Sutcliffe, James Peter, Wood, Adrian P. and Meaton, Julia (2012) Competitive forests – making forests sustainable in south-west Ethiopia. International Journal of Sustainable Development & World Ecology, 19 (6). pp. 471-481. ISSN 1350-4509

The forests of south-west Ethiopia are declining and degrading largely because of the demand for agricultural land. This loss has significant global, national and local implications. This paper presents data on the economic revenues from various land uses and endeavours in the Cloud Forest and Coffee Forest, which facilitates understanding of the rationale behind the livelihood and land use choices made by individuals and communities. These choices are driven by the need to maximise economic benefits from the options available. In the Cloud Forest, the focus is on forest clearance so that smallholder agriculture production can expand. In the Coffee Forest, the increasing economic returns from small-scale coffee harvesting have meant that forest clearance has been halted, but the remaining forest is altered as a result of coffee cultivation. This paper identifies interventions that could increase the value of forest-based activities and products so that livelihood choices are more supportive of forest maintenance. It concludes that there is a need to maximise non-timber forest product revenue, alongside the development of other forest products, including wood and carbon, to make the forests competitive compared to agricultural land use. This exploitation of forest resources will not preserve these forests in pristine condition, but is a pragmatic response which could ensure that they continue to provide the majority of the economic, social and environmental services currently provided. However, to achieve this, major institutional and policy changes are required, as well as a significant investment in forest enterprise development and training and carbon funding through REDD+.

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