Ethiopia’s forest cover is estimated at less than 4% of the total land area of about 1 million km2. The consequences of deforestation and forest degradation include reduced agricultural production and decreased household welfare. The Ethiopian government promulgated a forest proclamation and approved the first forest policy in 2007. In its recent comprehensive plan referred to as Plan for Accelerated and Sustained Development to End Poverty (PASDEP), the government also indicated its plan to increase forest cover from about 4% to 9% over a period of five years. The reality on the ground suggests that there is continuing deforestation and mismanagement of existing forests. The government has acknowledged in its forestry laws and regulations that depletion of these resources have resulted in reduced agricultural productivity and subsequently reduced quality of life of the rural people. Moreover, frequent restructuring of the main government body responsible for natural resources in general and forestry in particular meant different levels of attention paid to the sector with its implications for staffing and continuity of programs.
A key issue that came out from a workshop that the Environmental Economics Policy Forum for Ethiopia organized was the need to inform policy makers about the importance of forests/trees in general and their role in the lives of households in particular. It was also noted by government officials that the research on forestry would be very useful if it focuses on sites within watersheds that are identified by the government for an integrated program called Sustainable Land Management (SLM) program.
There is very limited rigorous academic literature in Ethiopia that examines the role of forests and trees in household livelihoods. The issue of forests and poverty in developing countries is also a central issue in the environment and development literature.
The broad objective of this project is to examine the role of forests/trees in the livelihoods of households at varying forest management regimes. In particular, the project has the following five objectives:
- Understand the role of private trees as household assets and the determinants of tree growing behavior
- Understand household responses to fuelwood scarcity and forest degradation by examining implications for time spent for fuel collection
- Assess the link between rural poverty and dependence on forest resources and the role played by local level institutions and property right regimes on the link between the two (poverty and forest dependence)
- Estimate the value households receive from common forests
- Estimate and decompose the welfare impacts of participation in community forestry and agro-forestry programs.
We plan to collect survey and spatial data from sites to be selected from watersheds under the government’s Sustainable Land Management (SLM) program. A survey of 600 households will be conducted.
We hope that through dissemination of the results of the studies in the project and interactions through various media we will draw to the attention of Ethiopian policy makers some of the problems and policy issues relevant for the forestry and energy sectors.
Unlike most other studies dealing with similar issues we will also combine household survey data with spatial data on trees and forests. This would therefore be a contribution to the empirical literature. The data collected will be the basis for two PhD theses and most of the papers to be written as part of this project will be parts of these theses.