Article

Crop Cultivation at Wartime – Plight and Resilience of Tigray’s Agrarian Society (North Ethiopia)

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Abstract

During the 2021 conflict in Tigray (north Ethiopia) crop cultivation has been hampered by warfare. Oxen have been looted and killed, farm inputs and tools destroyed by Ethiopian and Eritrean soldiers. Farmers felt vulnerable out in the open with their oxen. To produce, farmers evaluated risks involved with ploughing and organised lookouts. Overall, a large part of the land had been tilled in difficult conditions, and crops sown that require minimal management, without fertiliser, what led to low yields. True Colour Composite images, produced from Sentinel satellite imagery show that smallholder irrigation schemes were operational. There was a shift from commercial crops to cereals. The situation in western Tigray was particular, as there has been ethnic cleansing of the population and often the 2020 rainfed crops had even not been harvested. Overall, our findings show that the Tigrayan smallholder farming system is resilient, thanks to community self-organisation, combining common strategies of agrarian societies in wartime: spatio-temporal shift in agricultural activities to avoid the proximity with soldiers and shifts in crop types. Rather unique is the relying on communal aid, while the blockade of the Tigray region made that outmigration and off-farm income were no options for the farmers.

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This article will consider the Nazi Hunger Plan as an instrument of annihilation and tool of war, its retrospective reliance on the American example of resettlement of indigenous peoples, and how these policies prefigured the use of starvation against the people of Yemen by Saudi Arabia, aided and abetted by US and British foreign policy. It is part of a growing literature on state-induced famines.
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Flood‐based farming is a means of improving crop production in rain‐deficit lowlands. Such spate irrigation systems are growing in importance, although the effects of headwater hydrological deficit on downstream flood farming are lacking evidence. This study investigates the impacts of headwater hydrological deficit on the extent of spate‐irrigated agriculture in the Guguf spate system. The length of canals and area of spate‐irrigated agriculture to the right and left of the Guguf River for the 1980s and 2010s were tracked using a global positioning system and mapped in a geographic information system interface, while climate data were collected from National Meteorological Agency. Trends of selected hydroclimatic variables were analysed using linear regression and the Pettitt test. The flash floods have shrunk by 7.36 × 10^6 m^3, as a result of which the length of canals and area of spate‐based farms declined by 1.37 km and 1540 ha, i.e. 35 and 57.5%, respectively, in only three decades. This corresponds to an average withdrawal of −44.0 ha yr‾¹. A single 1 million m3 decline in flash floods caused a 366.4 ha decline in spate‐based farms. Moreover, farm fields located next to the river course are less affected, compared to those at the tail of the scheme. If the current trend continues, there is a high risk that the remaining farms currently receiving floods may find themselves outside of the spate systems. Therefore, we suggest that flood management technologies are needed to optimize the efficiency of soil moisture in the spate system. © 2020 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Article
In many developing countries, subsistence agriculture is the mainstay of the rural economy, improved land access and efficient land use are critical to short-term livelihoods and long-term economic transformation, and major shocks to land ownership, utilization and arrangements have far-reaching implications for farm families. In many such countries, armed conflict is emerging as a significant source of shock to agricultural and food systems, but its effects on land use are not well understood. This paper conceptualizes and estimates the causal effects of exposure to attacks on plot ownership, cultivated land, rented land, land values and cropping patterns while controlling for other factors. Using data on Nigerian agricultural households affected by Boko Haram, we find that an increase in the intensity of terrorist attacks results in an increase in the amount of land owned due to the abandonment of farms by neighbors and family members, increases the percentage of land left fallow, increases the average size of plots farmed, increases the average distance between plots farmed and the homestead, discourages mono cropping and encourages mixed cropping. Farmers’ expectations about the values of their lands also decrease with exposure to terrorism.
Chapter
The people of Tembien (Tembienot in Tigrinya) have a long and colourful history of their own; it allowed the Tembien princedom, deeply enrooted in an old culture of heroism of peasant warriors, to grow into a unique territory.
Chapter
Settled agriculture in Tigray started at least 3000 years ago. Its long history is reflected in the high agricultural biodiversity, including endemic crops, such as the emblematic cereal tef (Eragrostis tef).
Article
Development of a clear understanding of the relationship between the availability of dam-driven irrigation water and crop revenue is important in poverty reduction and food security process. As a result, large research efforts are devoted to understanding the relationship between the availability of irrigation water and crop revenue. However, earlier studies do have several limitations. For example, without considering its indirect effect, prior studies focused solely on the direct effect of availability of irrigation water on crop revue. In this study, using a structural equation model analysis, the direct and indirect effect of availability of dam-driven irrigation water on crop revenue is decomposed and quantified specifically for the Koga irrigation scheme, located in the Mecha district of Amhara region in Ethiopia. A primary data set was collected from a randomly selected sample of 450 households in the Koga irrigation scheme. More than half of the households (254) are supported by the Koga Dam irrigation water during the dry season, and the other 196 households depended only on rainfall. The results of the study showed that, in addition to its direct effect, the availability of irrigation water indirectly affected crop revenue through receptivity of the farmers to use modern farm inputs. Around 27 percent of the total effect of dam-driven irrigation water on crop revenue was mediated by farmers' receptivity to use yield-enhancing modern farm inputs. The results of this study suggested that the availability of irrigation water is essential to improve both crop revenue and receptivity of the farmers to use modern farm inputs. This finding also drives a strategic framework that the receptivity of the farmers to use modern farm inputs is crucial for utilizing the positive effects of irrigation water availability on crop revenue.
Article
We investigate the effects of conflict on agriculture using the Boko Haram insurgency as a case study. We identify the output, input, infrastructure and human capital effects as direct effects and the loss of talent and other environmental factors as indirect effects. Identified market effects include effects on product and input prices, and increased risk premiums. By combining a nationally representative panel dataset on Nigerian agriculture with armed conflict data, we find that the increased intensity of Boko Haram attacks significantly reduces total output and productivity, but not land use, and reduces the outputs of specific staple crops such as sorghum, cassava, soya and yam. Conflict is also found to reduce the hours of hired labor for men and women, but does not affect the use of family labor. Agricultural wages are, however, significantly affected. Because it reveals if, why and how conflict affects agriculture, this study has important implications for post-crisis recovery and agricultural development.
Chapter
All over Dogu’a Tembien, farmlands appear to be terraced, though there is no evidence of large-scale manual or mechanical levelling of the land, not now and not in the past. Like in many cultural landscapes, such so-called progressive terraces are due to the interaction between plot boundaries and tillage but in north Ethiopia, the process is enhanced by soil conservation activities in farmland. The chapter starts with an investigation of the ard plough or mahrasha because this is the tool that does the soil translocation work.
Chapter
A highly seasonal and erratic rainfall pattern (Chapter 3) seems to provoke general water scarcity in Dogu’a Tembien for eight months a year. This chapter shortly describes the hydrogeological context and hydrodynamics of actual surface and groundwater flow of the mountain catchments around Hagere Selam. Further, some positive effects of water harvesting techniques on the water availability are shown.
Article
https://journals.openedition.org/geomorphologie/12258 In Northern Tigray (Ethiopia), contemporaneous agriculture is based on soils stored and developed on terraces, upstream of dry-stone walls crossing the thalwegs of this mountainous area. The discovery, during archaeological surveys, of aksumite and pre-aksumite settlements on the site of Wakarida and its surroundings, questions the age of such terraces landscapes. Comparing with ancient terraces from all over the world, dating from the 3rd millennium BCE, as well as with the functioning of contemporaneous structures maintaining soils and forming thick accumulations, raises the question of the age of those constructions and of their role in the sedimentary filling of the valleys. Sedimentological study and dating of deposits, consultation of iconographic and textual archives, of ancient aerial photographs and conducting of ethnogeomorphological interviews with farmers have formed the basis for first hypotheses regarding the evolutions of the landscape and the environment since the Mid-Holocene. Results tend to show that terraces are recent and develop on inherited sedimentary fillings. These ones testify from changes in the human occupation in the area, from a light footprint to a strong demographic pressure during Aksumite times, followed by an abandonment phase and very recent reoccupation.
Article
Despite public awareness of unintended impacts (1980s) and well-developed international standards (2000s), downstream impacts of large hydropower projects still very often are not properly assessed. Impacts of (hydropower-regulated) interbasin water transfers (IBWTs) are considered self-evidently positive, although they can have far-reaching consequences for hydrogeomorphological systems and consequently river-dependent communities. In this study, the downstream direct and indirect impacts of the Ethiopian hydropower-regulated Tana-Beles IBWT are evaluated in an interdisciplinary way. The components of the framework of rural livelihoods are considered and changing contexts, resources’ availabilities and livelihood strategies are analysed. Mixed methods are applied, combining hydrogeomorphological field observations, GIS analyses, scientific literature, policy documents, and semi-structured interviews with local people and local to federal authorities. Results show that the IBWT drastically increased the Beles river’s discharge (with an average release of + 92 m³ s-1 at the outlet; *2 in rainy season and *12 in dry season 100 km downstream of the water release) and introduced dangerous situations for local communities (over 250 people drowned in the river). River bank erosion resulted in the uncompensated loss of farmland (163 ha) and the establishment of largescale commercial farms increased the pressure on land and led to the impoverishment of displaced communities (4310 households). The project was implemented top-down, without any transparency, benefit sharing or compensation for external costs. This stresses the importance of downstream interdisciplinary impact assessments and highlights the need for decent in-depth ex post-analyses of hydropower projects. Environmental impact assessments should be taken seriously and cannot be considered a formality. In Ethiopia and in many developing countries, the hydropower industry is booming. Although dams and IBWTs can be the best solution for water-related problems in specific contexts, national development goals (such as the expansion of the electricity network) should not be at the expense of rural livelihoods.
Article
Crop monitoring information is essential for food security and to improve our understanding of the role of agriculture on climate change, among others. Remotely sensing optical and radar data can help to map crop types and to estimate biophysical parameters, especially with the availability of an unprecedented amount of free Sentinel data within the Copernicus programme. These datasets, whose continuity is guaranteed up to decades, offer a unique opportunity to monitor crops systematically every 5 to 10 days. Before developing operational monitoring methods, it is important to understand the temporal variations of the remote sensing signal of different crop types in a given region. In this study, we analyse the temporal trajectory of remote sensing data for a variety of winter and summer crops that are widely cultivated in the world (wheat, rapeseed, maize, soybean and sunflower). The test region is in southwest France, where Sentinel-1 data have been acquired since 2014. Because Sentinel-2 data were not available for this study, optical satellites similar to Sentinel-2 are used, mainly to derive NDVI, for a comparison between the temporal behaviors with radar data. The SAR backscatter and NDVI temporal profiles of fields with varied management practices and environmental conditions are interpreted physically. Key findings from this analysis, leading to possible applications of Sentinel-1 data, with or without the conjunction of Sentinel-2, are then described. This study points out the interest of SAR data and particularly the VH/VV ratio, which is poorly documented in previous studies.
Article
Unsustainable land use management and the resulting soil erosion are among the most pervasive problems in rural Ethiopia, where most of the country’s people live, jeopardizing food security. Despite various efforts to introduce soil conservation measures and assess their costs and benefits, it is unclear how efficient these measures are from an economic point of view in securing food production. This paper examines the costs and benefits of three soil conservation measures applied in the country in three different rural districts facing different degrees of soil erosion problems using survey data collected from 750 farm households. A production function is estimated to quantify the costs and benefits of more sustainable land use management practices. We show that the soil conservation measures significantly increase productivity and hence food security. Comparing the costs and benefits, the results indicate that implementing soil conservation measures would benefit farm communities in the case study areas through increased grain productivity and food security.
Article
Civil wars have become common and widespread, particularly in Africa. Civil war negatively affects rural livelihoods and contributes to increased vulnerability. Yet, there is limited understanding of how people survive in such circumstances. This article attempts to offer a nuanced understanding of the level of resilience and vulnerability during Sudan's civil war in the 1990s. The main thesis of this article is that households exposed to prolonged conflict undertake livelihood strategies that are effective under certain conditions and less effective in other settings. The households exposed to exogenous counter-insurgency warfare are found to be more resilient than those exposed to endogenous counter-insurgency warfare. Also, a negative relationship between wealth and vulnerability is found in the context of exogenous counter-insurgency warfare, while a positive relationship between wealth and vulnerability is observed in the context of endogenous counter-insurgency warfare, with the non-poor becoming more vulnerable than the poor. The findings of this paper may have some value for informing policy decisions and practical humanitarian approaches during civil war.
Article
Mendae Plain at Abraha Atsbaha (Tigray Region, northern Ethiopia) is an agricultural area, which has been very drought-prone in the past. In the last decade, agricultural development has boosted, due to the intensive use of large diameter wells that tap the phreatic aquifer. Pumped water is used for irrigation during the long dry season (October to May). Since 15 years, water harvesting measures have been implemented, mainly in the form of infiltration ponds and trenches that enhance local infiltration of rainfall runoff from hillslopes. To investigate the sustainability of the groundwater exploitation and the efficiency of the measures, the different recharge and discharge components of the water balance of data-scarce Mendae plain have been identified and quantified, using different methods. Diffuse aquifer recharge is calculated from a soil moisture balance based on meteorological data, and with the chloride mass balance method, based on groundwater analyses. Diffuse recharge is much higher on cultivated land plots than on non-cultivated bare soils. Rainfall infiltration in ponds and trenches is estimated based on the inflow catchment derived from the topography. Groundwater flow to a nearby river is obtained by balancing in- and outflow by the other components over an 11 year period. The balance components are integrated into a lumped parameter model that was run for the period from 2000 to 2010. The results show that infiltration in ponds and trenches contributes between 30 and nearly 50% of total aquifer recharge, with the highest values in dry years. Changes in aquifer storage over time are an indicator for the evolution of groundwater levels in the aquifer and confirm the occurrence of two dry periods in 2002-2005 and 2008-2009. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
Article
This article discusses the hybridism of the Ethiopian developmental state through an analysis of the local interface between the state and the peasantry. The aim is to explore to what extent bureaucratic rationality both conditions and perverts the procedures employed in the implementation of public rural development policies, in this case agricultural extension. And to what extent development policies can operate as an instrument of power that reinforces the local disempowerment of the most vulnerable peasants. The article makes a detailed analysis of the machinery of agricultural extension, the local conditions of distribution and reception of fertiliser and improved seeds in rural Ethiopia.