The dramatic scenery of Konso in southwestern Ethiopia has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This will be Ethiopia’s ninth such site, meaning it has more than any other country in Africa. This occasion was celebrated in Konso with an event organized by the Ethiopian Authority for Research and Conservation of Cultural Heritage, and was attended by the Minister of Culture and Tourism, UNESCO representatives, ministers, ambassadors and the private sector. Konso was awarded the honor in recognition of its unique landscape, which demonstrates cultural traditions stretching back over 400 years – many of which are still alive today.
The region’s stone-walled terraces and fortified settlements demonstrate the shared values, social cohesion and engineering knowledge of its people. They are also examples of how local communities have adapted – over 20 generations – to southern Ethiopia’s arid environment, allowing them to live sustainably in this hostile region. Groups of anthropomorphic wooden statues represent respected community members and heroic events, and stone stelae mark the passing of leaders, and determine a family’s status even to this day.
Konso is also an emerging community tourism destination. New tourism products are being developed here with the support of Ethiopian Sustainable Tourism Alliance (ESTA), a five-year USAID-funded project. One of these products is the Travelers’ Philanthropy Program , which gives visitors the opportunity to donate and plant tree seedlings as a way of contributing to the rehabilitation of the land. You can find out more about this and other tourism activities in Konso on the newly-launched community tourism portal www.RootsOfEthiopia.com.