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Licentiate thesis, 2013

Recent transitions in Ethiopian homegarden agroforestry

Sahilu, Mersha Gebrehiwot


Homegarden agroforestry was a dominant land use practice in Southern Nations, Nationalities and People's Regional State (SNNPRS) Ethiopia until the 1990s. It has been known for its diversity, ecosystem balance and sustainability. Its outputs were contributing to the sustainable livelihoods of the region and were crucial for the household food security and rural development. More recently it has been challenged by population pressure, shrinking farm size, poverty and a new market situation and has gradually been changing towards monoculture production of khat (Catha edulis) and eucalyptus species. The consequence of the transitions on ecology, biodiversity, sustainability and food security has been studied by different scholars. However, the trend and extent of the change, its driving forces and its impacts on household food availability, gender division of labour and income, gender roles and gender power relations have not been properly addressed. Therefore, the overall aim of this thesis is to broaden the scope and understanding of drivers and consequences of the on-going land use changes in the traditional agroforestry of Ethiopia and thereby contribute to institutional development efforts towards a stable and sustainable land use and gender equity in rural development. Its specific objectives are i) to assess the trend of change from traditional homegarden agroforestry towards cash crop production and its proximate and underlying causes and ii) to analyse and explain how the land uses change affects the lives of farm women and men, their gender roles and the gender power relationship and space for action and agency. Primary data have been gathered through transect walks, field and market observations, household surveys, keyinformants and focus group discussions, while secondary data have been obtained through policy documents, files and records. The study revealed that there is a change in the distribution and area proportion among the three land use categories "food crops", "cash crops" and "grazing and living quarter" and in the structure of traditional homegarden agroforestry. The change has been driven by expectations of financial income (cash), farm land fragmentation, favourable market conditions for new cash crops, access to irrigation, limited supply of farm input for food crop production (fertilizer and seed), experience of others, risk of theft, and wildlife disturbance. These causes, which were identified by the respondents, have been underpinned by underlying factors such as demographic, economic, policy and institutional, socio-cultural and technological drivers. The analysis of the system dynamics shows that all underlying driving forces interact with each other and cause change in traditional practices although policy and institutional factors could be seen as key drivers provoking the change of other driving forces. The expansion of cash crops has had a number of effects on the households. It has significantly affected the food supply for households and market, and the financial income from cash crop trading. Moreover it has affected household division of labour, decision making, family share and distribution of income, gender role of women and men, and the household gender power relationship. The expansion of cash crops has enhanced the decision making and the bargaining power of men as most production and trading of cash crops and the income is controlled by men. Women's role, on the other hand, has been declining in terms of labour input, access to products, control over products decision making and bargaining over use and distribution of resources. The increase of cash crop production and financial income obtained more attention while declining food crop production and biodiversity of the system were given little attention by the farming households. The transition towards monoculture cultivation of crops has affected the rational of weighing and balancing economic gain and the socio-cultural and ecological benefits derived from the traditional homegarden agroforestry in the study region. Therefore, securing gender equality and balancing the economic benefits with the socio-cultural and ecological values of this system should be considered in regional agricultural development plans and land use policies towards the implementation of sustainable rural development.


Homegarden agroforestry; SNNPRS; land use; driving forces; cash crops; khat; eucalyptus; labour; decision; bargaining power; women; men

Published in

Rapport / Sveriges lantbruksuniversitet, Institutionen för skoglig resurshushållning och geomatik
2013, number: 21
ISBN: 978-91-576-9142-2, eISBN: 978-91-576-9143-9
Publisher: Department of Forest Resource Management, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences

Authors' information

Sahilu, Mersha Gebrehiwot (Sahilu, Mersha Gebrehiwot)
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Forest Resource Management

UKÄ Subject classification

Forest Science
Agricultural Science

URI (permanent link to this page)