The intertwined challenges of food insecurity, deforestation, and biodiversity loss remain perennial challenges in Ethiopia, despite increasing policy interventions. This thesis investigates smallholding farmers’ tree- and forest-based livelihoods and management practices, in the context of national development and conservation policies, and examines how these local management practices and policies transform the agriculture–forest mosaic landscapes of southwestern Ethiopia.
The thesis is guided by a political ecology perspective, and focuses on an analytical framework of ecosystem services (ESs) and disservices (EDs). It uses a mixed research design with data from participatory field mapping, a tree ‘inventory’, interviews, focus group discussions, population censuses, and analysis of satellite images and aerial photos.
The thesis presents four papers. Paper I investigates how smallholding farmers in an agriculture–forest mosaic landscape manage trees and forests in relation to a few selected ESs and EDs that they consider particularly beneficial or problematic. The farmers’ management practices were geared towards mitigating tree- and forest-related EDs such as wild mammal crop raiders, while at the same time augmenting ESs such as shaded coffee production, resulting in a restructuring of the agriculture–forest mosaic. Paper II builds further on the EDs introduced in paper I, to assess the effects of crop raids by forest-dwelling wild mammals on farmers’ livelihoods. The EDs of wild mammals and human–wildlife conflict are shown to constitute a problem that goes well beyond a narrow focus on yield loss. The paper illustrates the broader impacts of crop-raiding wild mammals on local agricultural and livelihood development (e.g. the effects on food security and children’s schooling), and how state forest and wildlife control and related conservation policy undermined farmers’ coping strategies. Paper III examines local forest-based livelihood sources and how smallholders’ access to forests is reduced by state transfer of forestland to private companies for coffee investment. This paper highlights how relatively small land areas appropriated for investment in relatively densely inhabited areas can harm the livelihoods of many farmers, and also negatively affect forest conservation. Paper IV investigates the patterns and drivers of forest cover change from 1958 to 2010. Between 1973 and 2010, 25% of the total forest was lost, and forest cover changes varied both spatially and temporally. State development and conservation policies spanning various political economies (feudal, socialist, and ‘free market-oriented’) directly or indirectly affected local ecosystem use, ecosystem management practices, and migration processes. These factors (policies, local practices, and migration) have thus together shaped the spatial patterns of forest cover change in the last 50 years.
The thesis concludes that national development and conservation policies and the associated power relations and inequality have often undermined local livelihood security and forest conservation efforts. It also highlights how a conceptualization of a local ecosystem as a provider of both ESs and EDs can generate an understanding of local practices and decisions that shape development and conservation trajectories in mosaic landscapes. The thesis draws attention to the need to make development and conservation policies relevant and adaptable to local conditions as a means to promote local livelihood and food security, forest and biodiversity conservation, and ESs generated by agricultural mosaic landscapes.