Using Biodiversity to Alleviate Poverty and Ensure Protection of Nech Sar National Park.

Dereje Abera
Published: 03 November 2021
Last edited: 03 November 2021
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Sericulture is the art of silk production by rearing caterpillars (larvae) and undertaking a post cocoon activity leading to production of silk yarn. The caterpillars, usually the domesticated species of silkworm (Bombyx mori) feeds on mulberry (Morus alba) or castor (Ricinus communis) plants. Hence, the activity also includes cultivation of these plants as a feed, rearing and reeling of the cocoons. We used Sericulture as a solution to provide alternative income generating activity for marginalized women headed households who used to sustain their livelihoods with the sales of firewood extracted from Nech Sar National Park. Their relationship with the national park is harmonized. They serve as ambassadors for conservation advocacy and education.


East and South Africa
Scale of implementation
Forest ecosystems
Tropical evergreen forest
Food security
Habitat fragmentation and degradation
Health and human wellbeing
Local actors
Sustainable livelihoods
Land and Forest degradation
Loss of Biodiversity
Conflicting uses / cumulative impacts
Lack of alternative income opportunities
Sustainable development goals
SDG 1 – No poverty
SDG 15 – Life on land
Aichi targets
Target 1: Awareness of biodiversity increased
Target 11: Protected and conserved areas
Target 15: Ecosystem restoration and resilience


Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Arba Minch, Southern Nations, Ethiopia
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The solution addresses both conservation and livelihood challenges. Protected areas are becoming islands in large swath of degraded landscapes inhabited by poor communities. Communities must encroach the park boundary to illegally extract resources so that they can sustain their families. This leads to conflict with the park law enforcement team as they try to maintain the integrity of the park. Unless both community and park management work in partnership both the poverty and protection of the park will not be sustainably achieved. The beneficiaries are selected women-headed and marginalized urban households who were dependent on resources they extracted illegally from the park.   


The Park, the 29 sericulture operators, Bere Sericulture Plc and the local administration are the primary beneficiaries of this project. It connects public, community and private actors working together to alleviating poverty and safeguarding the environment.

How do the building blocks interact?

Sericulture business circles around the life cycle of a butterfly species. Increasing the awareness of local communities about the conservation value of these species will help make the sericulture business sustainable.


The solution fosters a mutually beneficial relationship between the park and adjacent local communities. The beneficiaries no longer depend on the collection and sales of firewood collected from the national park.  The park has allocated them a small plot of land to grow caster plant (Ricinus communis) as feed for the silkworms they are rearing. They act as ambassadors to educate their community on the value of the national park. As well as providing an alternative livelihood to them the solution promotes environmental integrity and functionality. The park staff have also learnt a lesson that park management issues can be addressed through cooperative arrangements and not just through law enforcement interventions.   


About 140 women headed households were identified in two localities of Arba-Minch town, who are predominantly dependent on income earned by collecting and selling of fuel wood from Nech Sar National Park. We organized twenty-nine of these households to be engaged in Sericulture based alternative income generating activity. The park allocate land for their workspace and plantation of feed plants. The beneficiaries were in vicious circle of poverty. As fire wood collection is a risky, tiresome and time taking illegal business; they were not able to shift to other legal means of income generating activity by themselves. They must cross river banks and remote lake shores; exposing themselves to attacks by wildlife while trying to hide from park rangers doing law enforcement in the park. That frustration has now changed to a harmonious relationship, at least for some of the households. The park cares for their interests and they care for the park. The beneficiaries learnt that, they are in this sericulture business because of the park. The park also considers now livelihood issues as strategic conservation agenda.

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Kassahun Abera GIZ

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