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PhD Defence Bichaye Tesfaye Tessema | Assessing the uptake of sustainable land management programs towards improved land management, tenure security, food security, and agricultural production: Evidence from South Wello, Ethiopia

ASSESSING THE UPTAKE OF SUSTAINABLE LAND MANAGEMENT PROGRAMS TOWARDS IMPROVED LAND MANAGEMENT, TENURE SECURITY, FOOD SECURITY, AND AGRICULTURAL PRODUCTION: EVIDENCE FROM SOUTH WELLO, ETHIOPIA

The PhD defence of Bichaye Tesfaye Tessema will take place in the Waaier building of the University of Twente and can be followed by a live stream.
Live Stream

Bichaye Tesfaye Tessema is a PhD student in the departmentĀ of Urban and Regional Planning and Geo-Information Management. (Co)Promotors are prof.mr.dr.ir. J.A. Zevenbergen and dr. M.N. Lengoiboni from the faculty ITC and prof.dr. B. Simane Birhanu from the Addis Ababa University.

Northern Ethiopia is characterised by fragile mountain ecosystems highly susceptible to land degradation, impacting food security and livelihoods. Land is a precious resource in the Ethiopian highlands, where the entire agricultural system depends on a rain-fed system. The resource faces multiple interconnected environmental and socioeconomic challenges. This Research examines the complex challenges of land degradation, tenure insecurity, and food insecurity in Northern Ethiopia, specifically in Dessie Zuria and Kutaber Woredas in the South Wello Zone. Using satellite imagery analysis, surveys, and qualitative data collection, the research examines land use and land cover changes (LULCC), soil and water conservation practices (SWCPs), and their effects on agricultural productivity and food security. First, the study assesses LULCC from 2000 to 2020, mapping six key land use types: agriculture, forest, area closure, grazing, settlement, and bare land. Satellite imagery from Landsat 7 and 8, with a 30-meter spectral resolution, reveals significant changes over two decades. Agricultural land expanded from 29.68% to 35.77%, and settlement and grazing lands grew from 5.95% and 6.04% to 8.31% and 6.35%, respectively. Conversely, forest and area closure decreased significantly, indicating ongoing land degradation. Factors contributing to these shifts include population growth, unrestricted grazing, a weakening sense of ownership over protected areas, and inadequate enforcement of environmental laws. Next, the sustainability of SWCPs is analysed, highlighting the GoE's efforts to combat land degradation. Catastrophic weather, declining soil fertility, and the presence of soil and water conservation programs drive implementation. The research finds that physical conservation measures are more sustainable than biological or mixed methods, but barriers include tenure insecurity, risk of rodent infestation, and loss of ownership sense. Recommendations focus on increasing community training, amending land tenure policies, and reinforcing law enforcement to improve SWCP sustainability. The study then explores the impact of land certification on tenure security and farm productivity. Land certification strengthens tenure security, reduces land-related disputes, and motivates farmers to adopt SWCPs, increasing farm productivity. The data, drawn from 401 households and various local government sources, indicate a positive correlation between land certification and land tenure security. Finally, the dissertation examines food insecurity in the context of these environmental and socio-economic challenges. Across three food security models, many households experienced food insecurity. Identified causes include rainfall variability, crop pests, and land degradation. The research suggests various strategies to address food insecurity, such as promoting land tenure reforms, encouraging efficient land management, boosting education and climate-smart agriculture, and diversifying income sources. This dissertation provides insights into the interconnected issues of land degradation, tenure security, and food security in Northern Ethiopia. It offers practical recommendations for policy-makers, development practitioners, and other stakeholders working to enhance sustainable land management and food security in the region.