A case study on Gedeo Land use (Southern Ethiopia).

Kippie Kanshie, T. (2002). Five thousand years of sustainability?: a case study on Gedeo land use (Southern Ethiopia). Wageningen, Wageningen University. Promotor(en): R.A.A. Oldeman, E.A. Goewie, P.C. Romeijn. – S.l. : S.n. – ISBN 9789058086457 – 295 pp. https://library.wur.nl/WebQuery/wurpubs/fulltext/198428.

Civitas Naturalis: “A remarkable study, pointing strongly in the direction towards not a rethinking per se but more towards accepting and remembering proven technologies in restructuring our food production, this in the light of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG 12 Sustainable consumption and production).”

Plate 5.4. An example of a mixed species uneven-aged Gedeo “agroforest” from the lowlands (Tumaata-Cirrachcha area). Note the emergent and majestic Ficus sp. MORACEAE (xillo qilxxa) tree, shading an area of about 0.2ha. Photo by the author (2000),fromtheTumaata-Cirrachchaareaabut 1680masl,alowlandzone. © Kippie Kanshie.

The idea for the present work was initiated in 1993, in the period between February and April, when I was following the MSc course Forest Ecology, delivered by Professor R.A.A. Oldeman, of the Department of Forestry, Wageningen Agricultural University. While following the course, I was pondering upon a would-be subject and almost too late when I came up with the idea of studying the age-old “agroforestry” system of the Gedeo. My supervisor, Ir. van Baren, specializing in Forest Protection, thought that the topic was not her field of expertise and recommended me to Professor R.A.A.Oldeman, who at the time was heading the Silviculture and Forest Ecology Lab.

Gedeo land use incorporates mechanisms, which, as we saw, have indeed enabled them to sustain an average 500 persons/km2 during 5000 years. The basic feature of the Gedeo design is, that yield is maintained at a constant, millenary level, below the maximum yield that could be artificially achieved.

(Kippie Kanshie, 2002, p. 126)

This book presents a case study of an ancient land-use practice that feeds over 450 people/km2 in a mountainous tropical region without terracing, tilling or agrochemical inputs. In this case study of a staple crop ensete, soil fertility and a strong performance in security of production are retained.

The author argues that food and production security are largely safeguarded by maintaining a complex, multi-rotational system with high biodiversity. The crop ensete plays a key-role as a pacemaker species. Its cultivation in different climactic zones and its processing are described.

Conclusions include: ensete, even at the present unimproved state, yields more useful biomass than any other crop plant currently promoted in Ethiopia and that ensete plays a significant role in the maintenance of the production base, deriving from its architecture which helps it to buffer against destabilising factors as well as to accompany other crops so far neglected in research.

This provides the key for sustainability of ensete land use over millennia. Ensete represents a potential solution to the recurring food crises in most parts of the erosion- and drought-prone Ethiopian highlands. Future challenges for donors and policy makers: now the yielding potential of ensete is proven, only cultural barriers remain to its development. This is the challenge to agricultural professionals and also to the international community that want to assist Ethiopia in its efforts towards food security.