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Balancing Ecosystem Services and Disservices: Smallholder Farmers’ Use and Management of Forest and Trees in an Agricultural Landscape in Southwestern Ethiopia

Tola Gemechu Ango, Department of Human Geography, Stockholm University
Lowe Börjeson, Department of Human Geography, Stockholm University
Feyera Senbeta, Center for Environment and Development Studies, College of Development Studies, Addis Ababa University
Kristoffer Hylander, Department of Ecology, Environment and Plant Sciences, Stockholm University

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5751/ES-06279-190130

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Abstract

Farmers’ practices in the management of agricultural landscapes influence biodiversity with implications for livelihoods, ecosystem service provision, and biodiversity conservation. In this study, we examined how smallholding farmers in an agriculture-forest mosaic landscape in southwestern Ethiopia manage trees and forests with regard to a few selected ecosystem services and disservices that they highlighted as “beneficial” or “problematic.” Qualitative and quantitative data were collected from six villages, located both near and far from forest, using participatory field mapping and semistructured interviews, tree species inventory, focus group discussions, and observation. The study showed that farmers’ management practices, i.e., the planting of trees on field boundaries amid their removal from inside arable fields, preservation of trees in semimanaged forest coffee, maintenance of patches of shade coffee fields in the agricultural landscape, and establishment of woodlots with exotic trees result in a restructuring of the forest-agriculture mosaic. In addition, the strategies farmers employed to mitigate crop damage by wild mammals such as baboons and bush pigs, e.g., migration and allocation of migrants on lands along forests, have contributed to a reduction in forest and tree cover in the agricultural landscape. Because farmers’ management practices were overall geared toward mitigating the negative impact of disservices and to augment positive services, we conclude that it is important to operationalize ecosystem processes as both services and disservices in studies related to agricultural landscapes.

Key words

agricultural landscape; biodiversity; ecosystem services and disservices; Ethiopia; farmer practices; forest; Gera; trees
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Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087