Guest blog by Alice Ward-Francis, Globally Threatened Species Recovery Officer, RSPB International Department.

An exciting, newly funded, Darwin project is underway on the Liben Plains, in southern Ethiopia. This innovative project is working to restore the Liben grasslands, through the creation of 1,000ha of grazing reserves. The reserves will be managed by pastoralist communities to provide fodder for cattle, so they can produce milk during the dry season hunger gap. The reserves will be able to support a total of 10,000 pastoralists during this critical time.  

Photo: Alice Ward-Francis

The reserves will also lead to restoration of the grassland vegetation and provide crucial habitat for the Critically Endangered Liben lark, a species on the brink of extinction.

Photo: Paul Donald

The project team have just undertaken a project site visit to the Liben Plains, to map out the locations of the grassland reserves and meet with partners and stakeholders to discuss plans and agree priority actions for the following months.

The project is being implemented by the Ethiopian Wildlife Natural History Society, SOS Sahel, BirdLife International, and both Coventry and Manchester Metropolitan Universities, as well as 3 local community groups.

During the visit we had the opportunity to see the beautiful and mesmerising Ethiopian landscape. We travelled through many Ethiopian villages and towns, seeing the varied local cultures and meeting many different people, which was endlessly fascinating. It was also challenging and emotional. A place of extremes, Ethiopia is a country on the move, one of the fastest growing African economies, with huge infrastructure development underway and growing numbers of wealthy people in the cities. This is directly contrasted by some of the rural areas where large families get by on barely any food or water, and in towns, homeless children and the elderly wander the streets in search of some money and food. However, Ethiopia is ultimately a place of great joy, with strong and supportive communities, a culture of sharing, and great love for your friends and family. Nearly every face you see wears a beautiful smile and everyone is always ready to help.

Photo: Alice Ward-Francis

Throughout the visit it becomes clear that everyone shares a dream; the restoration of the Liben grasslands to their former glory. We are all very excited about the next steps on the project, particularly the establishment of the reserves, and ultimately to see long grass waving in the wind and full of life. Check back in a few months to see how the project is going!

  • All the very best of luck with the project,it is so important for the Liben Lark. Having recently been on a bird watching trip to Ethiopia, it is marvellous for birds and the population I am pleased to say do not have a tradition of killing them. I think the project has a really good chance of succeeding.    .