Awi Zone

Country/territory: Ethiopia

IBA Criteria met: A1, A3 (1996)
For more information about IBA criteria please click here

Area: 160,000 ha

Protection status:

Ethiopian Wildlife and Natural History Society

Site description
Awi Zone is an autonomous administrative unit within Amhara Region and is governed by its local people, the Agaw, who speak Awgni. The Zone is on the western side of the central plateau in Ankasha and Banja Weredas of what used to be called Agaw Medir near the town of Finote Selam. Agaw Medir is relatively flat and fertile with an altitude of c.2,300 m. The lowest parts are at 1,800 m and the highest at 3,100 m on the nearby hills and mountains. The area is crossed by about nine permanent rivers that drain into the Abbay (Blue Nile) and has two crater lakes, Zengena and Tirba.

The Agaw have practised a land-management system for many centuries which is well adapted to the local ecology. They plough with horses, make extensive use of irrigation and plant live hedges round their fields. They also use a wide variety of field and homestead crops and have developed local varieties to suit their conditions. Use of communal resources, particularly water and forests, is carefully controlled by the local communities. These practices have enabled the Agaw to sustain the fertility of the soil and minimize erosion so that this area is recognized as one of the most productive in the Amhara Region.

Four sites, each with different qualities and habitat-types were visited in this Zone. Each has characteristics that contribute to the overall richness of the natural biodiversity in Agaw. Zimbiri marsh is located 5 km south-west of Addis Kidan, a town on the Kosso Ber–Bahir Dar road, at an altitude of 2,300–2,350 m. The vegetation includes short annual grasses, sedges, bulrushes and some trees such as Croton macrostachyus. The marshy area is very extensive, encircling a number of peasant associations that are on the slightly higher and drier ground. In some places there are narrow paths across the marsh between groups of houses, but further down the shallow valley the wet ground is extensive and forms an impassable barrier.

Zengena lake is a crater lake, 6 km south of Kosso Ber and only about 300 m from the main road. The average altitude at the rim is 2,480 m and there is a drop of nearly 1,000 m down to the bottom of the crater. Vegetation around the crater rim is dominated by a plantation of Cupressus lusitanica which is managed by the Agricultural Bureau in Kosso Ber. Some poorly developed natural vegetation exists inside the crater on the steeply sloping sides. The lake at the bottom is almost inaccessible, but can be reached by those who are sure-footed. The water is fresh. Excessive algal growth was not observed when looking down from the top. The lake is found in the vicinity of a rapidly growing town.

Dukima and Apini forests are located at 5 km on either side of Kidamaja town, 33 km from Kosso Ber on the Kosso Ber to Chagni road. The average altitude of the sites is 2,500 m. The plant species are diverse and indicate that the forest is disturbed or well used. Trees include acacias, figs and Croton macrostachyus; Rosa abyssinica and other shrubs typical of disturbed forest are common. The undergrowth on the upper parts of the hills is dense and forms thickets difficult or impossible to penetrate. Streams spring from the hills and join a small river at the bottom. The forests are surrounded by agricultural land that is gradually expanding on to the gentler slopes. Although the forests on the hills face a threat from expanding small-holder agriculture and grazing by domestic stock, it is interesting to note that the vegetation has existed to this date and is still in good condition. The conservation of the forests appears to be a result of traditional land management.

Goobil forest and pond is 8 km south of Kosso Ber town, beside the small town of Kesa. The natural forest is found on a dome-shaped hill at 2,400–2,500 m which is completely covered by various tree species (especially Cupressus lusitanica, Cordia africana and Croton macrostachyus) and a fairly dense undergrowth. There is a pond at the foot and partly encircling the eastern side of the hill. The forest and the pond have agricultural and grazing land on the western side and the small town of Kesa on the east. Cattle and other domestic stock use the mountain for grazing; several footpaths and cut trees are evidence that the forest is an important source of wood for the town below. The forest is managed by Ankesha Woreda Agriculture Bureau in Kesa town.

Key biodiversity
See Box and Table 3 for key species. During a survey of Awi Zone in October 1995, a total of 214 species was recorded, of which 28 belong to the Afrotropical Highlands biome. Two globally threatened species were recorded, Rougetius rougetii and the Ethiopian endemic Macronyx flavicollis. Other Ethiopian endemics recorded were Dendropicos abyssinicus and Parophasma galinieri, both highland species. Two Somali–Masai biome species, Turdoides leucopygius and Petronia dentata were noted, as well as a number of Palearctic species. Zimbiri marsh could form a suitable habitat for cranes, especially Grus carunculatus. Notable birds recorded from the Dukima and Apini forests were two Afrotropical Highlands biome species—Zoothera piaggiae and Cryptospiza salvadorii. An additional three sites at Finote Selam were also surveyed, with total numbers of species as follows: Bir Sheleko State Farm 57 species (including three Afrotropical Highlands biome species), Kere State Forest 42 (1) and Geray marsh and dam 96 (2). The most striking thing about the avifauna is the very low number of highland species compared with the less-disturbed sites. Perhaps this is an indication of the vulnerability of the biome species once modern farming techniques and other developments are introduced.

Non-bird biodiversity: None known to BirdLife International.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2019) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Awi Zone. Downloaded from on 11/11/2019.