Save the

Church Forests

of Ethiopia.

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A project for
Tree Foundation

"If you see a forest there is probably a church in the middle"
Dr Alemayehu Wassie
Lead conservation scientist of the Church Forests

Ethiopia has lost 95% of its native forests due to human activity in the last 100 years. In the north, the last remnants surround circular Tewahedo Orthodox church buildings protected as a tenet of faith. To their guardians, each forest is a miniature Garden of Eden and essential to the dignity of the building.

Scientists have identified as many as 35,000 fragments across Northern Ethiopia resembling scattered green islands in a sea of agriculture. Only hundreds are truly viable and The Tree Foundation is focusing on nearly 40 of the most diverse with promising results. 


So far we have raised 50% thanks to many small donations made by individuals (often school children pledging pocket money).  This has taken 10 years and in another decade  the forests may not exist. We must act now to save these global treasures.

The forests’ religious significance is equalled by its ecological function, benefiting life far beyond its walled boundary. These sacred oases raise water tables, mitigate changes in climate, block destructive winds and are home to yield-boosting pollinators that are essential to surrounding agriculture.

These genetic repositories are vital for the future flourishing of life in Ethiopia.

The incremental erosion by grazing cattle and slow-creep of agriculture, while less dramatic than industrial clear-felling, can prove equally destructive in the long-term. Thinned forest edges kill the canopy from the outside in and, with Ethiopia’s population set to double in the next 30 years, we must act now to support the local communities to save what remains.

The Tree Foundation resources simple conservation walls and educational workshops. Time is running out and the requests for support comes from communities. The conservation walls have immediate benefits to preventing loss of canopy and the workshops cover practical ways to go forward and enrich the natural resource.

"The trees are the clothes of the church"
Priest at Robit Bahita church

Raised so far of $474,000 target


Number of walls completed



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BBC World Service

Geo France

TREE Foundation is a global force in the conservation of the last remaining forests of northern Ethiopia.

Because these church forests of Ethiopia house water supplies, biodiversity (including pollinators of local crops), conserve soil, store carbon, as well as the local churches which represent important spiritual centres, these forests are an important legacy to the health of the Ethiopian people. TREE’s Ethiopia project represents a win/win/win in the world of conservation biology.

Dr. Meg Lowman
Dr. Meg Lowman
Dr Alemayehu Wassie Eshete

Act now