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Doctoral thesis, 2017

Agroforestry homegardens in Ethiopia

Sahilu, Mersha Gebrehiwot


The traditional agroforestry homegarden has a crucial role in achieving sustainable agricultural land management that combines production of food, wood and livestock for rural livelihoods while sustaining the natural environment. However since 1990’s it has been challenged by the transition to monoculture production of new cash crops. The aim of my thesis is to provide an in-depth analysis of the livelihood assets and outcomes delivered by agroforestry homegardens, the drivers of the recent transition of this farming practice, the impacts of this transition, and consequences for sustainability of rural livelihoods in south Ethiopia. I made 400 structured interviews with urban and rural inhabitants; 218 structured interviews with farmers; 40 semi-structured household interviews; 8 focus group discussions with 47 participants and 24 key informant interviews. The agroforestry homegarden is perceived by both urban and rural respondents as one of the most preferred land covers that deliver multiple ecosystem services. This farming practice has been a livelihood strategy of smallholder farmers to achieve balanced livelihood assets, multiple outcomes and food security. However the efficiency and capability of the agroforestry homegarden to deliver the livelihood benefits are confronted by variety of external and internal drivers. I identify three main trajectories of change (1) towards khat monoculture production, (2) adaptation of this traditional farming practice to the new socioeconomic conditions, and (3) returning to the traditional agroforestry homegardens after practicing new cash crop monoculture. The first trajectory towards khat monoculture is currently dominant; and leads to declining livelihood assets at the household level. The underlying driving forces of this transition are demographic, economic, socio-cultural, institutional and technological. Customary institutional practices in combination with the khat mono-cropping negatively affect the household gender relationship and contests women’s rights. International and national policies recognize women’s contributions, and their civil rights, however customary institutions restrict women’s rights in practice. I suggest that creating new opportunities for landless rural inhabitants and controlling population growth are essential. Research and development efforts towards introducing new technologies on how to integrate high-yielding crops in the diverse homegarden system are equally important. Moreover, minimizing the tension and mismatch between formal and informal institutions is crucial to guarantee women’s equal rights to achieve improved livelihoods and food security at the household and rural community levels.


Agroforestry homegarden, Enset, Coffee

Published in

Acta Universitatis Agriculturae Sueciae
2017, number: 2017:58
ISBN: 978-91-7760-006-0, eISBN: 978-91-7760-007-7
Publisher: School for Forest Management, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences

Authors' information

Sahilu, Mersha Gebrehiwot (Sahilu, Mersha Gebrehiwot)
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, School for Forest Management

UKÄ Subject classification

Forest Science

URI (permanent link to this page)