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Ethiopian Venture props up 'responsible' tourism

The Reporter (Addis Ababa)
November 17, 1999
By Special Correspondent

Addis Ababa - Ethiopian Venture is a research project that aspires to reveal crucial scientific knowledge hidden in the landscape of Ethiopia's northern provinces and to encourage 'responsible' tourism into the country's interior, still largely unknown to European travellers.

It is no ordinary research project. It is independent of large teams, high budgets and the associated logistics. It only has two co-ordinators who are applying common sense and new techniques to a little-researched scientific phenomenon.

The phenomenon? That stalagmites and tree-rings are memory banks for climatic data going back well before man started taking records. Meteorological records only started about 100 years ago in Addis; a stalagmite can reveal more than 10,000 years worth of climatic information. In some provinces records only started 30 years ago, whereas their trees have been collecting information for as long as they've been growing, in some cases, hundreds of years.

The new techniques? Once a stalagmite sample from a limestone cave has been prepared, it is 'read' by a spectrometer which can analyse a whole range of information held within the sample. For example, annual growth layers directly reflect how much moisture has entered the stalagmite in a given period. Tree- ring cores (the removal of which does not harm the tree) similarly contain annual growth rings showing the relative amount of rainfall in a given period. Both these techniques have been extensively used in northern Europe.

Ethiopian Venture will be conducting this research in March/April 2000 in the provinces of Gojjam, Wollo and Tigray. Alongside the 'hard science,' research will also be done into the way the local people manage natural resources, such as woodlands and forests, both in times of drought and times of adequate rainfall.

The 'hard science' will allow a historical climatic profile to be built for each region, from which it is then possible to predict future climatic events. This means that droughts, and periods of heavy rainfall alike, can be planned far in advance by taking into account the coping mechanisms currently practised.

The long-term aspiration is to develop Ethiopian Venture into a self- sustaining research programme that can continue long after 2000. If this is the case, funding will be applied for in the UK for an Ethiopian student to study the latest climatic analysis techniques (as described above) and to broaden the climatic profile across the entire country.

Despite the rich cultural history of Ethiopia, it is still the famines of the 1980s which remain at the forefront of most Europeans' minds when someone mentions "Ethiopia." Ethiopian Venture aims to change that perception. It has initiated a 'Key Partnership' collaboration in Ethiopia between the Ministry of Tourism, Ethiopian Airlines, an international hotel chain and Ethiopian tour operators, such as Village Ethiopia, in order to encourage tourists to come to Ethiopia. Concurrently, there will be a publicity campaign in Britain which will dispel the myths and tell the truth about this beautiful country.

Project Co-ordinators for Ethiopian Venture are Anna Barnett and James Bryce. It enjoys the endorsement of Addis Ababa University, Mekele University College and government and regional ministries. In Britain its patrons are Christina Dodwell, Newcastle University of East Anglia and Scientific Exploration Society.

Those interested in supporting Ethiopian Venture are asked to contact Tony Hickey at Village Ethiopia (Tel: (1) 55 22 69). will be live from January 2000 and a press conference will be held in Addis at the beginning of March 2000.

Copyright (c) 1999 The Reporter. Distributed via Africa News Online ( For information about the content or for permission to redistribute, publish or use for broadcast, contact the publisher.

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