In Ethiopia, the Bible Grows a Forest

Allison Guy
April 5th 2011

What are those two green dots in the dusty landscape?  Ethiopian Orthodox Christians believe in preserving forests around their churches as living symbols of Eden. Since 95% of the country's historical forests have been stripped for farmland and fuel, these 'church forests' are the last refuge for native plants, birds and insects.  The church grounds frequently contain springs that serve as clean sources of drinking water for the surrounding community.

Yet even Eden needs a fence.  Religious belief might have kept the trees, but locals are slowly chipping away at the margins of the forest to expand farming plots and to gather firewood.  Clergy members use the trees to repair the church buildings, and sell forest plants for food and dye.  Tropical ecologist Margaret Lowman is raising funds for a simple solution: building fences around the forest to keep livestock out, and to clearly demarcate the boundary between sacred and cultivated land.

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