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Title: Governance of social-ecological systems in an Afromontane forest of southeast Ethiopia : exploring interactions between systems
Author: Wakjira, Dereje Tadesse
Awarding Body: University of Aberdeen
Current Institution: University of Aberdeen
Date of Award: 2013
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Adaptive governance is increasingly regarded as necessary to improve the resilience of social-ecological systems. However, empirical studies of social-ecological systems are scarce, especially in relation to multiple-use forest systems. This thesis draws on a study of an Afromontane forest in southeast Ethiopia that has been used by humans through history, and explores mechanisms of interactions between social and resource systems and their influences on the overall social-ecological system. The thesis analyses the role of local-level institutions in this social-ecological system, their changes over time, their function as channels of access to forest products for local people and their influence on the forest system resulting from people's patterns of forest use. I use an interdisciplinary approach, considering local governance institutions (Chapters 2 & 3), forest-based livelihoods (chapter 4) and forest system (Chapter 5) as components of social-ecological systems. Chapter 2 analyses institutional change over time in order to understand mechanisms by which local forest use has been coordinated in dynamic political and socio-economic contexts. Data were collected through in-depth and semi-structured interviews. The findings show that combining elements from both informal and formal institutions allowed traditional rules to persist for decades in the guise of more formal arrangements. However, large-scale governance changes constrained the adaptive capacity of local institutions by abolishing fora for collective decision-making. Chapter 3 builds on these findings. It examines the roles of elders, i.e., key actors in the communities, and the structure of their networks in order to understand mechanisms by which informal institutions were coordinated across study villages in the absence of fora for collective decision-making. Key informant in-depth interviews were used to explore the roles of elders in local governance. In addition, a questionnaire survey was conducted with elders to identify social networks. Findings suggest that prominent elders resident in different Kebeles were connected by layers of informal networks through which they exchanged opinions and knowledge. These networks were not centralised and were to some degree redundant, as the same roles were preformed by more than one elder in each community, which contributed to the persistence of informal institutions. These informal networks created a power that helped local people to undermine some of the formal rules and to continue using the forest for their livelihoods under informal governance arrangements. Chapter 4 investigates households' access to forest-based livelihoods as coordinated by informal institutions. To examine the relationships between households' endowments with assets and their use of forest products, a questionnaire survey was administered to the selected households resident in seven of the eight villages (Kebeles) bordering the Harenna forest. The results showed that 86% of households benefited from the forest directly by using one or more of the three non-timber forest products (NTFPs) considered; coffee, beekeeping and livestock grazing. Furthermore, there was no strong evidence that ownership of specific assets explained the difference between those households who used NTFPs and those who did not. However, asset-rich households tended to own larger areas of coffee land and to use multiple forest products compared to asset-poor households. In conclusion, future management approaches should be mindful of the effect that a formalisation of de facto forest use could have on widening the gap between asset-poor and asset-rich households. Chapter 5 reports the ecological legacy of different forest use practices. To assess the vegetation structure and composition of the forest under four different coffee management systems which evolved in the past 50 years, measurements of woody plants were taken from 202 nested plots. The results of the study provide an indication of how well each of the four coffee systems affects structure and composition of the forest. The study highlights the importance of adapting institutions to retain the patchy distribution of the different coffee systems in order to encourage forest dynamics at a landscape level. Together, the findings of the four studies identify the mechanisms by which interventions that specifically target either only forest ecosystems or social systems may undermine the sustainability of social-ecological systems. This emphasises the importance of autonomous local institutions to facilitate adaptive governance within broadly agreed goals, as rigid governance arrangements constrain the resilience of social-ecological systems.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: University of Aberdeen ; College of Life Sciences and Medicine
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Human ecology