Replete with natural beauty, Gambella is one of Ethiopia’s most biologically diverse and visually stunning regions. Sharing a border with South Sudan, Gambella is a destination point for a number of sub-Saharan migratory species, most notably the White-eared kob, but also elephant. During the Ethiopian dry season, these species call much of the Gambella landscape their home.
The biological productivity of the land has attracted a large number of national and international investors. The investors buy large tracts of land in Gambella with the intention of developing it for cash crop exports. In exchange for their use of the land, investors have the potential to add to the overall economic development of the Gambella region by providing jobs for the local communities, building and maintaining infrastructure, and facilitating the development of services such as schools and business centers.
Investment in the Gambella region makes for an important study of environmental and land governance because NGOs and governmental institutions in the region work toward engaging the investors in community engagement and environmental preservation. Moreover, Gambella can be described as a pristine ecological environment, largely bereft of industrial development and pollution. For this reason, Gambella provides an excellent opportunity for engaging agricultural investors in socially responsible development that provides opportunities for both regional economic growth and environmental protection.
The Center for Governance and Sustainability is involved in the Gambella region through its partnership with the Horn of Africa Regional Environment Center and Network (HoAREC) at Addis Ababa University. Together, the two Centers are investigating biodiversity in the region. HoAREC plans to establish a permanent office in Gambella Town that will serve to facilitate the work on biodiversity and the myriad other programs that HoAREC intends to develop.
The author of this blog post is currently in the field in Ethiopia. For discussion on, or further inquiry into this issue, please leave comments on this post and the author will address them in a timely fashion.