The Basketo Special Woreda is divided into 32 small administrative units (Amharic ቀበሌ k’äbäle ‘ward, neighbourhood’). The ward of Bayo-Boraza-Borgalla is located an hour’s walk to the north of Laska, the capital of the Basketo Special Woreda.
(Note that Bayo-Boraza-Borgalla is mistakenly labelled “Bioborza” on Google maps.)
One important Baskeet landmark, the Orthodox church of St Mikael, is located in the northeastern part of the ward of Bayo-Boraza-Borgalla – see the green arrow on the map above. The tabot that is hosted in this seemingly simple (but important) building is carried out of (and returned to) the church in a procession on the monthly feast day of archangel Mikael, i.e. the 12th day of every Ethiopian month.
On the feast of the Epiphany (T’əmk’ät), on the 10th T’ərr of the Ethiopian calendar, the tabots of this church and other churches of the area are carried to the Donki meadows, which are located close to a river to the west of Laska. The return of the tabot to St Mikael on the 12th of T’ərr is especially colourful and a much anticipated annual celebration among Orthodox believers in Baskeet.
Like all other Orthodox churches, St Mikael is surrounded by a dense grove, which is also visible on the map above. Apart from the sacred groves (ts’oossi) of traditional Baskeet authorities, the groves around the Orthodox churches are the only significant and unexploited forests with indigenous trees in the Basketo Special Woreda. Everywhere else the land is used for settlements, fields, grazing land, bamboo and eucalyptus plantations. Outside the groves of religious importance, indigenous trees can only be found in small numbers in the front yards of Baskeet compounds or along the edges of fields.
The grove of St Mikael is a habitat for birds and monkeys. A population of gurezas, black and white monkeys with impressive faces, settles in the grove of St Mikael and feeds, relatively undisturbed, on the leaves and fruits that the trees provide the whole year round.
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If you are interested in Ethiopian church forests and their ecological importance you should have a look at the blog of the ecologist Margaret D. Lowman and T. Delene Beeland’s very informative article ‘Saving Ethiopia’s “Church Forests” about Lowman’s work.