HomeEducationDoctorate (PhD & EngD)For current candidatesPhD infoUpcoming public defencesPhD Defence Nesru Koroso | Urban land use efficiency in Ethiopia - A remote sensing and land policy based analysis

PhD Defence Nesru Koroso | Urban land use efficiency in Ethiopia - A remote sensing and land policy based analysis

Urban land use efficiency in Ethiopia - A remote sensing and land policy based analysis

The PhD defence of Nesru Koroso will take place (partly) online and can be followed by a live stream.
Live stream

Nesru Koroso is a PhD student in the department of Urban and Regional Planning and Geo-Information Management. Supervisor is prof.mr.dr.ir. J.A. Zevenbergen and co-supervisor is dr. M.N. Lengoiboni from the faculty of Geo-Information Science and Earth Observation.

Developing countries, including Ethiopia, are experiencing rapid urbanisation, leading to massive growth and expansion of cities. Rapid urbanisation has implications for both the built environment and peri-urban areas. In built-up areas, for example, it affects the supply of urban land and housing, and urban infrastructure. Also, it affects agricultural land and biodiversity in peri-urban areas. Uncontrolled rapid urbanisation undermines efforts to ensure sustainable urbanisation. Sustainable urbanisation is indispensable for sustainable resource use, economic development and urban services, and to address various problems associated with urbanisation. One way of achieving sustainable urbanisation is by promoting compact urbanisation. An important part of achieving compact urbanisation is ensuring the efficient use of urban land. This can be achieved if there is an appropriate or conducive institutional environment. There is evidence that several developing countries lack urban land use policies that are essential for sustainable urban land use and/or an effective institutional environment for achieving them.

In order to know whether a city/country is on the path of sustainable urbanisation, it is imperative to understand how urban land is used and the factors that influence it. The aim of this study was to investigate the mode of urban land use in Ethiopia. In doing so, we examined the role that urban land policy has played in ensuring or undermining sustainable urban land use in the country. In relation to this, we assessed the limitations of the current land policy instruments. We also examined the role of the overall institutional environment in a country in determining the outcomes of land policy or institutions.

This study is based on quantitative and qualitative data, mainly remote sensing and secondary data. The efficiency of the urban land use of 17 cities was examined mainly through the analysis of remote sensing data (Landsat 7/8 and Google Earth Pro). Spatiotemporal changes in land use of the cities were calculated using ArcGIS. Furthermore, the suitability and effectiveness of the institutional environment in the country were assessed based on the conceptual framework (Institutional Analysis and Development-IAD) developed by Ostrom and Ho’s institutional credibility thesis. In addition, in order to investigate the interdependence between land and political-legal institutions, data from the Property Rights Alliance, Transparency International and Freedom House were consulted. For a detailed analysis, ten of the 125 countries surveyed by the Property Rights Alliance were selected using systematic sampling.

In Ethiopia, the findings revealed that in the cities studied, urban land use efficiency (ULUE) is low. Land hoarding and underutilisation of land are widespread. The density of built-up land is low in all cities, although there are minor differences. A comparison of residential and industrial land revealed that in several cities, the efficiency of land use by residential areas is better than the efficiency of land use by industrial areas. A low ULUE seems to be the main factor behind the persistent outward expansion and unrestrained urban sprawl. What has been a common practice in the cities is the conversion of agricultural land to urban land use before efficiently and exhaustively using land existing within the already built-up environment. This has undermined efforts to achieve sustainable urbanisation. Unless the current approach to urban land use is revised and addressed, ULUE and its sustainability are jeopardized.

The quality of land policy, primarily its effectiveness, plays an important role in improving or undermining urban land use. The findings showed that land policy in Ethiopia falls short of ensuring the proper use of urban land. Gaps in land policy formulation and implementation have led to large-scale land hoarding, urban sprawl and informal settlement, which are the main reasons for low urban land use efficiency in the study areas. Where effective land institutions are missing, the study discovered that urban land utilization could be severely compromised. This can undermine institutional credibility and also lead to the creation of empty institutions.

Furthermore, the findings of this study revealed that land institutions are not stand-alone institutions. There is a positive correlation between the effectiveness of land institutions and the quality of complementary institutions, specifically political and legal institutions. That means the performance of land institutions depends on the overall institutional environment of a country. In the absence of dependable politico-legal institutions in a country, it is unlikely to have well-functioning land institutions. The study showed that land institutions, even after land policy reforms, might not guarantee success under circumstances where the overall institutional environment is weak.

This study has contributed to the gaps in literature regarding urban land use efficiency in Ethiopia. It has also shed light on critical urban land use issues that are indispensable for sustainable urbanisation. This study has highlighted the need for effective and sustainable urban land use policies to address land use efficiency challenges. If there is no institutional basis that allows for a reasonable degree of enforcement, simple policy prescriptions might lead to dysfunctional institutions. It is therefore imperative to adopt institutions adapted to the social, political and legal institutional environment of a country. In this sense, the reform of land institutions is essential for the proper use of urban land. But this is not enough. A reliable politico-legal institutional environment is crucial if land institutions are to deliver the intended results.

The findings of this study provide data, information and knowledge that could help policymakers in Ethiopia to address uncontrolled urban expansion, by focusing on the efficient use of urban land for sustainable urbanisation. Moreover, it may be relevant for countries with similar land tenure systems as Ethiopia, or for countries with similar urbanisation patterns.

This research has some limitations that could be taken up in future studies. For example, this study did not examine the reasons behind low ULUE and institutional quality gaps at the city level. Although all cities showed low ULUE, there are some differences between the cities. Why this is the case needs to be examined in detail. Moreover, Ethiopia is one of the few countries where urban land is state-owned. Therefore, it is imperative to investigate whether state-land ownership correlates with the low ULUE in a country.