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Analysis of the free grazing abandonment programme/A case study in a village in Tigray, Ethiopia

Lutgart LENAERTS student laureate

°1982 Belgium
Bio-engineer in Land and Forest Management, 2005

Analysis of the free grazing abandonment programme/A case study in a village in Tigray, Ethiopia

Ethiopia has the largest number of livestock in Africa. The study carried out by Lutgart Lenaerts focuses on the region of the high plateaus of Tigray, where population density is high and cattle breeding is a substantial source of income for the peasant population. Since the 1980s, however, the productivity of cattle breeding has been decreasing in the area. The land has become State property and the farmers have right of usage on very fragmented plots of land. Given these conditions, they are reluctant to invest in soil and natural resources conservation technologies.
A large-scale project entitled "Free Grazing Abandonment" has been underway since 2004 under the auspices of the Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources. It aims to discourage the farmer's method of using "free access" to grazing-land resources. Overgrazing and soil degradation are, therefore, reduced, in the first instance by designating "protected" areas, which are controlled by village caretakers, and also by the reduction of free-grazing livestock, particularly during the dry season, the production of (shrub) forage and the promotion of breeding livestock in stables.
The environmental situation in the region justifies State intervention. However, Lutgart Lenaerts demonstrates that the project is proving technically inappropriate and in any case insufficiently complex to be able to accommodate all the constraints that affect the breeders' decision whether or not to accept the innovation. Furthermore, the project, because it is obligatory and authoritative, reinforces the inequalities between families in the same village by granting resources to farmers who are considered "model" farmers, while they are in fact already the most affluent.
Thanks to a remarkably executed case study involving different breeders from one village, the author explains that, given the facts, this project is a failure. The "protected" areas are not respected by the local people and when they do participate, their participation is fictitious as it is linked either to the intervention of foreign NGOs or to the hope of a per diem, food, seed, or even loyalty to the ruling party. Furthermore, the analysis of the caretakers of the "protected" areas is particularly well done and informative. It shows the ambivalence in which the project puts these people, to the extent where these farmers become a kind of police for their own brothers, in the hope of receiving a modest salary from the project organizers for this work, which they will in fact never receive.
In short, this is a remarkable case study that rests on a knowledge of zootechny, grazing management, and erosion prevention, as well as on an excellently carried out socio-anthropological analysis together with clear, lively and concise writing. A research study of a high standard, which I recommend reading.

report: Prof. P.-J. Laurent, Laboratory for Prospective Anthropology, Université Catholique de Louvain, Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium