The STRONGBOW (Sustainable Tourism based On Natural resource management with Gender Balance towards Women) project is designed to build capacity within five selected Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) in Ethiopia in the fields of Natural Resources Management (NRM), Tourism and Ecotourism.

The rationale

Ethiopia is home to a rich and diverse range of landscapes, with an impressive array of plant and animal species. Therefore, there is significant potential for developing ecotourism in Ethiopia, defined here as a specific form of pro‐poor tourism that improves the environment and increases rural income. This can only be realized however by building capacity through further training of wildlife guides, improved management of national parks and important bird areas, involving all members of rural communities in the management of these parks, and by increased private investment in community infrastructure for lodging eco‐tourists, as well as training of rural communities in hosting tourists.

The Horn of Africa Regional Environment Center and Network (HoA-REC&N), along with its project partners, believes that pro-poor ecotourism can serve as an important instrument in regional development, with the development of local entrepreneurship leading to livelihood improvement. Yet a gap currently exists between formal teaching and training at universities in Ethiopia and the requirements of modern labor markets, and whilst Ethiopian universities are undertaking development relevant research, the results are not always adequately used to inform development policymakers and practitioners.

Thus, the STRONGBOW project aims to stimulate Ethiopia’s ecotourism by building HEI capacity in NRM, tourism and eco-tourism, and through involving the private sector.


HoA-REC&N leads a consortium of five Ethiopian universities: Addis Ababa University, Arba Minch University, MizanTepi University, Wondo Genet College of Forestry & Natural Resource, and Jimma University. The Center for International Cooperation (CIS-VU) leads a consortium of international universities including The Central University of Technology – South Africa, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, and VU University, Amsterdam.

In 2011, the partners were successful in securing a €3.5 million capacity building grant from the Dutch organization, NUFFIC. The grant was to be used to improve the capacity of the five universities in Ethiopia through investment, short term and long term training for university staff, research and training in NRM, tourism and ecotourism. The timeframe for the project is between January 2011and December 2014.

Since 2011, STRONGBOW, with its consortium of local, regional and overseas partners, has implemented a sustainable program of capacity building ‘through learning’.

The project has the following objectives:

  • To develop university staff through scholarship – sponsor 11 PhD students and cover the research costs of 50 MSc/MA Demand Driven Action Research (DDAR) in the fields of NRM and ecotourism;
  • To formulate multi‐disciplinary training and research plans;
  • To enhance staff quality and quantity;
  • To improve curricula and training approaches by revising the existing curriculum of NRM and ecotourism to meet labor market needs;
  • To meet the need for more demand‐driven, gender sensitive research and strengthen the research culture of the universities;
  • To establish sustainable financing mechanisms;
  • To strengthen networking between the various partners;
  • To enhance HoA-REC&N’s coordinating capacity.

STRONGBOW’s Strategy

The strategy of the STRONGBOW project is “exposure, networking and sharing”, embodying the concept of the Ethiopian beneficiaries being linked, in a reciprocal way, to institutions in Europe and within the region (South Africa), to build capacity through learning.

The project strategy has been designed entirely around the principle of sustainability incorporating:

  • Staff training and continuous professional development;
  • Gender balancing;
  • Ownership in terms of management and organization;
  • Establishing demand‐driven research and linkages with stakeholders;
  • Investments in the key areas of natural resource management and (eco) tourism; and
  • Catering to labor‐market needs through private sector involvement.


  • Focus on gender
  • Response to market demand
  • Use of local expertise
  • Organizational learning

Current Achievements

  • Ten PhD students are receiving scholarships from the project. Eight students are studying in Belgium and two in the Netherlands.
  • Twenty MSc students have been granted fund for their research from the project
  • Short term training has been given to university staff. The training includes:
    • DDAR
    • Gender mainstreaming in academic environments
    • Project management and coordination training
    • Curriculum review training
    • Innovative teaching methodologies
    • Database management and tracer studies

Consortium Partners

HoA-REC&N has strong experience in terms of DDAR, particularly in southern Ethiopia, and has implemented a number of projects relating to NRM. For example, it is currently coordinating and facilitating the Mount Wochecha Rehabilitation Project in Ethiopia in partnership with Oromia Forest and Wildlife Enterprise (OFWE) and Oromia Development Association (ODA) to protect the remaining forest, promote reforestation, rehabilitate degraded land and develop community livelihoods. There are also similar projects being undertaken across Ethiopia including the Central Rift Valley, Gambella and the Northern Highlands.

Two of the consortium partners, VU University Amsterdam and the KatholiekeUniversiteit Leuven bring strong and complementary expertise to the project. The Center for International Cooperation of VU University Amsterdam (CIS-VU) has a long history of strengthening the management of tertiary institutions in Ethiopian HEIs, as well as highly relevant experience in sustainable land managementin Ethiopia (and in the region). For over 20 years, the KatholiekeUniversiteit Leuven LSUE (Sustainable Earth Research Center) has developed extensive and relevant experience in capacity building projects and programs within the field of NRM in Ethiopia, including the Vlaamse Interuniversitaire Raad (VLIR) Institutional University Cooperation (IUC) Programs at Mekelle University and Jimma University. A unique contribution to the project is that KUL-LSUE waivers all fees for PhD supervision and consultancy input. This opens up considerable ‘additional’ resources for capacity building. A strong emphasis on South-to-South learning is provided by the third consortium partner, the Central University of Technology, Bloemfontein and a range of other associate partners in South Africa with unique specialist knowledge of (eco) tourism training, research and development in the African context.



Mrs. RawdaSeman

Coordinator STRONGBOW Project

(+251)(0)11 65 50 226