Land degradation is a common problem in many parts of the globe. It has accelerated during the 20th century due to increasing and combined pressures of agricultural and livestock production, urbanization, deforestation, and extreme weather. Affecting food production, livelihoods, and threatening the production and provision of other ecosystem goods and services, it is today a serious environmental challenge.
Degradation major problem
“Land degradation is a major problem in the Tigray region of Ethiopia,” PhD candidate Dawit Gebregziabher Mekonen says.
The main drivers in the area are the expansion of cultivated land at the expense of forests and other vegetation, unsustainable utilization of forest products for several purposes such as fuelwood and construction materials, and overgrazing.
To counteract the degradation, regional government and the local communities have started to rehabilitate the degraded lands by closing them off from human and animal interferences.
“These exclosures are off-bounds. Households who are adjacent to the exclosures and with access rights collect outputs, in this case mainly grass for animal fodder.”
Mekonen has examined how values of outputs from exclosures are distributed, and what factors influence them. He has also documented the perception and attitude of the household heads’ towards the exclosures. His study was conducted on nine sites in the Tigray region.
Wealthier households gets the lion’s share
Mekonen’s results show that the distribution of values of outputs collected from exclosures vary largely, from fairly equal to quite unequal.
Those who resided farther from the district market collected a larger share of value of outputs from exclosures. Farmers who resided adjacent to exclosures with higher number of households per hectare of exclosures were more likely to collect outputs.
“Wealthier households with larger herd sizes obtained a larger share of outputs from the exclosures, while households in the lowest income quantile received almost nothing,” Mekonen comments.
“This may raise concerns among those interested in pro-poor measures.”
The majority of the examined households had favorable opinions of the exclosures, both prior to their establishment, and at the present time.
“85% of the households agreed with the idea of exclosure before they were established.”
“Almost all of the sampled households, about 97%, responded that they were happy with the existing exclosures,” Mekonen says.
Both recipients of resources and those who did not collect grass reported that they were happy with them. There is some resistance towards further expansion of protected area.
“76% would support further expansion of exclosures, which is 21% less than those who were happy with the existing exclosures.” This is mainly because of less land remaining for grazing.
The household heads were asked a number of ecological questions related to the exclosures, such as the frequency of flooding, number of trees, microclimate and the like.
In general, the local community had a good perception of ecological improvement following the exclosures’ establishment, and the potential to rehabilitate the degraded areas.
Less economic benefit
However, their perception of the economic benefit was less as compared to ecological improvement.
“The percentage of the sampled households who strongly agreed or agreed with exclosures improving their economic situation was 58 %,” Mekonen comments.
Farmers who are often visited by the development agents had negative influence on household heads’ perception of economic improvement but positive influence on both equal access and ecological improvement.
“My results indicate that the information disseminated through development agents should give due attention to the economic benefit rather than prioritizing only the ecological rehabilitation.”
Differences in management
Mekonen has also compared two systems for management of common pool resources, namely exclosure and traditional protected grasslands, so-called hizaeti. He found significant differences between them, both with regards to land assigned and distribution of outputs.
“In hizaeti the local community were able to make autonomous decision making on the management of resources, however, on exclosures they did not have such autonomous decision making power.”
The management of exclosures was to some extent top down and non-autonomous compared to hizaeti. Moreover, the management of exclosures uses formal institutions while hizaeti uses informal institutions.
“There is a need to enhance the autonomous participation of local community on the decision making process towards rehabilitation of degraded lands,” Mekonen says.
He continues in explaining that local policy makers should consider alternative options and revise the management strategies of exclosures to benefit poor households from exclosures in the Tigray Region.
The title of the dissertation is "Socioeconomics and governance of exclosures in Tigray, Northern Ethiopia".