We first met Hailu in his office of Debre Tabor University on Lake Tana’s heights. We wanted to understand which risks were threatening the lake and what solutions could be implemented to protect this ecosystem. The main point of Hailu is to consider the whole Tana basin with all its catchment areas and tributaries watersheds. If we want to protect Tana we have to consider the whole picture and address the problem at source.
One of the most blatant issue is the water hyacinths invasion. Many policies and initiatives are implemented to harvest the weed and clean the infected areas. They are necessary to limit the widespread of the plant but they do not solve the reasons of water hyacinth presence in lake Tana. For Hailu, this must be controlled in the upper catchments flowing into the Lake. Indeed, the plant nourrishes itself from sediments from the soil and chemicals stemming from farming.
During the heavy rains season, top soils are removed and silts and chemicals are carried out to the lake. This phenomenon is exacerbated by the bare lands of the Ethiopian highlands.
To solve this issue Hailu is leading an afforestation project in the Guna mountain watershed. The idea is to create natural barriers with trees. These new forests will limit the soil erosion, store water for the dry season and cool the atmosphere.
But the final goal of the project is to bound communities and forests through inclusive afforestation. If the communities should protect the forests, they are reducing the available farming surface already under pressure. That is why the farmers around this new areas should benefit from it. Hailu and his team are promoting activities as bee keeping, fruits economy and ecotourism to generate viable incomes for communities surrounding the forests.