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Ethiopia is almost completely depleted of its forest cover. In the early 1900s, nearly forty-five percent of the country was covered by forests. But the demand for agricultural land to feed the country’s growing population saw this forest being gradually sacrificed for farmlands, until more than ninety percent of this vast tropical forest had disappeared. The remaining forest is not contiguous but scattered in tens of thousands of small groves, mostly in the northern part of the country. At the center of these bright-green pockets of biodiversity is almost always an Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church.

Ethiopia’s Church Forests

Left: The Debre Mihret Arbiatu Ensesa church, which looks from above like a bright pinwheel, is surrounded by trees. Right: The Entos Eyesus church and its forest fill an entire tiny island in the middle of Lake Tana, near Bahir Dar. Photo credit: Kieran Dodds


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