One Man’s Journey to uphold his Promise to Ethiopia

Yeabsira Bogale writes about the climate challenges in Ethiopia and introduces Yohannes Gizaw, an inspiring young green activist who has recently joined the GPS Ethiopia team.

Over the years, Ethiopia has lost much of its beautiful forests and has increasingly become exposed to the terrible perils of climate change. Many studies attest to this fact recognizing the link between population, health and environment and taking a closer look at the impact of the problem on the country’s economy. Increased variability in weather patterns brought on by the global climate change crisis and issues surrounding population growth, deforestation and soil erosion put pressure on water supplies in rural communities and affect the agricultural sector, which provides employment for 85% of the population and accounts for half of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP).

The Ethiopian government has shown its commitment to tackle the problem by developing its Climate Resilient Green Economy Strategy (CRGE) to achieve the country’s vision of reaching middle-income status by 2025 in a climate resilient green economy, and through its increasing influence at global climate negotiations; calling for Africa’s concerns to be taken more seriously. But today, the GPS Ethiopia team would like to introduce one man who took on the initiative and decided to be an exemplary figure in contributing his share to protect the environment.

Yohannes cycled over 800 km in two months teaching and sensitizing communities across Ethiopia

Yohannes cycled over 800 km in two months teaching and sensitizing communities across Ethiopia

His name is Yohannes Gizaw; a 31 year old environmental activist who has a deep desire to see the Ethiopian highlands return to their former glory. Yohannes says that, that desire was what led him to embark on his green journey which he started by vowing on the side of the Ethiopian pride and joy, the River Abay; committing to contribute his share to the realization of the green segment of the Ethiopian flag; the greenery, fresh air and biodiversity.  It was time, as he put it, to ‘exploit his mind’ and make his green vision a reality by helping to raise environmental awareness and encouraging a sustainable way of living among the community.

Yohannes shares that it fascinated him that while there was tremendous talent and manpower in the many universities across the nation, a lot still remained to be done to properly tap into that incredible resource. He underlines the importance of enabling the youth to apply their learning and making tangible contributions at grassroots level; citing events such as the loss of the great Lake Haremaya as a big indicator of how quickly things could go sour unless everyone partakes in the climate change adaptation and mitigation efforts currently underway.

Yohannes started his green journey in the year 2008, by setting up environmental clubs at Sodo University, where he was working as a lecturer, and bringing the community together to discuss on the challenges they were facing as a result of the problem. He mobilized the public, encouraging his students to apply the skills they have gathered and singlehandedly initiated a number of afforestation programs beginning from the southern parts of the country.

Before Yohannes' action...

Before Yohannes’ action…

Over the period of just three years, Yohannes has been able to get 3,000,000 seedlings planted and recover 300 hectares of damaged land at Wolaita Sodo. A land that was once barren and crying out for help is now, as he calls it “his oxygen factory” and covered with beautiful trees housing precious wildlife and hosting students as a great place to read and relax.  He has continued his green journey by sharing his experience in different events, cycling 800kms in two months time and extending his trip to visit 31 universities in 5 months, inspiring the many thousands that cheered him on as he went along.

Image of Wolaita Sodo three years later.

Image of Wolaita Sodo three years later.

Yohannes has now joined forces with the Global Power Shift (GPS) Ethiopia team, bringing on his expertise and sharing his lessons for the steps ahead. His green dream continues, and he carries on doing his share.