Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Resource Economics

Dissertation of Ayalneh Bogale

Land Degradation, Impoverishment and Livelihood Strategies of Rural Households in Ethiopia: Farmers' perceptions and policy implication

Start: 1998
End: 2002

Many governments are adopting policies to devolve responsibility of natural resource management to local bodies. Writings in resource economics have also given considerable attention to economic and social benefits from different property rights to land resource. Papers about devolution of forest management tend to give attention to benefits to people as incentives for them to protect the local resources. Common belief is that where forests are to be protected, change in property right regime needs to offer immediate economic benefits to local people in order to get their interests in protecting these resources. In Ethiopia, forested land has for a long time been under state stewardship. Degradation of forest resources under management by state forest organizations together with the high costs of forest protection has stimulated the transfer of responsibility and authority over the forest resource from the state to the user groups. This devolution of forest management to local people has been tried out in Adaba and Dodola Forest Priority Areas, in the southern highland districts of Oromiya Regional State, since June 2000, through a technical cooperation project, Integrated Forest Management Project, between the Governments of Ethiopia and Germany. At the start of this initiative, stakeholders, i.e., forest administration, local people (both people living inside and outside the forest) local authorities, agreed to design a workable approach of participatory forest management. The forest dwellers are the main actors in this approach. With the assistance of the forest administration they sub-divide the forests into forest blocks of about 400 ha each. For each forest block they form an association of no more than 30 member households. Each association signs a contract with the government. In such legally binding way, the forest dwellers’ groups are guaranteed the right of settlement in the forest, and exclusive user right for all forest products. In turn, the dwellers have to maintain the tree cover. In addition, they are responsible for not allowing more households to settle in the forest, and they pay a forest rent for each ha of land in the forest block which is not covered by the forest. Failure to do so results in various measures and can, in extreme cases, lead to expulsion from the forest. Occasionally fieldworks are completed in various villages to understand whether or not local people are sufficiently motivated to manage forest resources. But the questions remain how and to what extent local households have benefited from the (favorable) conditions made available by forest dwellers. In other words, the state is concerned about whether the intended incentives offered by forest dwellers are economically and socially interesting enough for local households to manage forest resources. However, conflict between forest dwellers and non-forest dwellers become salient following the devolution of forest management. Particularly, conflicts on right of access to the forest to extract forest products as well grazing have arisen but rarely unmanageable. Further conflicts between forest dwellers and non-forest dwellers are inevitable, as the latter do not see the reason to immediately stop access to forest while the resources is still “abundant” and the resource has been equally accessible prior to both groups before the devolution. Therefore, it will be imperative to scrutinize the conflicts and the consequences associated with the development of the new forest management approach. Thus concerns of the authorities and policy makers are to understand how and to what extent local people have benefited from devolution of property right to forest land, and whether they are motivated to protect local forest resources. In this research, we want to examine “the benefits that devolution of the management of forest resources has generated for local communities and households/ people and maintain the natural resource as a result of change in institutions (rule of the game) of property rights to the forest resource that mediate in resource entitlement”.

Researcher: Bogale, Ayalneh

Advisors: Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Konrad Hagedorn