Institute of Economic and Cultural Geography Research Research projects
Natural Resource Management, Ecosystems and Biodiversity in Afar, Ethiopia

Natural Resource Management, Ecosystems and Biodiversity in Afar, Ethiopia

Led by:  PD Dr. Matthias Schmidt
Team:  PD Dr. Matthias Schmidt, MA Olivia Pearson
Year:  2014
Funding:  Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ)
Duration:  2013 – 2014
Is Finished:  yes

The Afar Region is one of the poorest and least-developed regions of Ethiopia; more than half of its population live below the absolute poverty line. In an environment with unfavourable climatic and ecological conditions such as low and very variable precipitation with a high risk of droughts, degraded soils and scarce vegetation cover, the majority of the population follows a system of semi-nomadic livestock farming. The natural resources such as land and water are common possession of Afar clan communities and traditionally managed by them. Their well adapted and drought resilient management system is coming under increasing pressure due to population growth, climate change impacts, unfavourable policies, internal conflicts and external interventions by governmental programmes or large investors in the form of land acquisition.

While the demand for livestock products is globally increasing and because a large cattle herd represents wealth to the herder community, land for grazing is becoming scarce. Limited access rights, human population growth and increasing drought intervals force livestock grazing into ever smaller areas available as rangeland resulting in the degradation of vegetation and soils. These processes resulted in declining herds and thus threaten pastoralists´ health and food security.

Ecological degradation, economic deprivation and social exclusion of large numbers of Afar pastoralists are to be expected. There is an urgent need to find approaches and support to strengthen capacities of the local population and institutions to cope with such new challenges and risks, and to better adapt to changing conditions is a meaningful endeavour to reduce poverty and increase resilience of local livelihood systems.