Indigenous Adaptation Strategies for Improving Land Degradation in Ethiopia

May 3, 2012

In spite of Ethiopia’s widespread poverty and weak capacity for resilience against climate change, one region has used indigenous adaptation strategies to combat land degradation. People in the Tigray highland region of the country have mobilized collective action to manage land degradation exacerbated by the area’s poverty, high population, and recurrent droughts. A recent paper by Tyhra Caroline Kumasi and Kwadwo Asenso-Okyere examines the use of collective action in 20 villages in 3 districts in the Tigray highland. The region’s efforts to diminish land degradation are of particular importance to researchers and policymakers because it could increase agricultural potential. The study provides a solution for addressing the persistent problem of climate change induced food insecurity in rural Ethiopia. The region’s successful use of collective action could serve as a future model for other communities facing the same environmental challenges.

People in the Tigray highland have a unique understanding of the effects of climate change; 71 percent of the population has lived in the highlands for over thirty years which motivates them to work together to safeguard their land and livelihoods. The paper assesses the contributions of this collective mobilization to conservation and agricultural development. The authors find that the Tigray community was successful in its efforts to improve the ecology due to the similarities of the community, particularly in ethnicity and religion. They also found that there were no differences in the division of labor according to gender, making the project truly communal. The use of collective action in the region serves as an important resource for increasing food security. The case of the Tigray highland region demonstrates that land degradation can be addressed through the efficient use of social networks that encourage shared responsibility for the future of the environment.