Ethiopia’s protected area system covers 14% of its landmass, larger than the global average. Bale Mountains National Park (BMP) hosts the world’s largest Afro-alpine habitat, 17 endemic mammal species, 57% of Ethiopia’s endemic bird species and 60% of the remaining Ethiopian wolf population – the world’s rarest canid.
It is also a critical water catchment for 12 million people living in south-eastern lowlands and Somalia. Simien Mountains National Park (SMP) provides some of the world’s most dramatic high-altitude scenery and is a designated world heritage site. It hosts 21 endangered species and 16 species of birds endemic to Ethiopia and Eritrea. Like Bale Mountains it is a critical water catchment. However, despite the latent value of this natural capital, Ethiopia’s national park system has not been developed or managed as the significant social and economic asset it could and should be. In practice only two national parks have been formally gazetted, and encroachment has become a considerable threat in a country with a population approaching 90 million people. There is an urgent need to demonstrate the economic development potential of these assets – both for local communities and the nation at large.
The Investment: Through African Wildlife Capital, we invested a total of US$ 2,059,960 to develop the first two eco-lodges (US$ 800,000 each) in the country’s national park system – Bale Mountain Lodge in BMP and Limalimo Lodge in SMP. We also financed the ‘importation’ (from India) of the award winning community based tourism concept – Village Ways (US$459,960). Furthermore, we worked with the national government through its protected area management entity, the Ethiopian Wildlife Conservation Agency (EWCA), to ensure that global best practices in private sector concessioning for national park contexts were built into the process. In the case of Limalimo, US$ 200,000 of the AWC funding was used to create a revenue based royalty, secured by the African Wildlife Foundation, to generate an on-going revenue stream for a new local primary ‘conservation school’ that is being constructed on the edge of the national park.
Bale Mountain Lodge opened in early 2014, employs nearly 50 people and generated 50%+ occupancies in its first full year, following extensive international media interest. Limalimo Lodge is under construction with a planned opening in Q4 2015 together with five new Village Ways sites in local community villages surrounding Simien National Park.