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Presented by Jean-Yves Duriaux at the 54th Annual Meeting of the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation (ATBC) in Mérida, Yucatán (Mexico) on July 11, 2017. This presentation was part of the Agrarian Change Project Symposium: The impacts of agrarian change on local communities: Sharing experience from the field.
SUMMARY: Deforestation may have a number of negative effects on rural livelihoods, however rural households do not passively sustain these situation but actively respond, as shown by several examples of farmers led reforestation. Our goal is to understand the outcomes for rural livelihoods of different deforestation trends and land use patterns and to explore the households’ responses. Three sites decreasing in their tree cover, access to forest and increasing in their cropland proportion, but otherwise with almost identical conditions were selected in Southern Ethiopia. A mix of methods were used between September 2014 and September 2015: remote sensing, tree counting, household surveys, participatory rural appraisal and focus group discussions. A change from forest and grassland to cropland resulted in improved food security and income but led to a reduction of construction materials, fuelwood and livestock numbers across all sites. As a household’s response to the scarcity of these products, reforestation occurred in all zones at different times: first in the intermediate zone -high tree cover, no access to forest-, then in the zone most distant to the forest -most deforested-, and finally closest to the forest -highest tree cover-. Reforestation occurred through Eucalyptus establishment and natural regeneration –based on inhabitants’ decisions- . Homestead establishment and proximity to the homestead were found to promote reforestation and perennial land uses: tree cover, woodlots, grasslands and false banana –Enset - plantations. Currently, livestock ownership and its equality increased with decreasing cropland specialization and decreasing distance to forest; with implications observed in wealth indicators. Livestock and trees were mentioned as assets that reduce vulnerability and support poorer households. We conclude that farmer led reforestation occurred as an active response to recover diminished ecosystem services, and that although crop specialization originally improved food security and income, it later promoted inequalities, vulnerability and reduced wealth; oppositely a higher proportion of perennial land uses within the agricultural matrix and access to forest could help to reduce these problems.