How important are the NGO initiatives in the fields in which you work?
Brent Stirton: NGOs such as the Yves Rocher Foundation and Green Ethiopia help me access areas and environments where it is usually difficult to work. I draw on their expertise and logistics, which are crucial in creating a report. But, most importantly, they are often the only people to combat the scourge of over-industrialisation. Without the Yves Rocher Foundation and Green Ethiopia, the Tigray Region would have undoubtedly lost all of its forests and the impact on the environment would have been disastrous.
Had you ever been to Ethiopia before? And had you ever worked on deforestation?
I have done a lot of work in Ethiopia in the past, mainly in the south near the Omo Valley and on the border with Eritrea. It’s a fascinating and complex country. In terms of deforestation, I have had the chance to document the situation in Haiti and various African countries. If we don’t tackle the issue, it may have a long-term impact on soil stability and drought.
How did you prepare for this report? What was your approach to the photography?
I was interested in showcasing the parallel between the Ethiopian economy’s substantial progress in recent years, and how this dazzling development had often neglected to protect the environment. I wanted to bring this impressive new infrastructure face-to-face with the people battling in the field to protect the trees and forests.
What will stay with you from this report? And what are your hopes for Ethiopia’s future?
I will remember the pride that the members of Green Ethiopia have in their work and the vision they had ten years ago to fight to protect their country’s plant life. But I’ve also loved the way in which many women involved in this project have become independent.
What would you like to say to the people who will see your photos? If they had to take one thing away with them, what would it be?
Without trees, the world would not be what it is. Not only are they magnificent, they are the lungs of our planet. They are the heritage of living things, working not only to protect the wilderness, but also to maintain aquifers and help stabilise the economy in rural regions. We need them and we must do everything in our power to save them.
Crédits : Brent Stirton / Agence Verbatim