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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ZBELO Tesfamariam, Ghent University, Mekelle University
Jan NYSSEN, Ghent University
TESFAALEM Ghebreyohannes, Mekelle University
AMANUEL Zenebe, Mekelle University
KELEMEWORK Tafere, Mekelle University
Veerle VAN EETVELDE, Ghent University

Local communities change the natural landscapes in various ways. Such changes have long been studied by different researchers. However, the impact on natural landscapes of the development, expansion and relocation of settlements is not well known in environments where (i) the economic activities of communities change from pastoral to sedentary, (ii) investment increases steadily for the first time, and (iii) there is high population growth. This study was therefore undertaken to assess the impact of settlement evolution and expansion on the landscapes of the arid and semi-arid areas of Northern Ethiopia. Semi-structured interview and Focus Group Discussions (FGDs) were employed to collect data on the history and development of settlements and its impact on the landscapes and to obtain first-hand information about local landscape changes. Topographic mapping was used to delineate the study areas. Aerial photographs of the 1930s, 1964 and 1994; Google Earth Images of 2010 and 2017 were analyzed in a GIS environment to examine the impact of settlement expansion on landscapes. The findings of the study show that the evolution and expansion of new and existing settlements respectively have changed the landscape structure and pattern of the grabens. Moreover, large forest landscapes of Raya graben have become settlements. In addition, several bush and shrub lands have been converted into settlements and farmlands in Aba’ala graben, following the development and relocation of settlements. Such changes have also altered the function of the ecological mosaic of graben landscapes.