Field and river

20th International Conference of Ethiopian Studies (ICES20)
Mekelle University, Ethiopia

"Regional and Global Ethiopia - Interconnections and Identities"
1-5 October, 2018

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GETACHEW Senishaw, Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia

This study was conducted among the Gedeo of southern Ethiopia, examining a complex nexus of demographic pressure, land scarcity, land access/tenure, land use and livelihood strategies. The study is based on twelve months of fieldwork (February 20, 2012 to March 1, 2013). Mixed methods were employed with emphasis on qualitative methods viz. participant observation, interviews, and focus group discussions (FGDs). The Gedeo are well known for extremely high population density, which stoof at about 818 people per square kilometer in 2012, and a consequently severe scarcity of farmland. Average household land holding was less than 0.5 hectares in 2012, which is under half the national average. This study revealed that the Gedeo managed to cope with population pressure and land scarcity through efficient land-use strategy, which they have developed into an intricate agro-forestry system that covered 95% of total land in the Gedeo Zone in 2012. The agro-forestry livelihood strategy that the Gedeo have developed over time includes components such as tree crops (enset, coffee, and timber), livestock and apiculture. Each component of the system contributes to and benefits from the others, thereby sustaining Gedeo agro-forestry and livelihoods. This complex agro-forestry system thus appears to be not only an adaptation to land scarcity but also a mechanism of ecological sustainability. It is a reflection of the Gedeo’s indigenous knowledge of land management. Agro-forestry, in conjunction with perennial crops as its major components, also plays the role of enhancing tenure stability and security. In these circumstances, despite evolving land tenure policies, Gedeo access to land is still more dictated by the land use system and local institutions (e.g. descent and kinship). The study concludes that agro-forestry seems to be central to the integration of land tenure/access, land use and livelihood strategies among the Gedeo, and that the synergy of these elements is the key to supporting high population density without environmental degradation.