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All mention that the forests are seriously depleted. Chuqulisa says people “mercilessly” cut down trees. Arima feels they did this largely “out of ignorance” of the consequences, even though traditionally, large ancient trees were considered sacred. She says they “regret” having used up so much of the forest: “We destroyed our own natural resources.”

Duba says people migrating from the Somali region and Kenya are also responsible for much deforestation. “They were greater in number than those born here… They came from areas where there are many problems, and once they were here they started to cut down the forests and burn them.”

Today it seems that the cutting down of trees for firewood and building materials has dramatically declined, and not just because there are so few left; several say anyone found cutting down a tree is fined five head of cattle.

Huqa points out: “After the coming of SOS Sahel… we have learned about the need for environmental protection.” Nevertheless, several women talk about having to cut wood out of economic necessity, to produce charcoal.

Gurracha believes, like Duba and others, that the solution to their problems lies in planting trees – if the land is covered by plantations, he is hopeful that the weather will be “rehabilitated”.

Chuqulisa and Huqa mention that now people have made the connection between deforestation and drought, they need no persuading to plant rather than cut down trees: “Previously it was by order that we were told to plant trees. Now everybody in every kebele is willing to plant a tree,” says Huqa.

People are making efforts to conserve what remains of the original forest. Chuqulisa found some of her land taken away for this purpose and demonstrates understanding of the importance of rebuilding forest: “They said [my land] is part of the area reserved for forest. They did not intend to hurt me.”

She says others who lost land reacted similarly, accepting the decision “graciously” and without complaint: “They want the environment to be protected as in the past.”


Forestry is a key theme of the Desert voices: Ethiopia oral testimony project.


Arima: punishment from God

Chuqulisa: love is lacking

Diramo: tied to our cattle

Duba: solutions to problems

Gurracha: conflict devastated it

Huqa: pleasure from family

Ibrahim: the crazy heat

Iyya: conserving the forest

Loko: farming from necessity

Rufo: goodbye to farmland

Key themes

Introduction to the project




Food security




Social institutions

Government assistance