Conference name, dates, place

International Conference on Development Studies in Ethiopia, July 11-12, 2003, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Document Type


Presentation Date



Despite the efforts made to develop Ethiopian agriculture over the years, the problems of hunger, famine, and malnutrition and land degradation still linger and present the greatest threat to the survival of the nation. With the new thrust to produce more food using high input and single crop farming, today’s farmers grow only one or two crops in monoculture systems. The traditional diversification of farmlands, which arguably has been the source of sustenance in rural Ethiopia since time immemorial, has largely been abandoned. Furthermore, deforestation, accelerated soil erosion, and land degradation are now serious problems in Ethiopia. As a result crop and livestock yields are generally very low and the recent drought has aggravated the situation. The land use system is associated with the decrease in the size of holdings both for arable and grazing lands. Thus there is a continued trend toward the conversion of forested and marginal lands to agricultural lands, resulting in massive environmental degradation and a serious threat to sustainable agriculture and forestry.

While agroforestry should not be taken as a panacea for land-use problems in Ethiopia, it may be considered as a potential alternative to some of the wasteful land-use practices in the country. Agroforestry is a dynamic, ecologically based, natural resources management system that, through integration of trees on farms and agricultural landscapes, diversifies and sustains production for increased social, economic, and environmental benefits for land users at all levels (World Agroforestry Center 2003). In this paper we will present different agroforestry practices and their potential, as well as research needs on the Ethiopian Highlands based on a Diagnostic and Design survey conducted by ICRAF and the Technical Committee for Agroforestry in Ethiopia in 1990. The second part of the paper will present a case study on rural tree planting on farm and community lands in the Alemaya Basin, Hararghe Highlands, Ethiopia. This study was conducted by the Alemaya University of Agriculture in the 1980s and was funded by FAO. If properly practiced and managed, these agroforestry and community forestry programs can serve as a means to alleviate problems of soil erosion and land degradation. They can also provide food, fuelwood, and fodder for the farm family. Agroforestry can be viewed as a strategy to overcome the lack of success in past tree planting by providing opportunities for both food and tree production on the same unit of land, thus reducing competition for this scarce resource. Agroforestry can also serve as a model for sustainable agriculture and forestry practices.