This Project is supported and funded by The Christensen Fund (TCF)
Introduction and background to the event:
In Ethiopia, a child is taken to school at the average of 6 years (often older in rural communities) and immersed into the subjects considered of importance for equipping her/him for the modern world. This process produces school leavers of comparable knowledge and skills throughout the country. This end result is good as far as it stands. But the child who grows up is divorced from the knowledge and skills of its parents, who can be illiterate, and have been transmitting information across generations orally and through experiential learning. Hence, shaping modern education to give value and better understanding to the rich traditional knowledge and practices of rural communities remains as a main challenge. To bridge this gap, ISD initiated the cultural biodiversity (CB) program in 2001 to address and benefit the young generation in schools by working with selected representative government schools from all regions of the country.
The main aim of the Cultural Biodiversity program is to help students and all school communities to understand, give value to and utilize local knowledge, innovations and practices through organizing bio-cultural experience sharing national events and exhibitions and facilitating the informal ways of exploring and documenting the bio-cultural lore of their local areas by students through the process known as “learning from the root”. ISD also supports members of school environment clubs to implement ecologically-oriented agricultural practices in school gardens and their own compounds which initiates young students to practically engage with producing healthy and fresh vegetables( the future of which is to have young farmers) using compost and organic inputs.
This program was initiated by the institute with 16 government schools selected from all regional governments including Dire Dawa and Addis Ababa city administration in 2001: by 2017, 25 schools had been incorporated in the program. ISD provides and supports various trainings to enable students to conserve their environment and contribute towards making their school environment green and clean. Many students, either in self-organized groups or as individuals, have also gone on to implement these practices to earn a living for themselves after leaving schools.
The program’s effectiveness is seen in its contribution to shape the attitudes of young people to be responsible for their own life and work for their communities. Members of school environment clubs who have completed higher education are now found working in local government offices with an awareness and appreciation of local traditions and practices. A case study made in 2015 to pin point the challenges of young people, including former environment club members, found that many students who had engaged in their school environment clubs and also participated in the CB program were successful in their businesses and political position. A person who has built self-confidence and strong moral values will be better equipped to move up in life or succeed than will a morally bankrupt person, even if they have excellent academic qualification.
In partnership with donors, ISD has put in place a system of capacity building for teachers, students, local authorities and other stakeholders that have strengthened the system,especially in the schools that have worked with ISD since 2001.
Objectives of the exhibition and experience sharing event
The main objective of the event is to create an opportunity for 150 students (75 male and 75 female) and -- teachers from each of the 25 CB partner schools from different parts of the country to share their experiences with each other as well as with local authorities and other stakeholders through:
- Exhibitions of local biodiversity used for food, medicine and making various items used by rural households in their homes, gardens and agricultural work;
- Use poems and plays to describe the link between culture and biodiversity conservation, including conflict resolution in natural resource management and development objectives;
- Proudly wear their traditional costumes, and present local songs and dances;
- Invite representatives from ISD partner self-organized youth groups in universities and share their experiences for further scaling up of CB program in to higher education institutions;
- Invite key stakeholders from the local authorities at district, zonal, regional and federal levels to witness the event and provide observations and opportunities for constructive interactions; and
- Promote the output and outcome of the event through engaging both print and electronic media at regional and local area to have wider media coverage.
- Provide an opportunity for the host school to share its achievements and challenges, particularly how to improve the teaching-learning environment and facilities of the school.
Social and cultural impacts
- Relationships between schools and their local communities as well as with local administrations will be improved and strengthened through active stakeholders’ support for school environment clubs.
- A deepened appreciation among all participants of the bio-cultural diversity in Ethiopia and the value of listening and learning from the unwritten lore of wise people and elders is maintained.
- Students re-evaluate the knowledge of their parents and other local traditional leaders, particularly in relation to balancing sustainable use with conservation of valuable natural assets and also the challenges of development projects.
- A wider understanding of the various methods used by different communities in resolving local conflicts over both natural resources and access to resources within households and communities.
- An improved understanding of the complementary roles and expectations of younger and older women and men through listening to and engaging in dialogue in order to solicit and integrate their views and priorities in setting up projects and programs in the areas of environment.