The Yayu Coffee Forest Biosphere Reserve is distinguished by its exceptional natural value.

Yayu Nature Forests
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Yayu Nature Biological Diversity

Biological diversity

The reserve is home to over 450 higher plant species, more than 50 species of mammals, an undetermined number of bird species and more than 20 species of amphibians. Of these species, at least 44 are considered at risk under one of the IUCN red list categories.

Yayu Endemism


There are more than 100 endemic species of plants, mammals, birds and amphibians found in the Biosphere Reserve, showcasing the areas unique biological value.

Yayu Ecosystem Services

Ecosystem Services

The forests of Yayu provide crucial ecosystem services, including watershed protection (like erosion control, water filtration, water retention and flood regulation, regulation of temperature, streambank stabilisation etc.). The rivers Geba, Dogi, Saki and Sese originate in the Biosphere Reserve and discharge into the Baro River that then flows into the Nile. Secondly, timber- and non-timber forest resources play a crucial role for basic food, housing and energy needs for the majority of of households in the Biosphere Reserve. Thirdly, the area of arable and grazing land, on which the people of the Biosphere Reserve depend, offers food being produced in a smallholder, subsistence agricultural system. The sustainable, non-exhaustive management of these resources poses a considerable challenge, due to demographic growth and resource shortages.

Economic hardship of rural livelihoods

Economic hardship of rural livelihoods

Despite the rich biodiversity, the rural population in the area faces economic challenges, with livelihoods primarily dependent on small-scale agriculture, including the cultivation of vegetables, cereals, and coffee. Livestock farming also contributes to their income. The energy supply predominantly relies on wood and charcoal, often illicitly sourced from forest resources.

Cultural heritage and traditio­nal resource management

Nature in context

In the Oromo culture, nature holds a revered place, with deep respect for forests, rivers, trees and other living beings. At the heart of Oromo society lies the Gadaa system, a socio-cultural and political governance system that designates sacred areas and occasions, ingrained in the beliefs and practices of the community. The Gadaa system determines traditional management rules, with taboos against cutting trees or altering streams. Violating these rules results in serious consequences. As one of the most comprehensive indigenous governance systems known, the Gadaa was recognised by UNESCO as an intangible cultural heritage in 2016.

Cultural heritage and traditio­nal resource management
The significance of local institutions

The significance of local institutions

In the local context, the Odaa, a Ficus tree species, serves as the backdrop for gatherings of elders who convene to discuss community matters, offer prayers for peace, rain, and prosperity. Other trees like Oomii, Laaftoo, Birbirsa and Harbuu also play roles in certain ceremonies. The forest has an immense value for the livelihoods of the Oromo people, and the presence of traditional resource management institutions has formerly been instrumental in preserving the forest cover with minimal change over time. The traditional rules and institutions, including the territory-based informal administrative structures (tuulla, xuxee, and shane) and councils of elders (mucho, salgii, and jaarsabiyya), are potential guardians of forest conservation and advocates for the sustainable utilisation of resources.

»The Gadaa system represents a vital link between local culture, social structure, and the sustainable management of natural resources.«

Science and conservation

The majority of the Biosphere Reserve core zone and its riverine ecosystems remain relatively unexplored, with limited studies conducted so far on individual species or ecological connections. Existing research has primarily concentrated on the plant life, particularly with attention to genetics in the Coffea arabica population and other beneficial plants (cultivated and non-cultivated). More Research is needed, including a comprehensive assessment and monitoring of the area’s biological diversity.

Science and conservation