Equus Ethiopia has been providing training and on-going technical support to a new community based horse trekking endeavor in Arsi, on the lip of the Rift Valley looking down on Lake Langano. We just came back from our third – and last – training trip, during which Equus added croppers and breast plates that were made in the Merkato, to the Mc Clellans saddles it had already provided a few months ago.
Lepis’ horses are now ready for business!
Lepis Community Horse Trekking is an original project initiated by ESTA – the Ethiopian Sustainable Tourism Alliance – an organization which aims to ‘enhance biodiversity conservation and economic development through sustainable tourism products, services and other opportunities throughout destination regions of Ethiopia.’
With these aims in mind, ESTA selected a number of sites throughout Ethiopia, one of which lies in the forest that stretches along the mountain chain running west to east above Lake Langano. You can see more of their community tourism sites on their informative web Roots of Ethiopia.
The mountain range in Lepis is still covered in extensive forests of podocarpus and possesses the same variety of fauna and bird life – pay attention bird watchers – as the better known Wondo Genet Forest, closer to the town of Shashamene, of world wide Rastafarian fame.
Besides providing a sustainable income to local communities, it is also thought that tourism revenue will enhance the long term prospects of the forest, which in turn sustains the local communities.
In the autumn of 2011 Equus started providing training to the horse handlers of Lepis, and choosing trails through the truly magnificent forest – some tree trunks are around eight meters wide, a truly amazing sight.
ESTA has also provided training to guides and local tourism managers and is working with a local NGO from the town of Arsi Negele ran by Ato Debeko (who can be reached on 09 13 17 25 85) which will provide long term technical support for the operation.
Lepis is easy to reach on a good all weather 17 kms gravel road from the town of Arsi Negele, which lies some 20 kms before Shashemene, when you’re driving from Addis Ababa. Lepis is a very easy destination for a day trip from your hotel on the shores of Lake Langano and one that should tempt you, especially on a hot day: there’s no beating the shade provided by an eight meter wide tree trunk and seeing it from the back of a horse is an added pleasure. It is also quite feasible as a weekend trip from Addis Ababa.
More information can be obtained as well from Campbell Diebolt (09 16 75 78 15, firstname.lastname@example.org) and Chase Rollings (09 16 76 70 51, email@example.com) two American Peace Corps volunteers working with the local community to get this project up and running.
Here are some pictures of the training, forest, and horsemen of Lepis. Enjoy!