Zewdie, Yihenew (2002) Access to forest resources and forest-based livelihoods in highland Kafa, Ethiopia : a resource management perspective. Doctoral thesis, University of Huddersfield.

Ethiopia's forest resource base, which is mostly found in the southwestern highlands,
supports a multitude of agricultural production systems. However, similar to the trend in other
parts of the developing world, deforestation has taken a heavy toll in this part of Ethiopia.
Cognisant of this, recently policies and strategies have been devised that emphasise the
need for citizens' participation in natural forest management. Yet, in Ethiopia there is little
field-based analytical literature that throws light on the stake that villagers have in forest
resources and the workings of local level forest access channels.

Against this backdrop, the research examines state-community and intra-community
relationships in the course of accessing forest resources under governments of widely
differing political persuasions, and investigates the current importance of forests to the local
household economy. This is achieved through a case study of six forest communities in a
rural district of highland Kafa, southwest Ethiopia. The study employs a time line approach to
trace the evolution of state-community interactions in the provision and administration of
forest tenure at the local level. To this end, the research has examined the political history of
Kafa and the land management policies of successive Ethiopian governments that had a
bearing on local forest access and use. The broader themes of the research are informed by
the literature on natural resource tenure establishment and household level forest use in
agrarian systems and the discourse on management regimes in common pool resources.

The research has established that throughout much of Kafa's history forests were accessed
through customary tenure principles. However, following Kafa's incorporation into the
Ethiopian State the central government became an important organ of forest allocation, and
this situation favoured outsiders and local notables in acquiring private forest rights. The
1975 Land Reform decree extinguished all such claims, bestowed the State with exclusive
land ownership rights, and created grassroots Peasant Associations (PAs) with a wide range
of land administration roles. The PAs in some localities allocated village forests to rural
households. Crucially, though, the State used its land ownership prerogatives to impose a
range of measures that went contrary to the forest access interests of the local people.

Formal state tenure notwithstanding, traditional principles and channels of forest access such
as territoriality, patrilineal descent, and share cropping continue to play critical roles in the
local tenure scene. These locally tailored mechanisms also command the protection and
enforcement to which other formally recognised forest access channels have been accorded.
The factors that permitted the co-existence of formal and informal means of access have also
called for the involvement of traditional community-based organisations (CBOs) alongside
state sponsored ones in the mediation of local access provision and dispute settlement.

The empirical analysis underscores that local people stake forest resources with the view to
producing forest goods, which are found to be important livelihood resources. Forest
dependency, however, reflects the socio-economic differentiation existing in the study
communities. The operational implications which the research draws are based primarily on
the observed high degree of dependence of local people on the forest for their livelihoods and
the communal ethos that characterise forest access provision and tenure enforcement.

Finally, the influence of past patterns of access principles on the current situation; the
divergent outcomes of the forest use process; and the local importance of forest goods has
enabled the research to identify issues that would enrich the discourse on common property
theory. These centre on the relevance of 'stewardship' in the study of resource access; the
utility of examining inter-CBO interactions in the analysis of CPR access and management;
the need to look beyond the 'tragedyTcomedy' dichotomy in the conceptualisation of resource
management outcomes; and the desirability of re-orienting the discourse on CPR analysis
towards development ideals contained in the notion of'the sustainable community'.

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