humans ought to respect (Zaleha, 2009). However, although the observation in the Orthodox Church compounds seems in line with the proponents of Deep ecology, there is no research done regarding Orthodox Tewahedo Church values and practices in Ethiopia in general as well as the wereda Ìnderta in particular.
In influencing peoples’ perspectives on biodiversity conservation, the Orthodox Tewahedo Church is believed to play its role in three ways to conserve biodiversity: (1) Based upon and rooted in their own understanding of the relationship between humanity and the rest of nature; (2) They can teach about the environment and natural systems upon which life depends; (3) They can provide active leadership in initiating practical environmental projects. Having Said this, the Church norms and values which are being respected in the Church compound are not applicable in other areas/ outside the Church compound which can be in this case expressed in the form of separation between sacred and profane and levels of sacredness linked with secrecy of spaces, from open space to very much closed one.
The primary research questions of this book are:
1. What are the value-bases for biodiversity conservation according to bible and other religious traditions of the EOTC?
2. Can the existing biodiversity Conservation practices in and around the church compound be attributed to the space wise dichotomy of the sacred and the profane? Why? And How?
3. How do individuals/ followers of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church behave towards biodiversity while they are in and around churches and in other areas?
4. Do conservation practices in the churches animal and plant type specific? How?
5. How the Church values, which are in favor of biodiversity conservation, can be applicable to other areas?
The main objective of the study is to investigate the role of the Orthodox Tewahedo Church in biodiversity conservation. Based on the above general objective the following specific objectives are in order.
i. To find out those religious values (principles and actions) of the EOTC that are in favor of biodiversity conservation.
ii. To explore the EOTC church values in relation to biodiversity conservation in terms of the sacred and profane; space-wise dichotomy
iii. To assess the space-based biodiversity conservation attitudes of the followers of the Orthodox Tewahedo Church.
iv. To identify the cultural bases on what plants and animals are conserved in the Churches while not in other areas.
v. To explore ways out in expanding the pro-biodiversity conservation church values and principles in the biodiversity conservation efforts.
Biodiversity conservation is a top priority issue in the world of both developed and developing countries. For this purpose, literature argues that indigenous knowledge and institutions like church (Orthodox Tewahedo Church) are crucial. But since the church values are not clearly identified and are not in a discourse, the biodiversity conservation in church compounds is not prevalent outside the church compounds.
The study is essential to enhance dialogue between policy makers and academic researchers for it aims at understanding the indigenous knowledge and practices in the Orthodox Tewahedo church, which are positively contributing in conserving the biological diversity. It is indispensable because it identified the principles and practices of the Church. Besides, as a new research area, in the field of Environmental Anthropology, the research is very important for researchers, as a spring board for further researches on the area.
The Ethiopian Orthodox Church is believed to be the largest of the five non- Chalcedonian Eastern Churches (the Coptic, the Ethiopian, the Syrian, the Indian, and the Armenian), which are by the historian Adrian Fortescue called The Lesser Eastern Churches., but which others prefer to call the Oriental Orthodox Churches, to distinguish them from the Byzantine Orthodox Churches (Getnet, 1998).
The religion, Orthodox Tewahedo Christianity, which is believed as playing an important role in Ethiopian life and that maintained until today, was emerged in Ethiopia in the mid-4th century. The church (Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo) is a unique church deeply based upon Ethiopian history, social life and ethics (Abbink, 2003). Furthermore, the word ‘Tewahedo’ is an Ethiopian term meaning ‘made one’ (Lule, 2008). The church considers this word as the best expression conveying the faith of the church; it emphasizes the inseparable unity of the Godhood and Manhood in the Person of Christ.
The Church, Orthodox Tewahedo Church has over 40 million followers, 500,000 clergies and 35,000 churches in Ethiopia. In addition to its religious activities, EOTC has also a long history of conservation of forest resources, which usually envelop the churches. Although the main purpose of churches is as places for worship, burials and meditating religious festivals, they also provide valuable, often unique, and secured habitats for plants and animals, and green spaces for people (Alemayehu, 2007).
According to Durkheim, religion is a system of symbols, beliefs and rituals that are based on the classification of common things into the sacred or the profane which are borne out of a society’s need to maintain some level of social cohesion.
The sacred is the socially transcendent and which gives a sense of fundamental identity based on the likeness constructed and sustained by difference or opposition over and against: (1) The alien other (which may be another culture that threatens the maintenance of its identity); (2) The profane i.e. the world of everyday routine, particularly economic activity and its rationality. In addition to this, community is based on symbolic unity, which is an imagined likeness with limits or boundaries that separate it from a different, alien other. Thus, it contrasts with the functionally-specific relations and instrumental rationalities characteristic of societal associations (Allen. J., Pickering. F. and Miller. W., 2002).
The sacred icons are more stored and protected from their profane surroundings. Therefore, sacred places were created to contain the sacred icons and these places become some powerful, through a kind of sacred contagion, that they can even serve as refuge for criminals or hunted animals. Furthermore, Eliade (1956) underlines that;
;Some parts of' space are qualitatively different from others. "Draw not nigh hither," says the Lord to Moses; "put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place where on thou standest is holy ground" (Exodus, 3, 5). There is, then, a sacred space, and hence a strong, significant space; there are other spaces that are not sacred and so are without structure or consistency, amorphous.
Thus, the term sacred is used to describe different contexts, separated from the profane including sacred forest, mountains, lakes and marine areas. For instance, Soutter et al. (2003) used the term to describe the sacred groves and for them sacred forest refers to specific areas recognized by peoples and communities as having special spiritual, religious, cultural and historical significance.
People may value biodiversity for spiritual, economic, aesthetic, cultural and scientific reasons. Although it has implication at international, national and local levels, biodiversity conservation is directly relevant to the local community, often biological resources represent primary source of livelihood, medicine and spiritual values. However, it can be difficult to reconcile these values. Thus, it is very important to be able to clarify different values that underlie positions taken on various sides of a given issue relevant to biodiversity and to understand how values can affect willingness to adopt different patterns of resource use or to reach compromises (Biodiversity Support Program, 1993).
After 1992 (the Convention on Biological Diversity), which realized that many areas of the world that contain high levels of biodiversity are anthropogenic landscapes inhabited by indigenous and local communities, approaches have been refined, linking conservation initiatives with local culture (Maass, 2008 and Cocks and Dold, 2006). Furthermore, in his Anthropological work, Maass (2008) identified that a comprehensive understanding of the cultural context (indigenous knowledge in his case) of a given community is necessary in biodiversity conservation activities.
As sustainable biodiversity conservation is a precondition for sustainable development, cultural and biological diversity are necessary and equally important prerequisites for sustainable development (UNESCO and UNEP, 2003). Besides, the recognition of the cultural and spiritual values is the very important factor to enhance the biodiversity conservation efforts. I.e. if a people know the cultural significance of wild plants that would have a crucial role to conserve the biodiversity (Dold and m. L. 2006). These there is an “inextricable link” between biological and cultural diversity. Thus, at policy level the balance of environment, society and economy is necessary for sustainable development (Maffi, 2007).
Dudley et al (2005) reported that the spiritual faiths, which are followed by most people, have impacts on the natural environment: the interaction can be through the form/s of Sacredness of places and/or Influence of faiths. But since the existence of sacred areas within a protected area can create a challenge for managers, decisions whether or not to make a sacred area important to faiths into an official protected area need to be made on a case-by-case basis. Furthermore, they added that such activities of making such areas an explicit part of biodiversity conservation strategies has the additional and very important function of bringing conservation issues into the mainstream thinking of faith groups. However, due to cultural breakdown, pressure on biodiversity and poor governance, the significance of the sacred sites are under threat.
Jessup & Peluso (1986) studied common property resources management of minor forest produce in Indonesia. They found that the indigenous forest product collectors do not use all available resources or engage in all possible economic activities at any given time. Rather they switch from one to another or vary the degree of their involvement in response to changing opportunities and problems, including fluctuations in commodity prices and employment as well as environmental variation. These communities develop ownership rights by planting trees or by marking and tending a wild one. Kinship is an important factor underlying the property right. Ethnic groups and villages tend to be identified with more or less inclusive kin groups. Residence in a village, with the right to common property that it confers, is established by birth or marriage, and right to tenure. Inheritance is also according to kinship; descendants share equally in the inheritance of rights to land, trees, and other property.
The world today is in search of sustainable biodiversity conservation. As a contribution towards finding a lasting solution, strategies are being drawn up and many ideas are being tested. To address the problem of the biodiversity loss national and international, governmental and nongovernmental institutions and organizations are being made an effort. Although some progress is being made the world still lacks a magic solution or formula.
To analyze the existing Orthodox Tewahedo Church practice with regard to biodiversity conservation, I referred my first reflections mainly to four theories as basis of reflections i.e. regarding factors determining biodiversity conservation in commonly owned areas, the Economic and institutional theorists and the Cultural theorists view of biodiversity conservation. Besides, as religion is one of the strong and powerful indigenous institutions, religious perspective towards biodiversity conservation in the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church compound and outside examined using the Christian ethics regarding biodiversity conservation. These are Christian Anthropocentrism (human centered) and Christian Deep ecology (creation centered).
The discussion of the biodiversity conservation in the church compounds started with the analysis of community’s attitude from the perspective of economic, game theory and “rational theory model”, where the individual decision-making or choice making capabilities in relation to the benefit achieved from using the Church biodiversity was analyzed. From this point of view, communities view towards biodiversity in the Church compound and outside became a subject of study. These theories mainly focused on the human action and attitude towards biodiversity and the causes for such action.
Hardin (1968) inferred that most of the time individual interests over rule the collective interest. Therefore the management model of privatisation of state (government) was stressed forth. This initiated discussion on the conservation and management of commonly owned biodiversity. According to Wells (1997) biodiversity conservation activities and increasing net economic benefits should go hand in hand unless all efforts will remain fruitless. Besides, Dasgupta (2000) underlined that market and government failure are not the only factors for biodiversity destruction rather badly functioning of “micro-institutions” like the households are also factors as well.
Unlike the “rational choice approach” which concentrated on the rational decision in the conservation of biodiversity owned in common, the findings of many anthropologists and sociologists on small-scale societies showed that commonly owned biodiversity are conserved not only by rational institution created for a purpose economic utilization of resources, but also by various cultural elements like kinship, religion and social organization, which also played vital role in the conservation. They highlighted that the decline in biodiversity of commonly owned natural resources was not only due to institutional frailer but it is also because of external factors like colonization, modernization (changes in culture) and market forces.
According to Dudley et al (2005) the spiritual faiths, which are followed by most people, have impacts on the natural environment: the interaction can be through the form/s of Sacredness of places and/or Influence of faiths. Since the existence of sacred areas within a protected area can create a challenge for managers, decisions whether or not to make a sacred area important to faiths into an official protected area need to be made on a case-by-case basis. However, no research has been done in the specific research area (Ìnderta woreda).
The analysis of Maffi (2007) regarding the relationship between “human and environment” from the perspectives of biocultural diversity, implied that the relationships of human culture with the environment acknowledge the existence of an “inextricable link” between biological and cultural diversity. Moreover, the balance of environment, society and economy is believed to be necessary for sustainable development, which is a paradigm emerged in the 1980s.
Anthropocentrism is a theory, which puts human beings as center of the universe: Everything is centered on humans or evaluated by human measures and serves human interests, and starts from human interests.
In an anthropocentric ethic nature deserves moral consideration because for its intrinsic value. As Kortenkamp and Moore (2001) cited from Campbell (1983), the term ‘Anthropocentric’ was first coined in the 1860s, amidst the controversy over Darwin’s theory of evolution, to represent the idea that humans are the center of the universe. The theory considers humans to be the most important life forms, and other forms of life to be important only to the extent that they affect humans or can be useful to humans. In an anthropocentric ethics, the moral consideration of nature emanates from the consequence that degradation or preservation of nature could have (Kortenkamp and Moore, 2001).
The essential feature of anthropocentrism is the belief that humans are separate from and ethically superior to the rest of nature. To this end, humans consider themselves to be rightfully, the master of nature subduing it for their own instrumental value (Beckmann, Kilbourne, Dam and Pardo, 1997).
In discussing the cause of the environmental crisis, many people believe that the anthropocentric view that humans dominate over and rule nature encouraged human exploitation of nature, and thus was the ideological cause of the environmental crisis.
The Christian Anthropocentrists believe that God created nature for human’s benefit by using the biblical instruction of Genesis which instructs Adam and Eve to be “fruitful and multiply and fill the Earth and subdue it; have dominion over everything that moves upon the Earth.”, which supports the argument of Western philosophy: nature should be used as a means (wealth) for the people (Chandran and Ramachandra, 2008).
From an anthropocentric point of view, humans have a moral duty only towards one another; any duty they seem to have towards other species or entities is really only an indirect duty towards other people. There is no ethical implication in the relationship between humans and nature (Yang, 2006).
According to Lynn White (1974), in absolute contrast to ancient paganism, Christianity established not only dualism of man and nature but also insisted that it is God's will that man exploit nature for his proper ends. Furthermore, he added that;
By gradual stages a loving and all- powerful God had created light and darkness, the heavenly bodies, the earth and all its plants, animals, birds, and fishes. Finally, God had created Adam and, as an afterthought, Eve to keep man from being lonely. Man named all the animals, thus establishing his dominance over them. God planned all of this explicitly for man's benefit and rule: no item in the physical creation had any purpose save to serve man's purposes. And, although man's body is made of clay, he is not simply part of nature: he is made in God's image.
According to Kortenkamp and Moore (2001), the term ‘deep ecology’ was evolved from the term first coined ‘biocentric’ in 1913 by an American biochemist, Lawrence Henderson, to represent the idea that the universe is originator of life (cited from Campbell, 1983). And latter the term was adopted by the so called ‘deep ecologists’ in the 1970s to refer the idea that all life has intrinsic value (cited from Nash, 1989). Thus, the term “Deep ecology” was coined by the philosopher Arne Naess in 1973 and then the notion developed and popularized by the sociologist Bill Devall and philosopher George Sessions. (Gandhi, 2007).
Unlike to Anthropocentrists, Deep ecologists advocate for the intrinsic value of nature (creation). For instance, the Christian Deep Ecologist, Nash concludes that the massive losses in biodiversity matter morally, not primarily because of the instrumental value of the other species (other than human beings), but rather because of the intrinsic values of the species that humans ought to respect (Zaleha, 2009). Furthermore, the theorists believe that nature has moral consideration due to its intrinsic value regardless of its use for human beings. For deep ecology ethicists, for instance, one could decide that it is wrong to cut down a tree because it would cause for extinction of diverse of biological resources.
Deep ecology fundamentally rejects the dualistic view of humans and nature as separate and different. It holds that humans are intimately a part of the natural environment: they and nature are one. The view of what a green society should be like stems from a firm belief in bioethics and nature’s intrinsic value.
Following Commoner’s (1972) ‘third law of ecology’, that ‘nature knows best’, and his principle that any human-induced change to a natural system is likely to be detrimental to that system, deep ecologists propose humble acquiescence to nature’s ways: trying to ‘live with’ and not against natural rhythms. They oppose anthropocentrism, defined as (a) seeing human values as the source of all value, and (b) wanting to manipulate, exploit and destroy nature to satisfy human material desires.
The Norwegian philosopher Naess made the famous distinction between the shallow ecology and deep ecology movement in his lecture in 1972. For Naess, deep ecology is a critique to a commonly held doctrine that natural world has value only insofar as it is useful to humans.
The political program of deep ecology was formulated in the deep ecology platform formulated by Arne Naess and George Sessions in 1985. A Varity of religious and philosophies can have the function of deep ecology in plate form, but many are probably too anthropocentric.
According to Spinoza’s philosophy, every living thing being tries to realize its potential, its power or essence. Unity of nature means that everything is connected to everything else and that therefore the self-realization of one living being is part of the self-realization of all other beings (Andolan, 2005).
Deep ecology is founded on two basic principles: one is a scientific insight in to the interrelatedness of all systems of life on earth together with the idea that anthropocentrism is a misguided way of seeing things (Zimmerman, 1982).
Deep ecology refers to an egalitarian and holistic environmental philosophy founded on phenomenological methodology. Arne Naess, George Sessions and Devid Rothenberg and the Australian Warwick Fox are believed to be the well-known deep ecologist.
Although Aldo Leopold recognized the significance of ecology much earlier, calling it "the outstanding discovery of the twentieth century," it was not until the 1960s with the rise of the Age of Ecology that the wider public became aware of the science of ecology and its relevance to environmental matters. During that period the foundations were laid for a religious and philosophical revolution of the first magnitude. As G. Tyler Miller observed:
"The ecological revolution will be the most all-encompassing revolution in the history of mankind." Warwick Fox added that deep ecologists were contributing to "a 'paradigm shift' of comparable significance to that associated with Copernicus." That new philosophical challenge was directed at the pervasive metaphysical and ethical anthropocentrism that has dominated Western culture with classical Greek humanism and the Judeo-Christian tradition since its inception (Sessions, 1987).
In a nutshell, the use of all the above theories, though each is a general one and has its own universal application, is simply to reflect on their specific applications in the specific case of biodiversity conservation in the cultural community of Ìnderta through church values. Thus, in no way is each theory approached here from the perspective of general validity test and as result neither of them can be considered as proved or disproved one in a conclusive manner. Only that a first time attempt has been made to make a reflection on the theories’ relative explanatory power in the discussion of churches role in biodiversity conservation.
Consequently, it was found that the Economic and institutional theorists and Cultural theorists-both dealing with factors determining biodiversity conservation in commonly owned areas-consider the churches as commonly owned resource and hence as key role player institutions in the existing practice of biodiversity conservation. Yet on the other hand, there are the Christian Anthropocentrism and Deep ecology theories which deal with the question of how best the relationship between man and nature is to be guided. In this regard, while the Christian Anthropocentrists argue that nature must be considered as a means to the wellbeing of mankind –in which case biodiversity conservation might be negatively affected- the Christian deep ecologists, on the other hand, argue that nature must be considered as an end it self- in which biodiversity conservation can be positively served. In a very general sense, therefore, it is this latter line of thinking that seems to have enjoyed wider support in this study.
There are different literatures in different countries, done in the area of biodiversity and culture especially after 1992 (the Convention on Biological Diversity), which realized that many areas of the world that contain high levels of biodiversity are anthropogenic landscapes inhabited by indigenous and local communities, approaches have been refined, linking conservation initiatives with local culture (Maass, 2008 and Cocks and Dold, 2006). The following are some of these;
The publication of UNEP (2003) titled “Cultural diversity and Biodiversity for Sustainable development”, which is the result of the high-level roundtable discussion jointly organized by UNESCO and UNEP on 3 September 2002, aimed at furthering the dialogue on cultural diversity and biodiversity, discussed as cultural and biological diversity are necessary and equally important prerequisites for sustainable development and the recognition of cultural and spiritual values is very important factor for biodiversity conservation.
Maass (2008) in his ethnographic research “The Cultural context of Biodiversity conservation”, which was a case study among Maya-Q'eqchi' communities living adjacent to protected areas in Alta Verapaz in Guatemala, analyzed the role of indigenous communities in conserving biodiversity along with their particular knowledge systems in the global environmental discourse.
Cocks and Dold (2006) in their article “Cultural Significance of Biodiversity: The Role of Medicinal Plants in Urban African Cultural practices in the Eastern Cape, South Africa” changed the existing trend of using the concept biocultural diversity only in reference to ‘‘indigenous people’’ to include urban context, in their case Xhosa people living in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa.
The presence of sacred areas in villages and their role in conserving biological resources has been reported in different publications and various disciplines in different parts of the world.
Sacredness is believed to be one among the most valuable primitive practices of biodiversity conservation. These are the relict climax areas well conserved by the community for certain beliefs. Such areas are rich in biodiversity and inhibit diverse endangered plant and animal species. Case studies on sacred spaces show that these areas play an important role in biodiversity conservation. Maintenance of these biodiversity does not require government involvement (Manikandan et al, 2011).
Beyond conserving biodiversity sacred areas are crucial in forming an inextricable link between present society and past in terms of biodiversity, culture, religious and ethnic heritage. Sacred areas exist across the globe, and cultures being recognized in different ways; encoding various rules for their protection and hence sacred areas act as an ideal centre for biodiversity conservation. Several threatened plants and animals in the other areas are still well conserved in some of the sacred areas (Khan et al, 2008). As Khan and his colleagues (2008) quoted from Gadgil and Vartak (1975) the historical link of sacred areas of biodiversity to the primitive stage of societies in which people were living through hunting and gathering. Furthermore, the findings of Khan and his colleagues (2008) showed as care and respect in parts of Africa and Asia has been influenced by religious beliefs and indigenous practices.
The Study of Sacredness And sacred places and objects is a vast one as examples can be found in all countries around the world and in all cultures present and past. The sacred always manifests itself as a reality different from normal realities (Kogel, 2011).
Anthwal et al (2006), in their study on “Sacred Groves: Traditional Way of Conserving Plant Diversity in Garhwal Himalaya, Uttaranchal”, mention about the existence of diverse biological resources and their role in the conservation of biodiversity. The unpublished Annual Report of Darwin Initiative for the Survival of Species (1 April 2001 – 31 March 2002), recognized the existence of biodiversity rich sacred church and monastery lands of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, which survived for many centuries as islands of natural forest biodiversity. Similarly, Schachenmann (2006), in his work of “Spiritual Values in Madagascar: The Starting Point for Endogenous Conservation Initiatives” has reported the effectiveness of Ancestral spirituality, local knowledge and traditional practices, which were previously blamed of obstacles for development and conservation, can be an effective tools for biodiversity conservation in partnership with scientific ecological and economic understanding.
Virtanen (2002) in his article “The Role of Customary Institutions in the Conservation of Biodiversity: Sacred Forests in Mozambique” studied the prominent role that one of the customary local institutions, traditionally protected forest, play in biodiversity conservation in the specific case of Mozambique.
The research report of WWF, Equilibrium and Alliance of Religions and Conservation (ARC) (2005), which is believed to be the first to focus specifically on the links between faiths and the World’s growing protected areas network, reported that “Faiths have been involved in some of the earliest forms of habitat protection in existence, both through the preservation of particular places as sacred natural sites and through religious-based control systems such as the himas system in Islam”.
In Ethiopian context, sacred areas exist in all parts of the country for different reasons and in different religious backgrounds. For instance, in the traditional Oromo’s who traditionally believe in a monotheistic black Celestial Deity in which their politico-religious life centered on eight-year cycle of rituals performed at key sites associated with mountains, trees and natural springs which formed the sacred space. Hence, these areas are protected by the customary laws, which forbade the cutting of important species of indigenous trees in the vicinity. (Gemetchu and Kassam, 2006). Besides, Soutter et al (2003) confirmed as Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church has maintained a long tradition of biodiversity conservation.
Furthermore, Aerts (2007), in his article “Church Forests in Ethiopia”, reported the important role the Orthodox Tewahedo Church in northern Ethiopia play in conserving the biological resources due to the protecting tradition of the community.
Alemayehu et al (2004) in their research work titled “Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church Forests: Opportunities and Challenges for Restoration”, which was done in Northern Gondar, identified as the churches cover total areas ranging between 1.6 and 100 ha with the species richness of woody species between 22 and 42. Besides, they conclude that existence of these biodiversity is attributed to the commitment of the church based on strong theological thoughts and a biblical basis.
Generally speaking, the period after 1992 was a call period for the interdependence of cultural and biological diversity. Since then it has been underlined that the recognition of cultural diversity pays a lot for the effectiveness of biodiversity conservation activities. Religious institutions are one of such cultural sites where biological resources are conserved.
Most literatures produced from successive researches done in the area of religious institutions-biodiversity conservation linkages mostly pinpoint the positive contribution of the former on the latter. However, almost all the researches done in the context of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo church were found to have emphasis more on study of the variety, variability of the plants and animals and their regeneration capacity than the values and principles of the church within and outside the church compound that help their conservation. The latter is given virtually little attention. This coupled with the fact that there has so far been no well systematized research done in the specific case (Ìnderta) have then prompted this research to intervene and fill the felt gaps by studying the church values in the specific case using an ethnographic approach and also in light of the general theories of Economic and Institutional theorists view, Cultural theorists view, Christian anthropocentrism, and Christian deep ecology. In essence, thus, this research is meant to fill both methodological and theoretical gaps in earlier literatures.
The study was undertaken in Ìnderta woreda, Tigray National Regional State, Ethiopia. Its geographical location is between 130-140 North and 390-400 30" East with an altitude range of 500-2300m. Ìnderta woreda has an area of about 3,175.31 km2 characterized by erratic rainfall and frequent droughts. The rainy season is between June and September and the subsistence agricultural production is almost entirely dependent on this timing (wet season) (http://www.dppc.gov.et).
The annual average rainfall varies between 500 and 1000mm and the annual average temperature ranges between 16 and 200C. The topography comprises uneven and ragged mountainous highlands, extensive plains and also deep gorges. It is one of the most degraded and eroded areas in the regional state. The common soil types are Arenosols, Calcisols, Cambisols, Kastanozems, Leptosols, Luvisols, Phaozems, Regosols, Vertisols and Fluvisols. The total forest cover in the woreda is 26321.5 ha, comprising 3007 ha of natural forest and 23314.5 ha of man-made plantations (Ìnderta woreda, public relations document, unpublished). The original natural high forests represent only about 0.43% of the entire wereda, which are found in remote and inaccessible areas such as on mountain ranges, the Ethiopian rift escarpment and around churches ( Cartei et al., 2008 ).
According to the Ethiopian population census undertaken by Central Statistical Authority (CSA, 2007), the population of Ìnderta is 114,277, of which the overwhelming majority (99.32%) practiced Orthodox christianity.
This study is conducted in some purposefully selected churches from Ìnderta wereda. For the purpose of this research, the age of the churches and location of the churches was taken as a criterion of selection. Thus, According to the Megabe srat of the woreda Béte kìhnet, Ìnderta is a woreda with around 95 churches for the Orthodox Tewahedo believers. Among these, four churches are purposefully selected for the study. These are Mika‘el Tsellamo, Mika‘el Dagya, Khokholo Yowhannis and Mika‘el Romanat. These churches are relatively old aged and two of them (Mika‘el Tsellamo and Mika‘el Romanat) are churches found around water areas while the remaining are not.
Mika‘el Tsellamo church is geographically located in a small village named Adi-Amuaq, which is around 6 km far to the south-west of Mekelle city. It is covered with forests, hosting animals of different species are dwelling. In the church compound, there exist the holly water, which is being believed to have a healing power by the believers and hence, people coming from different areas in and outside the region are spending time washing and drinking it to be “blessed”. The Holy water gives spiritual healing service to individuals who come from different localities.
This church is found in the village called Romanat, which is 8 Kms North-West of Mekelle city. This church compound has many thick indigenous trees: it is the melody of bird species there. Inside the canopy of the forests there are two springs serving as Holy water to the believers. Both are located to the eastern side of the central church building. The Holly water places are named after Saint Abune Teklehaymanot and Abune Aregawi respectively.
The village Khokholo is located 8 km west of Meklle, is well known for its worth to host the cave of Abune Abraham and Khokholo Yowhannis church. Big indigenous trees observable within the church compound can be taken as witnesses that the village was once covered with forests. According to priests from there, Khokholo Yowhannis is one of the oldest churches in Ethiopia. It was built church which was formerly in the Abune Abraham’s cave.
Dagya Mika‘el church is another church in Tigray, which I select for the purpose of this study. It is located in the village of Dagya, found in around 8 km North-east of Mekelle city. The new building, except to the west of the church is surrounded by indigenous trees, which makes it conducive habitat for birds, and other animals.
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Figure 1. Sketch map of the study area (prepared by the author)
This study seeks to gain an in-depth understanding of the social values called church ethics with regard to biodiversity conservation and deep understanding of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church tradition, which is at the basis of the practice. This at the end will lead to a better understanding on how traditional knowledge on biodiversity and can be applied to other areas/ outside the Church compounds. Thus, the relevant research methodology is qualitative research design.
This research mainly depends on primary data supported by secondary sources. The main emphasis was on the field work, for the nature of the research problem and objective is best addressed by using field work. This is mainly due to the nature of the problem that has been deal with: The role of the Orthodox Tewahedo Church in biodiversity conservation, the space wise dichotomy of the Sacred and the Profane in the Orthodox Tewahedo Church and biodiversity conservation. Thus, with regard to the primary data, fieldwork which is considered as a central activity in anthropological research (Ericsen, H. and Nielsen, S. (2001) was intensively applied.
For the purpose of this research, I made a preliminary field trip (before proposal writing) to the churches of Mikaél Romanat and Mikaél Tsellamo. When I was in the churches the priests asked me letter of cooperation from the Woreda Béte khnet (woreda level church administration). Hence, after a long search I found the office of Béte kìhnet (Ìnderta woreda) in Kwiha, which is nearby to Mekelle city.
After a long time of appointments, the wereda Béte kìhnet asked me to bring letter of cooperation from the Zone Diocese (south eastern Tigray) and after some appointments I got a letter to the Béte kìhnet. Having the letter of cooperation from the Diocese, they wrote one letter of cooperation to each church and I started field.
According to (Murchison, 2010), the types of methods that a researcher would employ will be determined by the type of research questions and information needed to answer the questions. Accordingly, since the research questions focus on communal events or experiential dimensions (Church ethics with regard to biodiversity conservation), the researcher used participant - observation as a primary source of data collection.
To encounter informants in their everyday life, I was living in the churches (which were selected as a focus area for the study) especially, in churches of Mikaél Tsellamo and Mikaél Romanat and use ‘Participant observation’, which is according to Malinowski (Ericsen, H. and Nielsen, S. (2001), the most crucial research method under field work. To have a deep understanding of the followers of the EOTC on the church animals and plants, I involve myself in the church holy water practices and collective preying.
Since, the time of the data collection was a harvesting season, it was challenging to find people in the churches. But fortunately, it was less challenging in the above two Mikaél churches (Tsellamo and Romanat), because people were always available for the purpose of the Holy waters.
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