During the touristic trip in the Bale Mountains (just outside the National Bark), an Ethiopian guide told us about farming in this area and we saw some farms. As it is quite interesting to know about how the farming system in these forests is organized, I will tell something about what I heard.
The farms are located in an area that has an altitude between 2800m and 3400m. All farms are family farms which are spread around the area and separated with natural fences (of euphorbia’s (cactus-like) or wood). Animals are kept within the fences at night and walk around freely during day, though of most of them one leg is tied up or with a rope tied to their neck so they don’t wander around too far. The animals are often not protected by a herdsman, as all people know who’s animals are theirs. Sometimes children take care of the animals.
Next to rearing animals, farmers get an income from growing crops (mainly grain types) and cutting wood from the forest. As the forests were getting cut more and more, the government decided to divide the forest in different areas. Every family is responsible for their own area and has to make sure the forest will remain vital. This works for some areas, though not for all unfortunately. Still there is little replanting of trees and a lot of overgrazing. However, the grazing is effective against forest fires as well, as it creates open spaces in which the fire cannot spread itself further. A researcher from Sweden is doing her PhD research on how to prevent and stop forest fires and has involved many local people to create and analyse plots in which tests can be done.
Forest fires are sometimes caused naturally, but can be caused by the farmers themselves as well. Most farmers use burnt land which is very fertile for growing crops. So they burn down small plots and grow their grains on that plot. Some years later they move to the next plot with new fertile soil. Manure of animals is not used on their plots and chemical pesticides are used to reduce weeds. There was no time to talk to farmers about their practices and what they think about it unfortunately.