Adaptive management of communal grazing land in Amahara region, Ethiopia

Ethiopia has seen substantial political changes in the last 40 years: The fall of the imperial regime in 1974 was followed by a Marxist regime, which was overthrown in 1991 and the governments since then have followed a marked-oriented approach. The central research question is how the institutions governing access to – and the use of – communal grazing land were adapted in the course of these 40 years. What mechanisms allowed for adaptation of the rules and norms guiding the use of communal grazing land? How did the community manage to be responsive to the changes both within the community (e.g. demographic change, resettlement programmes) and outside the community (e.g. policy, markets, drought) In other words: what allowed some communities to strengthen both their shock resilience and their adaptive resilience? Particular attention will be put on understanding how gender issues influenced the adaptation process.

The central research question in this doctoral thesis is how the institutions governing access to – and the use of – communal grazing land were adapted in the course of the 40 years. What mechanisms allowed for adaptation of the rules and norms guiding the use of communal grazing land? How did the community manage to be responsive to the changes both within the community (e.g. demographic change, resettlement programmes) and outside the community (e.g. policy, markets, drought) In other words: what allowed some communities to strengthen both their shock resilience and their adaptive resilience?

An aspect that will receive particular attention in this research is how gender issues influenced the adaptation process. Indeed, a dynamic perspective shows that gendered roles and rights are shaped by as well as shape governance regimes. On the one hand Amhara women tend to have lower endowments (right of ownership) and lower entitlements (actual access), which can increase the vulnerability of women’s livelihoods. On the other hand the recognition of the vulnerability of women’s livelihood (e.g. after a drought or civil war) may shape the management regime by triggering community and policy initiatives.

Therefore the goal of the research is to select a case-study community which currently manages their communal grassland sustainably, and to understand how the co-management regime has evolved in response to various shocks and pressures in the last 40 years, putting special emphasis on how this adaptation process has been shaped by evolving gender roles.

Expected output: The insights derived from past adaptations may help in understanding how institutions need to be structured to allow adaptations to a wide variety of future challenges (e.g. climate change, demographic growth, changing diets, new lifestyles and consumer expectations). Similarly, investigating how current institutions are gendered, and how the differential treatment of men and women hinder or strengthen the resilience of the co-management of the communal grazing land helps to devise strategies to enhance gender equality by highlighting its benefits for the sustainable use of natural resources.

The results of this doctoral research project should thus contribute to identify levers that communities can use to respond to change and to reorganize, while taking into account the new opportunities and constraints. Moreover it should generate insights on how gender disparities can affect the resilience of social ecological system.

Project duration: Oct. 2011 - Oct. 2014

Publications and presentations

Aregu, L., I. Darnhofer, A. Tegegne, D. Hoeckstra, M. Wurzinger (2016). The impact of gender blindness in social-ecological resilience: the case of a communal pasture in the highlands of Ethiopia. Ambio 45(Suppl. 3): S287-S296.

Aregu, L. and I. Darnhofer (2015). Enhancing social-ecological resilience through social learning: A case study of communal pasture management in the Highlands of Ethiopia. African Journal of Agricultural Research 10(51): 4681-4698.

Aregu, L. (2014). Resilience of communal grasslands in the Ethiopian highlands: Integrating gender and social learning. Presentation during the defense, held 22 Oct. 2014 in Vienna.

Aregu, L. (2014). Resilience of communal grasslands in the Ethiopian highlands: Integrating gender and social learning. Doctoral thesis submitted at the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna (Austria).

Aregu, L., I. Darnhofer and M. Wurzinger (2014). Climate-resilient pasture management in the Ethiopian highlands. In: T. Kohler, A. Wehrli and M. Jurek (Eds.). Mountains and climate change: A global concern. Bern: Centre for Development and Environment, pp. 85-87.

Aregu, L., Darnhofer, I., and Wurzinger, M. (2013). Does excluding women undermine the resilience of communal grazing land? A case study in Amhara region, Ethiopia. Paper presented at the 25th Congress of the European Society for Rural Sociology (ESRS), held 29 July - 1 August 2013 in Florence (Italy). (slides)

Aregu, L, Darnhofer I. and Wurzinger, M. (2012). Gender silence in social-ecological resilience. Working Paper.

Aregu, L. (2012). Shocks and stresses challenged the resilience of the communal grazing land in Amhara region, Ethiopia. Presented in the framework of the 'International dialogue on global growing', organised byICEP and ICU, held 3-4 July 2012 in Brussels (Belgium).

Aregu, L. (2012). Resilience-based natural resource management in Ethiopia: Towards a sustainable and gender-balanced communal grazing land management in Bure, Amhara region. Presentation of preliminary findings in the framework of a reflection meeting organised by the Project 'Improving Productivity and Market Success' (IPMS), held on 25 January 2012 at ILRI, Addis Abeba (Ethiopia)

Aregu, L. and I. Darnhofer (2011). Strengthening the resilience of institutions governing communal grazing land in Ethiopia. Presentation at the Vienna Workshop on Sustainable Development, held at the Vienna University of Economics and Business, 24-26 Nov. 2011.