Ethiopian conservation project winner of first UIAA Mountain Protection Award

Mountain Protection

The Menz-Guassa Community Conservation Area is located in the northern Ethiopian highlands (Photo: Jeff Kerby for UIAA)

The Menz-Guassa Community Conservation Area (GCCA) situated in the northern highlands of Ethiopia is the first recipient of the UIAA Mountain Protection Award.

“The Menz-Guassa Community Conservation Area is an impressively-crafted project that effectively brings together a wide range of diverse stakeholders to preserve and protect the outstanding natural and cultural resources of this mountainous region of Ethiopia,” said Linda McMillan, president of the UIAA Mountain Protection Commission.

 “In choosing Menz-Guassa Community Conservation Area, we considered the important work done through the project to protect both the significant natural and cultural resources of that biodiverse region. Of special value was their success in empowering the indigenous communities to manage and benefit directly from the sustainable tourism development in that area,” said McMillan.

Since 2009, the GCCA has seen a steady growth in the number of visitors, under an innovative management plan where a council of community elders who represent nine communities oversees an administrative executive board.

The conservation area was created in 2003 to protect both a diverse region with rare animals such as the Ethiopian wolf, Gelada baboon, and Ankober Serin, as well as a response to the problem of illegal grazing on environmentally sensitive grasslands. The conservation plan today is based on centuries’ old local Qero communal system of grassland management.

Income generated through ecotourism projects to replace illegal grass cutting includes locally managed tourist bungalows and guided trips. Profit is re-invested in the community with 60 per cent of revenue going to community development projects such as schools, teaching supplies, scholarships and health care, while the remaining 40 per cent is re-invested in tourism infrastructure and maintenance.

“This UIAA Mountain Protection Award will be one of the important milestones in GCCA and the ongoing mountain protection in the area,” said Biniyam Admassu, Tourism Development Technical Advisor with the GCCA.

McMillan said The GCCA proposal was one of seven projects nominated for the award from countries in Africa, Asia, Europe, and South America, clearly reflecting the global scope of the new Mountain Protection Award sponsored by Western University in Azerbaijan.

 “We are extremely proud of the variety and calibre of projects that have been submitted for the UIAA  Mountain Protection,” said Husein Bagirov, former director of Western University. “Mountain environments are under extreme pressure these days as more and more tourists visit. It is important that we recognize and support international best practices in sustainable ecotourism.”

“We are confident that the UIAA Mountain Protection Award will become the standard bearer for international best practices in sustainable ecotourism,” said Bagirov.


Tourism is managed through in a way that is managed by and benefits the local community (Photo: Biniyam Admassu for UIAA)

About the Menz-Guassa Community Conservation Area (GCCA)

The Menz-Guassa Community Conservation Area is a community-based association located in the Afroalpine highlands of northern Ethiopia. Dominated by steep valleys and plateau reliefs, this area encompasses grasslands, watersheds and rare animals (Ethiopian wolf, Gelada baboon, Ankober Serin). By combining sustainable conservation with local tourism management, the ecotourism project of the Menz-Guassa Community Conservation Area creates an opportunity for its communities to protect their environment and increase their economic self-sufficiency.

About the UIAA Mountain Protection Commission

Since it was founded in 1969, the Mountain Protection Commission has worked to protect the mountains – one of the last natural, unspoilt and free spaces on earth. The goal is to ensure that the mountains will still be there to enjoy for future generations of mountaineers and mountain people.

The UIAA was founded in 1932 and has a global presence on five continents with 80 member associations in 50 countries representing about 2.5 million people. The organization’s mission is to promote the growth and protection of mountaineering and climbing worldwide, advance safe and ethical mountain practices and promote responsible access, culture and environmental protection.

The organization operates through the work of its commissions which make recommendations, set policy and advocate on behalf of the mountaineering  community. The UIAA is recognized by the International Olympic Committee for mountaineering and climbing.

For media enquiries please contact Valérie Thöni ( and/or Linda McMillan (


Menz Village (Photo: Marshal Xavier for UIAA)


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