An Empirical Analysis of Land Degradation Risk from Local Community Knowledge Perspective: The Case of Geze Gofa District, Southern Ethiopia

Tesfaye Samuel Saguye


Land degradation is increasing in severity and extent in many parts of the world. Success in arresting land degradation entails an improved understanding of its causes, process, indicators and effects. Various scientific methodologies have been employed to assess land degradation globally. However, the use of local community knowledge in elucidating the causes, process, indicators and effects of land degradation has seen little application by scientists and policy makers. Land degradation may be a physical process, but its underlying causes are firmly rooted in the socio-economic, political and cultural environment in which land users operate. Analyzing the root causes and effects of land degradation from local community knowledge, perception and adapting strategies perspective will provide information that is essential for designing and promoting sustainable land management practices. This study was conducted in Geze Gofa district; southern Ethiopia. The main objective of the study was to analyze land degradation risk from local knowledge perspective. The study followed a multistage sampling procedure to select the sample respondent households for study. The sample size of the study was 156 households. The study was conducted using semi-structured interview schedule, key informant interviews, focus group discussions and field observation as a primary data collection techniques. The data analysis for this study was conducted using both qualitative approaches (thematically) and quantitative approach- descriptive statistics, and logistic regression analyses. The results of the study reveals that the local communities’ elucidated the following indicators of land degradation in the study area: sheet, rill and gully erosions, soil accumulation around clumps of vegetation, soil deposits on gentle slopes, exposed roots, muddy water, sedimentation in streams and rivers, sandy layers, change in vegetation species, decrease in organic matter, increased runoff, reduced soil water and reduced rooting depth. The local community perceived causes related with direct human activities which were found to be influencing land degradation in the study area include: continuous cropping, overgrazing, deforestation, steep slope cultivation, extreme weather events (flood and drought) improper fertilizer use. Land shortage, poverty and high population density are the underlying causes of land degradation observed in the study area. According to the results, the consequences of land degradation experienced in the study area include; decline in crop yields, increased reduced responses to inputs, reduced productivity on irrigated land, loss of water for irrigation, lower and less reliable food supplies and increased labour requirements. The possibility of farmers’ perception of the effects of land degradation effect on agricultural land productivity from slight to severe was primarily determined by institutional and demographic factors as well as weakly by biophysical factors. The study concludes that anthropogenic factors are significantly responsible for land degradation and this degradation has negatively affected livelihood in the study area. Generally, this study recommends that decision-making about land management and land degradation should encompasses factors that may be biophysical (agro-ecological conditions, location), economic (access to credit and markets, non-farm incomes, availability of technologies), social (organizational structure, labor availability, land tenure), historical (environmental history and that of land tenure) and cultural (traditional knowledge, environmental awareness, and gender.

Keywords: Land Degradation, Local Knowledge, Farmers’ Perception, Conservation measures

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