Close to 2,000 low-income women make their livelihoods out of the forest up on Entoto Hills, a chain of plateaus covering the northern side of Addis Ababa, at 2,000masl. Entoto is known as “the lung of Addis Ababa,” for its dense eucalyptus tree cover birthing rain and oxygen for the capital. Every day, women walk close to 32 kilometers, round trip, to the hill and back, escaping hyenas at times. After collecting wood, bark, branches, and dried leaves of eucalyptus trees, they descend from the mountain, back to their homes around Shiromeda, carrying bundles of the back-breaking wood weighing around 30 kilograms on their back. The women, of which only 25Pct have completed primary education, generate USD1 to USD3 per day, by selling their pickings, to residents of the capital who use it for cooking.
Currently, however, these women have run out of alternatives to make a living, after they were banned from entering areas of the Entoto mountain, after it was rebranded as Entoto Natural/ Health Park, changing to a tourist destination.
The park, constructed in less than a year, was inaugurated in early October 2020. It is part of the Beautifying Sheger Project, an initiative taken on by PM Abiy Ahmed to uplift Addis’s façade.
Although some 463 of the fuelwood carrying women (FCW) were privileged enough to be trained and secure jobs in the new park, the majority still have to find other ways of surviving. Some of the FCW excluded from park jobs were trying to wash clothing door to door, when EBR spoke with them.
Sociologists and experts who have conducted case studies on FCW recommend either including them into social safety net programs, or providing training and funding towards other small businesses. Development projects either by the government or private sector actors need all-inclusive packages to benefit the local community. Creating sustainable livelihoods for low-income women around Entoto, is also determinant in ensuring the reforestation of the area. EBR
9th Year • Nov 16 – Dec 15 2020 • No. 92