My Ethiopia

The Z’hai Island and Bird sanctuary, or                                       The Bochesa Community Wetland and Ornithological Conservation Area.

A PARK I propose, dedicated to the Z’hai Church islands and mangroves, and to the Oromia endemic Birds.

Bochesa is a plain bordered by rare mangroves and wetlands on the southern shores of lake Zwai. It is a 2000 strong village populated by the Z’hay, a lake people that came here from the Tigray and Amhara regions in medieval times. They allegedly carried the arks of covenants of churches in the North, menaced by two successive Adal, or Eastern Ethiopian states Islamic wars of invasion, those of Queen Yodit and of Ahmed al Ibrahimi ‘Gragn’, the left handed. Their physical tracts and language are quite separate from the local’s. It covers an area benefitting an ideal climate, 165km south east of Addis.

Just in front lay three islands and a semidetached promontory of extreme beauty, habitat of rare biodiversity ranging from around 300 species of birds to Ethiopia’s biggest monitor lizard, as big as a small crocodile at up to 180 cm from nose to tail, to unique mangrove trees.                                                                                              

Yet the area is menaced by a planned road, vast deforestation, and an attempt to absurdly bring water to a much needed irrigation scheme by… digging the inlet canal from the lake through the best tract of mangroves: luckily this has proven a sheer stupidity no one could ever realize in practice.                        

As a result a useless non working new system with two big diesel motors only manages to ruin the view to the promontory. Pressure for building a hotel on the island-promontory, and the possibility to have car traffic on the lake side are mounting problems.    Lake Zway from Bochesa

To the west immediately rises a small chain of hills that were until recently a densely wooded acacia shrub land, a fief for birds and other animals, including gazelles and ostriches. David Valle and his wife Cristina, conservationists active in the Rift Valley managed to save a remnant patch of vegetation, and are planting original trees. Basically here just avoiding indiscriminate tree cutting and reintroducing a few wildlife animal species from the nearby national Parks of the Rift Valley and Awash River will reintegrate an area of significant ecological and touristic value.


   A flight fo Sacred Ibises in front of the Bochesa Island-promontory

It is necessary to provide the Z’hais with means of income, so they will master better a now nearing, hopefully properly managed tourism development. Their plain’s lime soils are extremely fertile, as big investments since 1990 in the area have proven.                                                                                                         

Firstly signor Antonio Varenna, with the help of good funds from Cooperazione Italiana provided six huge pumps, sufficient to irrigate up to 800 Ha of land and developed his own green pea farm towards the Kenya road, his 600 Ha were managing to export, in season, three full cargo planes to Italy, selling under a local Italian brand, ‘La Romagnola Cesena’. After his death, and problems his associates encountered, also tied to some court cases, in came a huge Dutch rose developer from Kenya, now owning the biggest flower farm in Ethiopia and certainly one of the biggest rose production glasshouse array on the planet, occupying most of Varenna’s former area, he now shares with a vast vineyard from a French group.                                                                                                                                                             

These investments appear so far to cause more problems to local workers, due to poor conditions in the stinking hot glasshouse where they are in permanent contact with dangerous chemicals like toxic insecticide malathion, than to the environment. Fishermen’s claims that fish fertility, as their own rose breeder wives’ fertility has decreased due to the flower farm are certainly worth verification.   Splendid water lilies and hippopotamuses are found in numbers right in front of the Bochesa   Kebele House

 Sher, the Dutch Investor company has set up a Hospital to deal with the numerous health problems of its workers

The farm, and the vinery to a much lesser extent, employ many thousands (up to 15,000, apparently), constituting vital local firms.

The Z’hai were donated by Haile Selassie, in the late sixties, an area of over 200 Ha of high horticultural and floristic potential. This very fact, reducing to zero population pressure on the two islands of Gelila and Debre Tzyon has permitted their present flourishing, pristine like ecological state.

I have managed to convey here a noted constructor from my own home town, Varese, Italy, who is ready to donate a proper, dependable non polluting irrigation system to cover the 100 plus Ha of fairly easily irrigable land the Z’hai own there, mixed with some Oromos they now live in peace with he will equally assist.

I am now proposing the same and other donors to assist the Bochesa community in setting up one of two planned Ethiopia’s first Community Conservation Areas, both sited in Oromia zones of high naturalistic interest, to protect this area, like the Kundudo range, from degradation.

The Z’hai Island and Bird Sanctuary, or Bochesa conservation area would also be a prized asset on the newly designed Extended East Route, a wide sustainable tourism project overseen by the Oromia Office of Culture and Tourism. Ethiopia’s new tourism route, an alternative to the Classic North.      

The EER includes extensive variants, the main one including Zway and the other rift Valley lakes.

Actions include:

1.       A sizable car-free zone to include about ten kilomtres of the south shores of the lake, carts service managed by the community and a parking next to the Bochesa Bulbulla river bridge,

2.       Protection of the Islands and mangroves; the two main ones are effectively protected from careless developers by the Ethiopian Ortodox Church, that owns them as Church grounds,

3.       Planting of flower gardens on part of the shores, without modifying the original landscape,

4.       Hiding or dismounting a useless irrigation installation that will never work due to totally wrong design, now looking dismal in front of a mangrove area,

5.       Studies of the local birds, island and water species, in particular of the smallest island facing Zwai, the Bird’s Island, a mangrove land with an astounding bird biodiversity regularly populated by hippopotamuses too.

6.       Encouraging local or foreign investors to work with the Bochesa community to train them in hotels and tourism, build a lodge strictly on the lakeside, NOT on the islands or the island promontory that sets from Bochesa to lake. To avoid the destruction of its small, singular forest and disturbing the wildlife.

7.       Bridging the island promontory with a non intrusive wooden pier to prepare a path to trek on it, possibly managing a small boat pier and a ‘wild swimming’ bay to its lake thrust side,

8.       Organizing trekking and mountain biking trips on the hills to be reforested,

9.       Providing the community with small local fiberglass powerboats to rent, to be docked on the pier needed to connect and maintain the electric pumps of the vital proposed irrigation scheme.

10.   A significant social intervention would be diffusing mosquito net, as malaria is recurrent in some season and some years, and giving the young information and education on alcohol abuse.

Revenues will rapidly rise in Bochesa, thanks to irrigation. Local owners have on average about one hectare of very good land, that once irrigated will provide every household with revenues higher than those of an average to middle income Addis Ababa family.                                                                             Local produce will range from onions and tomatoes to peppers, and flowers for the local markets.            I am convinced the first step to enabling locals to benefit from tourism development is empowering them economically, preparing them to have a say in what is going on. Setting the conservation area up together will mean the Bochesa Z’hai will perfectly know what we are at, from the word start.


  Some pristine vegetation on Ghelila, endangered by a tourism development?


   The proposed Conservation Area seen on Google Earth.


Photoes courtesy Anna Ferazzi, First and last from, satellite photo from google earth, with my notes.

                                                                   Marco Vigano, Zwai, August 14th, 2010.


Bird List hereunder, 145 species identified on a brief stay, and contributions by Andrea Vigano’, noted Italian ornithologist.

 cfr. this album to identify species: photoes and captions (opens in new tab).


Ethiopia: “Lake Zway and nearby areas"

Species Censed, July2008: 145

Endemic: 7


1 Little Grebe

Tachybaptus ruficollis


2 Great Crested Grebe

Podiceps cristatus

Svasso maggiore

3 Eared Grebe

Podiceps nigricollis

Svasso piccolo


4 Great White Pelican

Pelecanus onocrotalus

Pellicano bianco

5 Pink-backed Pelican

Pelecanus rufescens

Pellicano rossiccio

PELECANIFORMES: Phalacrocoracidae

6 Great Cormorant

Phalacrocorax carbo

Cormorano comune

7 Long-tailed Cormorant

Phalacrocorax africanus

Cormorano africano


8 Darter

Anhinga melanogaster

Aninga africana


9 Gray Heron

Ardea cinerea

Airone cenerino

10 Black-headed Heron

Ardea melanocephala

Airone testanera

11 Great Egret

Ardea alba

Airone bianco maggiore

12 Intermediate Egret

Egretta intermedia

Garzetta intermedia

13 Little Egret

Egretta garzetta

Garzetta comune

14 Squacco Heron

Ardeola ralloides

Sgarza ciuffetto

15 Cattle Egret

Bubulcus ibis

Airone guardabuoi

16 Black-crowned Night-Heron

Nycticorax nycticorax

Nitticora comune


17 Hamerkop

Scopus umbretta

Uccello martello


18 Yellow-billed Stork

Mycteria ibis

Tantalo beccogiallo

19 Black Stork

Ciconia nigra

Cicogna nera

20 Abdim's Stork

Ciconia abdimii

Cicogna di Abdim

21 Marabou Stork

Leptoptilos crumeniferus

Marabù africano

CICONIIFORMES: Threskiornithidae

22 Sacred Ibis

Threskiornis aethiopicus

Ibis sacro

23 Hadada Ibis

Bostrychia hagedash

Ibis hadada

24 Wattled Ibis

Bostrychia carunculata

Ibis caruncolato

25 Glossy Ibis

Plegadis falcinellus


26 African Spoonbill

Platalea alba

Spatola africana


27 Greater Flamingo

Phoenicopterus roseus


28 Lesser Flamingo

Phoenicopterus minor

Fenicottero minore


29 Fulvous Whistling-Duck

Dendrocygna bicolor

Dendrocigna fulva

30 White-faced Whistling-Duck

Dendrocygna viduata

Dendrocigna facciabianca

31 Egyptian Goose

Alopochen aegyptiaca

Oca egiziana

32 Spur-winged Goose

Plectropterus gambensis

Oca dallo sprone


33 Black Kite

Milvus migran

Nibbio bruno

34 African Fish-Eagle

Haliaeetus vocifer

Aquila pescatrice africana

35 Hooded Vulture

Necrosyrtes monachus

Capovaccaio pileato

36 Ruppell's Vulture

Gyps rueppellii

Grifone di Rueppell

37 Lappet-faced Vulture

Torgos tracheliotus

Avvoltoio orecchiuto

38 Black-breasted Snake-Eagle

Circaetus pectoralis

Biancone pettonero

39 Bateleur

Terathopius ecaudatus

Falco giocoliere

40 Western Marsh-Harrier

Circus aeruginosus

Falco di palude

41 Shikra

Accipiter badius


42 Black –shouldered kite

Elanus caeruleus

Nibbio dalle spalle nere

43 Augur Buzzard

Buteo augur

Poiana augurale nordafricana

44 Tawny Eagle

Aquila rapax

Aquila rapace

45 Verreaux's Eagle

Aquila verreauxii

Aquila di Verreaux

46 Long-crested Eagle

Lophaetus occipitalis

Aquila dal lungo ciuffo


47 Eurasian (Common) Kestrel

Falco tinnunculus

Gheppio comune

48 Taita Falcon

Falco fasciinucha

Falco Taita

49 Lanner Falcon

Falco biarmicus

Falco Lanario

GALLIFORMES: Phasianidae

50 Crested Francolin

Francolinus sephaena

Francolino crestato

51 Scaly Francolin

Francolinus squamatus

Francolino squamato

52 Yellow-necked Francolin

Francolinus leucoscepus

Francolino dalla gola nuda


53 Helmeted Guineafowl

Numida meleagris

Faraona comune


54 Common Moorhen

Gallinula chloropus

Gallinella d’acqua

55 Red-knobbed Coot

Fulica cristata

Folaga cristata


56 Kori Bustard

Ardeotis kori

Otarda di Kori

57 Black-bellied Bustard

Lissotis melanogaster

Otarda ventrenero


58 African Jacana

Actophilornis africanus

Jacana africana

CHARADRIIFORMES: Recurvirostridae

59 Black-winged Stilt

Himantopus himantopus

Cavaliere d'Italia

60 Pied Avocet

Recurvirostra avosetta

Avocetta bianca e nera


61 Water Thick-knee

Burhinus vermiculatus

Occhione vermicolato


62 Spur-winged Plover

Vanellus spinosus

Pavoncella armata

63 Crowned Lapwing

Vanellus coronatus

Pavoncella coronata


64 Common Sandpiper

Actitis hypoleucos

Piro-piro piccolo

68 Ruff

Philomachus pugnax



65 Gray-headed Gull

Larus cirrocephalus

Gabbiano testagrigia


66 White-winged Tern

Chlidonias leucopterus

Mignattino alibianche


67 Speckled Pigeon

Columba guinea

Colomba della Guinea

68 Red-eyed Dove

Streptopelia semitorquata

Tortora dal semicollare

69 Laughing Dove

Streptopelia senegalensis

Tortora senegalese

70 Emerald-spotted Wood-Dove

Turtur chalcospilos

Tortora macchiata di smeraldo

71 Namaqua Dove

Oena capensis

Tortora maschera di ferro

72 African Green-Pigeon

Treron calvus

Piccione verde africano


73 Black-winged Lovebird

Agapornis taranta

Inseparabile alinere

74 Red-bellied Parrot

Poicephalus rufiventris

Pappagallo rufiventre

75 Yellow-fronted Parrot

Poicephalus flavifrons

Pappagallo facciabianca

CUCULIFORMES: Musophagidae

76 White-cheeked Turaco

Tauraco leucotis

Turaco guancebianche

77 Bare-faced Go-away-bird

Corythaixoides personatus

Turaco dalla maschera


78 Great Spotted Cuckoo

Clamator glandarius

Cuculo dal ciuffo


79 Alpine Swift

Tachymarptis melba

Rondone maggiore


80 Speckled Mousebird

Colius striatus

Uccello topo macchiettato

81 Blue-naped Mousebird

Urocolius macrourus

Uccello topo nucablu


82 Malachite Kingfisher

Alcedo cristata

Martin pescatore malachite

83 African Pygmy-Kingfisher

Ispidina picta

Martin pescatore pigmeo africano

84 Gray-headed Kingfisher

Halcyon leucocephala

Martin pescatore testagrigia

85 Woodland Kingfisher

Halcyon senegalensis

Martin pescatore di bosco

86 Pied Kingfisher

Ceryle rudis

Martin pescatore bianco e nero


87 Little Bee-eater

Merops pusillus

Gruccione pettocannella minore

88 Northern Carmine Bee-eater

Merops nubicus

Gruccione carminio


89 Abyssinian Roller

Coracias abyssinicus

Ghiandaia marina abissina

90 Rufous-crowned Roller

Coracias noevius

Ghiandaia marina corona rossiccia


91 Eurasian Hoopoe

Upupa epops


CORACIIFORMES: Phoeniculidae

92 Black-billed Wood-hoopoe

Phoeniculus somaliensis

Upupa arboricola della Somalia


93 Red-billed Hornbill

Tockus erythrorhynchus

Bucero beccorosso

94 Eastern Yellow-billed Hornbill

Tockus flavirostris

Bucero beccogiallo orientale

95 Hemprich's Hornbill

Tockus hemprichii

Bucero di Hemprich

96 African Gray Hornbill

Tockus nasutus

Bucero grigio africano

97 Silvery-cheeked Hornbill

Ceratogymna brevis

Bucero guanceargentate

98 Abyssinian Ground-Hornbill

Bucorvus abyssinicus

Bucorvo abissino

PICIFORMES: Capitonidae

99 Red-fronted Barbet

Tricholaema diademata

Barbuto diademato


100 Nubian woodpecker

Campehtera nubica


101 Abyssinian Woodpecker

Dendropicos abyssinicus

Picchio abissino


102 Ethiopian Swallow

Hirundo aethiopica

Rondine etiopica

103 Rock Martin

Ptyonoprogne fuligula

Rondine montana pallida


104 Plain-backed Pipit

Anthus leucophrys

Calandro dai sopraccigli bianchi

105 African Pied Wagtail

Motacilla aguimp

Ballerina nera africana

106 Mountain Wagtail

Motacilla clara

Ballerina codalunga


107 Common Bulbul

Pycnonotus barbatus

Bulbul golanera


108 Grey-Backed Camaroptera

Camaroptera brevicaudata



109 Abyssinian Slaty-


Melaenornis chocolatinus

Pigliamosche ardesia abissino

110 Northern Black-Flycatcher

Melaenornis edolioides

Pigliamosche nero




111 African Stonechat

Saxicola torquatus

Saltimpalo africano

112 Rueppell's Robin-Chat

Cossypha semirufa

Tordo pettirosso codanera

113 Mocking Cliff-Chat

Thamnolaea cinnamomeiventris

Sassicola ventrecannella

PASSERIFORMES: Platysteiridae

114 Gray-headed Batis

Batis orientalis

Pigliamosche mascherato testagrigia


115 African Paradise-Flycatcher

Terpsiphone viridis

Pigliamosche del Paradiso africano


116 White-rumped Babbler

Turdoides leucopygia omoensis


PASSERIFORMES: Nectariniidae

117 Beautiful Sunbird

Cinnyris pulchellus

Nettarinia multicolore

118 Variable Sunbird

Cinnyris venustus

Nettarinia variabile


119 Montain White-eye

Zosterops poliogastrus



120 African Black-headed Oriole

Oriolus larvatus

Rigogolo testanera africano

121 Black-headed Forest

Oriole (Abyssinian oriole)

Oriolus monacha

Rigogolo testanera di foresta


122 Gray-backed Fiscal

Lanius excubitorius

Averla cenerina africana

123 White-rumped Shrike

Eurocephalus rueppelli

Averla corona bianca

PASSERIFORMES: Malaconotidae

124 Tropical Boubou

Laniarius aethiopicus

Averla etiopica


125 Fork-tailed Drongo

Dicrurus adsimilis

Drongo codaforcuta


126 Pied Crow

Corvus albus

Corvo bianco e nero

127 Fan-tailed Raven

Corvus rhipidurus

Corvo coda a ventaglio

128 Thick-billed Raven

Corvus crassirostris

Corvo abissino


129 Wattled Starling

Creatophora cinerea

Storno caruncolato

130 Lesser Blue-eared Glossy-Starling

Lamprotornis chloropterus

Storno splendido blu minore

131 Rueppell's Glossy-Starling

Lamprotornis purpuroptera

Storno splendido di Rueppell

132 Superb Starling

Lamprotornis superbus

Storno splendido

133 White-crowned Starling

Spreo albicapillus

Storno capobianco

134 Slender-billed Starling

Onychognathus tenuirostris

Storno beccofine

135 Red-billed Oxpecker

Buphagus erythrorhynchus

Bufaga beccorosso


136 Swainson’s sparrow

Passer swainsonii

Passero testagrigia di Swainson


137 White-browed Sparrow-Weaver

Plocepasser mahali

Passero tessitore dal sopracciglio bianco

138 Baglafecht Weaver

Ploceus baglafecht

Tessitore di Baglafecht

139 Village Weaver

Ploceus cucullatus

Tessitore testanera dei villaggi

140 Northern Red Bishop (Orange Bishop)

Euplectes franciscanus

Vescovo arancio

141 Red-collared Widowbird

Euplectes ardens

Vedova dal collare rosso


142 Red-cheeked Cordonbleu

Uraeginthus bengalus

Cordon blu guancerosse

143 Red-billed Firefinch

Lagonosticta senegala

Amaranto beccorosso


144 Pin-tailed Whydah

Vidua macroura

Vedova coda a spilli

145 Village Indigobird

Vidua chalybeata

Uccello indaco dei villaggi