Expectations of Change: Development Partnerships in Faith-Based Forest Conservation in Ethiopia

Academic lecture
Globalisation  Development policy  Africa
Written by

Frida Bjørneseth

PhD candidate


Based on ethnographic fieldwork conducted in Ethiopia, this paper explores how local faith communities, the Ethiopian Orthodox Church (EOC), and international development organizations cooperate to define knowledge and practices of forest conservation. By following a church forest conservation-project in Ethiopia, in which both faith-based organizations, and the EOC are central stakeholders, this paper explores the intersections of local and international articulations of partnership and development.

The church forests of Ethiopia represent some of the last enclaves of Highland and Afromontane forests types in the country, making them an important source of biodiversity. While increasing land cultivation and human settlement have reduced the scope of the forests, the EOC and its monastic communities have long been part of preserving the remaining green areas. As larger global forest conservation initiatives - such as the UN-REDD – emerge, local practices of conservation and development are now faced with the logics of professionalized development organizations.

The forest conservation initiative in question aims to integrate theological reflections, technologies for agroforestry and biodiversity conservation, as well as livelihoods-projects. What happens when historically and theologically rooted practices of forest conservation meet the agendas of NGOs driven by narratives of innovation and sustainable development? And more generally, how can we understand how global and local commitments shape different stakeholders’ perceptions of “development” - and how do these connections impact their perceptions of each other as development partners?

  • Language: English
  • Place: Sofia, Bulgaria
  • Event type: Conference
  • Event name: 13th Pan-European Conference on International Relations (EISAPEC)
  • Event date: 11 Sept 2019