Date of Award

2018

First Advisor

Christopher Coggins

Second Advisor

Tom Coote

Abstract

Throughout the past few centuries, and especially the last century, Ethiopia has undergone significant deforestation. This has been a continuous issue ever since the decline of the Aksumite Empire, but it has increasingly become a pressing issue as forest resources gradually decline. The majority of the Ethiopian population practices subsistence agriculture (Alemayehu and Tassew, 2017), so a lack of general biodiversity, forest resources, and forest ecosystem services can take a significant toll on large portions of the population. An exception to this massive deforestation is found surrounding churches throughout the country. Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Christianity (EOC) has a tradition of religiously valuing the forests surrounding them, and this has resulted in the survival of forests and indigenous species which may have otherwise been completely destroyed. This thesis explores how these forests may have come into existence, their distribution throughout the country, their features in the context of some other kinds of African sacred groves, and an analysis of the ecological and cultural characteristics of four church forests in the Bahir Dar region.

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