Agroforestry-based Livelihoods in the Face Of Cultural and Socio-economic Dynamics in Rural Gedeo, Southern Ethiopia

Fekadu Israel Alambo


This paper analyzes the vulnerability contexts of the agroforestry-based livelihoods of smallholders in rural Gedeo, Southern Ethiopia. Being extracted from a broader study that investigated the livelihood and food security situations within the Indigenous agroforestry system of the Gedeo people, the paper sheds light on the broader cultural and socio-economic contexts in which the livelihood system under consideration operates. The study employed a mixed-methods research approach (i.e., household survey, key-informant interviews, focus group discussions, field
observations, and secondary analysis). The study revealed that the agroforestry-based livelihood of smallholders in rural Gedeo is situated on identifiable vulnerability contexts: population pressure; gradual erosion of Indigenous knowledge, social values, beliefs, norms; market influences; crop diseases; the decline of productions (mainly Enset, coffee, livestock); and seasonality of
production, price and labor markets. Being under the pressure of the aforementioned factors, this livelihood system is emerging less and less rewarding for the smallholders and transitioning in a direction that endangers the sustainability of the agroforestry system. Innovative approaches need to be designed to improve the
livelihood outcomes that the smallholders derive from this agricultural system, thereby ensuring its sustainability. However, as there is a growing resource constraint in the study area (mainly farmland), the smallholders need to be enabled to diversify their livelihoods towards off-farm and non-farm activities.

Keywords: Agroforestry system, Gedeo, livelihoods, sustainability, vulnerability

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The Journal of Rural and Community Development is supported by SSHRC.