We are pleased to share a new short film, Reconnecting with the Sacred: Community-led revival of Nature and Culture in Bale, Ethiopia, produced by our partner MELCA. The film explores MELCA’s work alongside communities to protect and conserve Bale Forest in central Ethiopia and its Sacred Natural Sites.

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Containing some of the largest forests in Ethiopia, the Bale Mountains National Park’s biodiverse habitats are home to many endemic species including the Ethiopian wolf, around 40% of the medicinal plants in Ethiopia, and are a source of water for much of the surrounding lowlands. The region also hosts forty-eight ujuba, or sacred forest areas. The potency of ujuba as places to reconnect with the sacredness of nature is profoundly mirrored in the way in which they are able to bring communities together. These sacred areas are unattached to a particular religion and the film demonstrates how the ujuba play a powerful role in uniting diverse groups in the knowledge that Earth, our ultimate source of life and sacredness, is shared.

Through interviews with community elders and members of the MELCA team, the film explores the rejuvenation of Bale communities’ traditions of protecting local ecosystems. Recognising the degradation occurring in the region, in the form of deforestation, species loss and land conversion, MELCA has been working with Bale communities to revive their ecological knowledge and cultural history. Through participatory mapping processes communities are empowering themselves to protect their biological and cultural diversity, embarking on reforestation schemes for the recovery of indigenous tree numbers, wetland conservation and the revival of apicultural traditions using 20 beehives.

The film also explores another form of reconnection; that between different generations. MELCA’s SEGNI programme is an experiential learning process that is ensuring that the traditional and ecological knowledge of Bale’s elders is passed on. Offering students the chance to travel to remote forest areas for five days and connect with nature and culture, the programme is led by community elders who are able to relate the deep ecological knowledge contained within their communities and long cultural histories rooted in the natural landscape.

Reconnections, with the sacredness of Nature, with a culture of care and with each other, course through this beautifully shot film. They are the tangible source of energy driving the blossoming recovery of one of the Earth’s most beautiful regions under the custodianship of those who know it best and those who will come to know it in time. We hope you enjoy it.