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TRANSITION FROM FOREST-BASED TO CEREAL-BASED AGRICULTURAL SYSTEMS: A REVIEW OF THE DRIVERS OF LAND USE CHANGE AND DEGRADATION IN SOUTHWEST ETHIOPIA [Abstract ID: 0607-04]
The southwestern Ethiopian montane forests are one of the country’s most species-rich ecosystems, and are recognised globally as a priority area for biodiversity conservation. Here, we review changes to agricultural systems in and around these forests that are known as the “home of coffee” (Coffea arabica L.). The forests are important to the livelihoods of many rural people who have developed traditional management practices based on agro-ecological knowledge, religious taboos and customary tenure rights. We explored the impact of conversion to agroforestry and cereal-based cropping systems on biodiversity, soil fertility, soil loss and the socio-economic conditions and culture. The growing trend towards cereal cropping, resettlement and commercial agriculture is causing deterioration to the natural forest cover in the region and threatens biodiversity, land quality, sustainable traditional farming practices and the livelihood of the local community. Large-scale plantations of tea, coffee, soapberry – known locally as endod (Phytolacca dodecandra L'Hér.) – and cereals have resulted in biodiversity loss. Following the conversion of forests, cultivated fields exhibit a significant decline in soil fertility and an increase in soil loss as compared with the traditional agroforestry system. In order to achieve sustainable agriculture a change in paradigm will be required. The values of the traditional forest-based agricultural system should be recognised, rather than adopting agricultural policies that were developed for the open fields of central Ethiopia.