Where We Work

Ethiopian Sustainable Tourism Alliance

© David Snyder/Counterpart International.

Project Profile

Region: Africa

Country: Ethiopia

Areas of Focus: Economic Development

Cross-Cutting Themes: Climate Change Adaptation

Capabilities: Sustainable Tourism, Community Mobilization,

Status: Completed
Dates of the project: 2007-2013

Despite a wealth of cultural and natural tourism resources, there are challenges, constraints and issues that need to be addressed as tourism is developed in Ethiopia. The country has rich flora, fauna and landscapes, but many challenges to biodiversity conservation exist, including the effectiveness of the protected area management system and its relationship with communities both within and adjacent to parks and sanctuaries. Ethiopia also faces a mixed HIV/AIDS epidemic, which threatens to thwart any sustainable economic development efforts.

What We Did
The Ethiopian Sustainable Tourism Alliance (ESTA) aims to enhance biodiversity conservation and economic development through sustainable tourism products, services and other opportunities throughout destination regions of Ethiopia.

Counterpart International leads the implementation of the ESTA program with the support of an alliance of international and national organizations who share the mission of the Global Sustainable Tourism Alliance (GSTA).

The ESTA program will play a role in creating opportunities for communities to benefit from conservation-based activities through improved livelihoods, natural resource management and social infrastructure.

The ESTA will implement innovative interventions across community mobilization, natural resource management, private sector competitiveness, workforce development, stakeholder networking and communications while utilizing methodologies developed by industry leaders such as Counterpart, FHI360, Aid to Artisans and The George Washington University.

As a secondary focus, ESTA program integrates HIV/AIDS Prevention and Awareness activities to strengthen the tourism value chain by preventing new infections and increasing the mitigation of the epidemic's impact in the target areas.


  • An Environmental Assessment was taken in all six CCAs to understand the biological significance and extenuating environmental pressures of these regions in order to propose the most efficient future path towards effective conservation. The Assessment found common pressures including rapid forest depletion, land erosion and degradation, widespread habitat disturbances, watershed deterioration, water soil erosion, flooding and drought. Human induced pressures included tree cutting for direct consumption and creation of charcoal, livestock overgrazing and over fishing.

  • ESTA conducted an in-depth analysis of existing secondary research on biodiversity conservation policies and experiences in a global, African, and Ethiopian context. ESTA found that the conflict between conservation and land use is largely related to debates over rights of access to protected areas and protection of natural resources. ESTA is in the process of creating a conceptual framework for CCAs that showcase how local communities can sustainably utilize these areasand steward their conservation.

  • In 2011 alone, the program reached 33,000 people with HIV prevention and education outreach.

  • Launched the National Geographic MapGuide that highlights tourism destinations in the Central and Southern Rift Valleys. Read more here >

  • In 2012, the program reached 29,941 people with HIV prevention and behavior-change messages; and helped nine artisan groups in product design, marketing and business skills and linked them with new niche markets, increasing their handcraft sales by almost 31 percent.

  • Created and launched a training video on beekeeping - first of its kind in Ethiopia - for use by beekeepers, input suppliers, collectors, processors and exporters. Read more here >

  • Finalized digital maps of Ethiopia's Community Conservation Areas, a major step forward in a country where the government owns all the land. Now communities have the resources and authority to make decisions about using and protecting their spaces. Read more here >

  • VIDEO: Conserving Land, Creating Livelihoods in Ethiopia

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