Lake Tana Sub-Basin, Ethiopia

Challenges · Livelihoods · Water

Landscape Profile

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Lake Tana Sub-Basin, Ethiopia

Approximate size (hectares)



4.6 million


Humid Subtropical

Production Systems

Livestock, Rice, Teff


The Lake Tana Sub-Basin is located in the Amhara National Regional State and across four Zonal Administrations. The landscape drains 4 major rivers: Gilgel Abay, Reb, Gumara, and Megech. The lake is buffered by a large flood plain (wetland) in almost all directions. Lake Tana is a source of the great River Abbay (Blue Nile) and more than 40 streams, linking to the hydro politics of the Nile Basin. The lake is home to more than 20 famous monasteries of the 14th Century and a total of 37 islands, as well as more than 200 bird species.

Lake Tana Sub Basin hosts many kinds of ecosystems including varieties of aquatic, wetland, dry evergreen montane forest and evergreen scrub, montane grassland, sub Afroalpine, and Afroalpine nature. The diversity of ecosystems together with factors such as rainfall pattern and altitudinal range make the landscape very important in congregating rich biodiversity (wildlife and domesticated), some endemic and some threatened.

The landscape is a development corridor for the national economy, as it has great potentials for irrigation, hydroelectric power, water supply, paddy rice, high value crops and livestock production, transportation, (eco-) tourism attractions and others. More than 40 major actors are involved in the landscape, including actors from Government, Projects, NGOs, CSOs, Community Associations, Investors, Enterprises, Universities, Research Institutes, and Donors.

Voices From The Field

I believe that Lake Tana landscape is a very sensitive landscape which every one should be concerned about, and integrating all stakeholders around the landscape is very crucial. I currently work in the Amhara National Regional State office of the President, having spent the last two decades in various positions of regional government leadership. Passionate about my landscape, I studied land management, obtaining a Master of Science in land administration from the International Institute For Geo-Information Science And Earth Observation (ITC) in the Netherlands in 2010.

Assefa Belay Director of Strategic Leadership Support Directorate, Amhara National Regional State office of The President

Major Successes


Biosphere Reserve recognition

Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union (NABU) in collaboration with the regional Bureau of Culture, Tourism, and Parks Development developed a holistic study document of the Lake Tana Biosphere Reserve that enabled the submission of a registration application to UNESCO for recognition, produced valuable knowledge about the need for protecting, managing, and developing resources of the sub-basin, and produced a management plan for the aforementioned biosphere reserve.


Integrated management initiatives

Over 15 organizations are involved in the watershed management and are engaged in management of protected areas and participatory forest management including REDD+ initiatives. Successes of these management initiatives in the landscape are related to the ongoing upstream watershed community participatory development, irrigation development, hydropower development, increasing practices of eco-tourism, and increased production of rice and its contribution to food security and household income.

Working Together

Sub-Basin Development Plan

Together with stakeholders, Tana Sub-basin Organization (TaSBO) is developing a sub-basin development plan. TaSBO is also strengthening and establishing hydrological monitoring stations. A 1:20000 scale draft Sub-basin land use plan was developed by Amhara Design and Supervision Works Enterprise (ADSWE). 

Landscape actors are now promoting the benefit of more integrated and collaborative planning, implementation, and monitoring of activities to achieve integrated landscape management. Different sectors, project based Steering platforms, NGOs, CSOs, and stakeholders have recommended to institutionalize an integrative actors’ platform with authoritative power.

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