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1 June 2008 Forest Decline and Its Causes in the South-Central Rift Valley of Ethiopia: Human Impact over a One Hundred Year Perspective
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Abstract
Forest decline in Ethiopia is highlighted by several authors but there is no consensus on its causes and consequences. The objective of this study is to investigate, from sociopolitical and geographical perspectives, the linkage between the trend of forest decline and changes in the social, economic, and political pattern in the Awassa watershed over a 100-year perspective. Field observations, satellite image and map analyses, interviews, and literature studies were employed, and natural indicators were analyzed. The findings indicate that the forest area declined from about 40% at the turn of the 19th century to less than 3% in the year 2000. Forest decline in the study area during the elected time period is the result of the combination of biophysical and social conditions. Important causes are geographic properties, sociopolitical changes, population growth, unstable land tenure principles, agricultural development, and the improvement of transport capacity. The main conclusions are as follows: Already in the early 20th century forest decline was in progress and forests were attributed an insignificant economic classification. Large areas of forest were cut down during periods of political transition when as a result of the political vacuum, interest in the protection of resources including forests was lacking. Long-term planning efforts to manage forests were obstructed by uncertainty resulting from land tenure principle change during each political period. The sparse area of forest land that remains is becoming increasingly attractive as potential land for arable agriculture because of improved road access between the study area and distant markets.
Gessesse Dessie and Carl Christiansson "Forest Decline and Its Causes in the South-Central Rift Valley of Ethiopia: Human Impact over a One Hundred Year Perspective," AMBIO: A Journal of the Human Environment 37(4), (1 June 2008). https://doi.org/10.1579/0044-7447(2008)37[263:FDAICI]2.0.CO;2
Received: 6 October 2006; Accepted: 1 January 2008; Published: 1 June 2008
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