I recently visited a mountain area, one of Ethiopia’s national parks named Bale. I traveled by public transport almost the whole day on the gravel road which is under construction by Chinese contractors.

Bale Mountains are lush green, rich in wildlife and birds, some of them found nowhere else in the world, not even in other parts of Ethiopia and only endemic to Bale.

The park is the largest Afro-alpine habitat park in Africa stretching over 2400 sq km and ranging from 1500m to 4377m. It was recently voted fourth for its rich fauna by the African bird club.

By the time I reached there, it was raining and the ground was muddy. We ate a cold dinner in the dark and had a freezing night without electricity.

I had been to this area a few years ago but just for a short time. I didn’t enjoy as much time there as I wanted. But I said to myself “do not repeat that mistake”. I couldn’t wait to see the day light, wishing for sunny weather and a clear sky to explore the area.

My trip was very much joyous and enjoyable. But for now, I have something better to share to my dear readers of this article.

Fifty lemons, a jewel for fifty but a burden for one

There is a popular proverb in Ethiopia that goes “Hamsa lomi, le’and sew shekmu lehamsa sew getu”. In English it goes “fifty lemons, a jewel for fifty but a burden for one”.  It makes a point by saying ‘things would have been easier if everyone contributes his/her single share’.

On the third day of my trip, I was chatting with a few local guys living close to this beautiful park area. They are concerned about the future of the park’s entire eco system; the wildlife, the birds, the flora, the weather etc. It was really inspiring to hear their ideas and it was rolling in my mind to be part of their cause and act.

I am a tour operator, someone engaged and interested in the environment, natural scenery and wildlife. I asked my self what can I do to help preserve this area?

I know I can do something, contribute that lemon, ‘my single share’. I wanted to act quickly and asked them where I could find some tree seedlings and where could the trees be planted.

I bought 50 indigenous trees and donated them to be planted. From that day on I always try to find ways to contribute and care for the environment, no matter how small it may seem.

Has the “50 lemons” proverb any bearing on what I did or what I’m talking about?

Yes, if each and everyone contributes his/her share, we can change the world and rescue it from disastrous droughts, floods and the consequences of climate change we now see.

We can all make changes, we don’t need to leave to the environmentalists or for the United Nations or for just the campaigners. We all can do something important!

For example now I am collecting books on environmental, soil, and water conservation just to further extend my contributions. I am excited to be collecting more lemons!

More than headline news

I think the issues of climate change, energy and the environment should be more than headline news or speeches.

In Ethiopia, in the recent past we have seen droughts, famine, and migration. We are seeing environmental degradation and water shortages causing a massive crisis in Darfur and in many other parts of the world.

This is doing more than melting icebergs in the Arctic or endangering more than polar bears. It is endangering lives. Warming could be leading to widespread extinctions of species, birds, wildlife, flora, and the entire biodiversity.

Current sharp rises in temperatures would be grave and disastrous unless we do something about it. It is a serious matter that everyone should be responsible for and be concerned about.

I am not trying to preach solutions

Many things, many minds and many actions are needed. One thing we also need are responsible travelers and visitors. People who not only visit places, but who could do something to protect the environment and conserve the eco-system at the same time.

I think there is a big difference between a tourist and a responsible tourist.

How to often do we travel to places to experience something special, only to eventually destroy or change by the sheer number of visitors, what it was we went there to see.

Responsible tourists can do a lot more than spend their money and visit places, they can help create environmental awareness and be environmentally aware.

Creating the awareness is the first step to preventing the problems. I also collect books on environmental issues to help my fellows be aware of our situation. My small tour operating company has environmental, economic and social policies through which we encourage and promote responsible tourism ideas.

There are many in interventions that have to take place, from reforestation, to many other viable alternatives.

The impacts of climate change can be limited by suitable adaptation measures and stringent mitigation of green house gas emissions.

We can contribute ideas on using solar and alternative energy sources. One of the major problems for environmental degradation is over use of energy. This can not continue very long unless we find alternative energy resources such as bio-diesel, methanol ethanol which are indigenous and home grown.

They can contribute ideas in recycling. Ideas on how the local communities, restaurants, and hotels can use recycled materials, techniques of composting, techniques of waste disposal etc.

The eco tourists can be more conscious of Mother Nature by being respectful of the local culture. By living and eating with the local community, by contributing creative ideas, efforts, time and other resources. They can help conserve and manage natural sceneries the fauna and flora, conserve the genetic resource of the eco system … and much more.

Well, I say this not only for those who come to Ethiopia but for all destinations as the problems are seen everywhere and so should the solutions.

Eskinder Hailu - Manager, Highway Tours

Eskinder Hailu
Turning Your Dream Vacation Into a Reality

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