Land-use changes in the enset-based agroforestry systems of Sidama, southern Ethiopia, and its implications for agricultural sustainability
The enset-based agroforestry systems of Southern Ethiopia provide millions of households with a variety and continued production of food and other products. These systems exist in the tropical highland (Woyna dega) zones at altitudes of 1500-2300 m.a.s.l., where enset is grown in an intimate integration with coffee, vegetables, fruits, root and tuber crops, cereals and different types of trees. The study was conducted in the Enset-based agroforestry systems of Sidama administrative zone where 22% of enset in the country is produced. Here, enset covers about 26% of the total farm area and it serves as a staple food for millions of people. The systems combine production with environmental protection, and hence contribute to food security and long term wellbeing of the population. The stability of this system depends both on its diversity and on the specific characteristics of the two main native and perennial crops, enset and coffee. However, the composition and diversity of the enset-based agroforestry systems is changing in recent years as farmers respond to emerging challenges and opportunities. Increasing fragmentation of land and improvement in market access is leading to expansion of monoculture food crops, mainly maize and cash crop, khat. These crops are expanding at the expense of enset and coffee. Since enset is the most productive crop per unit area of land and time, the decrease in cultivation area of enset is likely to affect food security situation in the area. Moreover, the age structure of enset plantations show that the vast majority of farms have very small proportion of mature and harvestable enset plants. This aggravates the food shortage and forces farmers to shift to cultivation of annual crops such as maize to respond to the family’s immediate food demand. This paper attempts to reveal that the future of these systems lies in the maintenance of enset as a key crop, because it plays significant roles towards the economic and ecological sustainability of the systems. It also demonstrates the strategies and approaches that could be followed to reverse the declining trends in enset cultivation.
Keywords/phrases: Agricultural intensification, Enset-coffee systems, Land-use, Sidama, Tropical highlands