Land reform and sustainable development

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The purpose of this chapter is to provide an analytical framework by explaining the sustainable livelihoods framework and farming system model from a sustainable point of view. This will form the basis to identify the variables and factors that determine sustainable use of farmlands. The chapter has five sections, which are organized in the following manner. Section 3.2 examines the sustainable livelihoods framework considered in this study. Section 3.3 examines the farming system model considered in this thesis. Section 3.4 presents the analytical framework of this study. The chapter is concluded with a summary of main arguments.

The sustainable livelihood framework

Sustainable livelihoods approaches (SLAs) were developed in the 1980s by various development agencies and organizations and have been adopted, especially since the 1990s, by many as a framework for looking at development issues and addressing poverty (DFID 2001; Messer & Townsley 2003; Thomson 2000). The Institute of Development Studies (IDS), Sussex, developed the first brand framework of sustainable livelihoods. The sustainable livelihood framework (SLF) provides the main factors that affect people’s livelihoods, and the interrelationships among these factors. The framework can be used in planning new development initiatives, for impact assessment of existing activities on livelihood sustainability, and assessing the impact of policies on livelihood strategies and availability and access to assets by households (DFID 2001; Ellis 2000; Messer & Townsley 2003; Thomson 2000).
The SLF was further developed by DFID, building on earlier works of the IDS. According to DFID (2001), it consists of five key components, namely the vulnerability context, the five livelihood assets, transforming structures and processes (now commonly called policies, institutions and processes), livelihood strategies and livelihood outcomes. Diagram 3.1 helps to depict the framework and the relationships between the different elements of the framework.

Vulnerability context

In Diagram 3.1, households are shown to be pursuing their livelihoods in the context of vulnerability. The vulnerability context includes shocks (sudden onset of natural disasters, conflicts, economic traumas, health problems and crop or livestock distress), trends (in population, resources, health problems, the economy or governance) and seasonal constraints (cyclic fluctuations in prices, production, health and employment). This complex of influences has direct and indirect impacts on people’s livelihoods, including the options available to them (DFID 2001). The translation of a set of assets into a livelihood strategy, composed of a range of employment and income earning activities, is normally mediated by the contexts under which people and their portfolio of assets exist (Ellis 2000). Scoones (1998, in Ellis 2000) divides the context into two. The first, related to the vulnerability context, concerns ‘conditions and trends’, while the other relates to institutions and organizations. Carney (1998, in Ellis 2000) divides the mediating factors into vulnerability context and transforming processes. Both tend to include the same elements in the category: history, politics, economic trends, climate, agro-ecology, demography and social differentiation (Ellis 2000). Trends, shocks and seasonality are factors over which people have limited or no control and these might have negative or positive impacts on the availability of assets and thus choice of livelihood activities and strategies (DFID 2001; Ellis 2000; Messer & Townsley 2003; Thomson 2000). Policies should be put in place in order to mitigate the negative impacts of the vulnerability context or to take advantage of windfall effects of such unprecedented circumstances (DFID 2001; Ellis 2000; Pasteur 2001; Swift & Hamilton 2001; Thomson 2000).

Livelihood assets

In the SLA, resources are referred to as ‘assets’ or ‘capitals’ and are categorised into five asset types owned or accessed by family members: human capital (skills, education, health); physical capital (produced investment goods); financial capital (money, savings, loan access); natural capital (land, water, trees etc); and social capital (networks and associations) (Ellis & Allison 2004). Although some asset types may cut across categories, the distinction is useful for analysis. Different assets have varying connections to the policy environment. For example, human capital connects to social policies (education and health), while natural capital connects to land use, agricultural and environmental policies (Ellis & Allison 2004).
Ellis (2000) underlines that the assets owned, controlled, claimed or in some other means accessed by the household are the starting points of the SLF. As a people-centred approach, the SLA seeks to gain an accurate and realistic understanding of people’s strengths (assets or capital endowments) and how these are converted into positive livelihood outcomes (DFID 2001; Ellis 2000). The wider availability of assets determines the range and mix of livelihood strategies to be adapted and adopted over time by a household, which results in a positive livelihood outcome (DFID 2001; Ellis 2000; Scoones 1998; Thomson 2000). The poor have limited access to capital assets, and their livelihood outcomes are more at risk since no single category of assets is sufficient to yield diversified livelihood outcomes. As a result, they have to seek ways of nurturing and combining what assets they have, in innovative ways, to ensure their survival (DFID 2001).
The livelihood assets pentagon in Figure 3.1 was developed to enable information about people’s assets to be presented visually. The shape of the pentagon can be used schematically to illustrate the variation in people’s access to assets. The centre point of the pentagon represents zero access to assets, while the outer perimeter represents maximum access to assets. In this way, different shaped pentagons can be drawn for different communities or social groups (DFID 2001). To some extent, constructing a livelihood may require inclusion of all five capital assets, and Ellis has observed that these assets are the basic building blocks on which households depend to construct their livelihoods (Ellis 2000: 31).
Human capital refers to the labour available to the household. This also refers to household members’ skills, knowledge, ability to labour, and good health required to take part in various livelihood strategies (DFID 2001; Ellis 2000). Social capital refers to formal and informal social resources or social relationships of people, such as family networks, membership of groups, relationships of trust, and access to wider institutions of society. It includes social relations, degree of trust, reliability and adaptability. People draw on these social resources when pursuing different livelihood strategies (DFID 2001; Ellis 2000). Natural capital consists of natural resources, comprising land, water and biological resources used by people in pursuit of their livelihoods, including their flow and services. Physical capital refers to production inputs, basic physical infrastructure and production equipment, which enable people to undertake their livelihood activities. Financial capital includes people’s financial resources such as savings, supplies of credit, pensions and remittances (DFID 2001). Individuals or households with larger asset portfolios have more livelihood options, as well as less vulnerability, than those with fewer assets (Ellis 2000). People’s control over core assets is also dynamic. The stocks of both tangible and intangible assets fluctuate seasonally and through time in response to the contingencies of life (Castro 2001, in Ellis 2000).
Some organisations, such as Concern Worldwide (CW), include political capital as a sixth dimension to an asset portfolio (CW 2006). This is mainly from the understanding that people’s participation in policies and the processes largely affects their livelihoods. Thus, policies that help poor people develop and maintain their asset base and diversify their livelihood strategies are essential to sustainable land management practices. To this end, the participation of the poor in the policy-making process largely determines the sustainable positive outcomes of land titling programmes.

Transforming structures and processes

The context of social, economic and policy considerations mediates the translation of assets into a livelihood strategy of income-earning activities (Ellis 2000). Thus, while stressing the importance of capital assets in people’s livelihoods, the SLA recognizes the role of transforming structures (government and private sector) and processes (policies, laws, rules and incentives) on people’s livelihoods options. These are important in defining access to assets, and people’s livelihood strategies and therefore give meaning and value to livelihood assets (Carney 1998; DFID 2001; Scoones 1998). The term ‘transforming structures and processes’ (TSPs) has now come to be called ‘policies, institutions and processes’ (PIPs). In livelihoods discourse, there is an unresolved ongoing debate about the definitions and distinctions between institutions and organisations (Ellis 2000). Various authors cited in Ellis (2000) ascribe different names to these mediating factors: Scoones (1998) calls them ‘institutions and organisations’; while Carney (1998) calls them ‘transforming processes’ (in Ellis 2000:38). Reardon and Vosti (1995) sum together all endogenous (PIPs) and exogenous factors (trends, shocks, seasonality) as ‘external conditioning factors’. Given the unresolved debate, Ellis claims that ‘social relations are distinguished from institutions and the latter from organizations’ (Ellis 2000: 38). According to the DFID framework, TSPs are institutions, organisations, policies and legislation that shape livelihoods, and they operate at different levels (international, national, meso and micro levels), thus determining access to different assets, livelihood strategies, as well as the terms of exchange between different types of capital and returns to any given livelihood strategy (DFID 2001).
Policies that are decided at the different tiers of the government affect how households make decisions or use available assets. The most common concern around policies and livelihoods is who makes the policies and what are the processes by which they are formed (DFID 2001; Messer & Townsley 2003; Pasteur 2001; Shankland 2000; Thomson 2000). Groups of people who are not consulted about policy or are not represented in the mechanisms that lead to policy formulation have no way of influencing what policies are decided upon. As a result, they may be adversely affected by those policies. Messer and Townsley (2003:10) note that ‘policies are particularly important for people concerned with improving household livelihoods because policies can be changed’.
Institutions are processes that include a wide range of ‘arrangements’ found in societies everywhere. These arrangements can be more or less organised (and may include organisations), structured or unstructured, visible or invisible (Messer & Townsley 2003). Carswell (1997) and Leach et al (1997, in Ellis 2000:10) describe institutions as ‘regularized patterns of behaviour structured by rules that have widespread use in society’. North (1991) states that institutions are the rules of the game in the society or, more formally, the humanly devised constraints that shape human interaction.
Institutions may thus be formal and informal, often fluid and ambiguous, and usually subject to multiple interpretations by different actors. According to Scoones (1998:12), ‘power relations’ are embedded within institutional forms, making contestation over institutional practices, rules and norms important. Institutions are also dynamic, continually being shaped and reshaped over time. They are thus ‘part of a process of social negotiation, rather than fixed objects or bounded social systems’ (Scoones 1998:12).
Social relations52 and institutions determine the way in which structures or organisations and individuals operate and interact. They comprise the agencies that constrain or facilitate the exercise of capabilities and choices by individuals or households and they furnish the everyday framework, rules and relations for human interaction. Ellis (2000:39) gives an example of land tenure institutions, explaining that:
Land tenure institutions … comprise such determinants of access to land as the ownership structure at a particular moment (possibly highly unequal), whether this ownership is defined by private freehold title or by customary rights of access, the existence or not of a market in land, the various tenure contracts that may enable non-owners of land to gain access to land, the social mechanisms for resolving land disputes, and so on. These institutions may work more, or less, well. There is no guarantee that laws and customs with distant historical roots are efficient in the sense of optimal resource allocation, or that they are fair in terms of the way access rules are applied to different types of people.
Together, structures and processes are important mediating factors of livelihoods because they effectively determine access to public and private resources and terms of trade between types of livelihood assets (DFID 2001; Ellis 2000:38).

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Livelihood strategies

In the past, development efforts were geared towards improving the services and opportunities available to the rural and urban people. With the emergence of SLA, a paradigm shift in thinking about rural and urban development materialized (DFID 2001; Ellis 2000; Messer & 52 ‘Social relations’ here refers to the social status of individuals and households within society. For individuals, social status may be related to factors such as gender, caste, class, age, ethnicity and religion (Ellis 2000:38). Social relations are important here because in any community the distribution of livelihood assets is always uneven.
Townsley 2003). DFID (2001:29) argues that ‘the SLA seeks to understand the factors that determined people’s choice of a certain livelihood strategy’ and ‘the livelihoods approach seeks to promote choice, opportunity and diversity’ (DFID 2001:28). According to the DFID (2001) framework, the options available to the poor are divided into natural resource based, non-natural resource based, and migration. This expansion of choice and value is important because it provides people with opportunities for self-determination and the flexibility to adapt over time. It is most likely to be achieved by improving poor people’s access to assets and to make the structures and processes that ‘transform’ these into livelihood outcomes more responsive to their needs. This, among others, is promoted through the formulation and implementation of appropriate policies that contribute positively to people’s livelihoods (Ellis 1999; Ellis 2000). Thus, a basic understanding of existing policies and how they influence people’s livelihood strategies becomes imperative.
Livelihood strategies are the ways in which people combine and use assets to meet their objectives. They consist of activities that generate the means of household wellbeing. Ellis has divided livelihood strategies into two categories, natural resource based activities and non-natural resource-based activities. Natural resource-based activities include harvesting wild resources from forests, cultivation of food or non-food crops, and livestock rearing. They also include non-farm activities like thatching, weaving, or brick making. Some examples of non-natural resource-based activities are rural trading, rural services, remittances and other transfers such as pensions. Livelihood strategies are dynamic, responding to changing challenges that households confront and to which they adapt (Ellis 2000: 40).

Livelihood outcomes

The dynamic interaction between the elements of the framework ultimately results in activities leading to certain livelihood outcomes in a given period. These are known to change over time because all the elements of the framework are dynamic. Unlike other approaches, the SLA ‘seeks to recognize the diversity of livelihood goals which in turn will help to understand people’s priorities, why they do what they do and where the major constraints lie’ (DFID 2001:31). According to the DFID framework, livelihood outcomes consist of, but are not limited to, more income, increased wellbeing, reduced vulnerability, improved food security and more sustainable use of the natural resource base. Ellis and Allison (2004:3) summarize the SLA in relation to livelihood outcomes:
The livelihoods approach regards awareness of the asset status of poor individuals or households as fundamental to an understanding of the options open to them. One of its basic tenets, therefore, is that poverty policy should be concerned with raising the asset status of the poor, or enabling existing assets that are idle or underemployed to be used productively. The approach looks positively at what is possible rather than negatively at how desperate things are.
Equally, the literature (eg Fernandes & Woodhouse 2008; Reardon & Vosti 1995; Scherr 2000; Wannasai & Shrestha 2007; Vilei 2011) reveals that poor farmers’ income and investment strategies are conditioned by a complex interplay of factors. To begin with, the prevailing driving forces associated with the context of vulnerability, shocks and transforming structures and institutions dictate the type and level of poverty in a certain locality. Second, subsistence agricultural production and resource conservation technologies depend on household assets endowments and require modification of technical rates of substitution among livelihood assets, especially between human-made assets and natural resources. Third, relative input prices, output prices, wages, and the interest rate affect farm resource use and investment incentives. Complementary ‘hard infrastructure’ (such as culverts, dams, wells, market facilities, and roads) and ‘soft infrastructure’ (such as extension, schools, and medical services) at village level affect the cost of transactions of inputs and outputs, and thus private costs of investment in resource conservation. Infrastructure also influences the development of non-farm activities, the commercialization of agriculture, and urban-rural links, which are important determinants of income opportunities for the poor. Fourth, community wealth (physical, cultural and social assets) mediates the poor household’s options and natural resource conservation behaviour in multiple prongs. Therefore, context-specific understanding of the dynamic interplay of several factors that condition sustainable management of land resources provides a more balanced perspective among policy makers and development practitioners.
The neo-Malthusian perspective contends that poverty, agricultural stagnation and land degradation are interlinked (WCED 1987; see section 2.4.2). In the Ethiopian context, this premise is exacerbated by ever-increasing farming population, who are claimants to the scarce arable lands, and the long-term growth in staple food and export crop production necessarily depends upon expansion of cultivable land and intensification of land under cultivation (FDRE 2001; Shiferaw & Holden 2000). Intensification of agricultural production should take place in such a way that future production capacity of agricultural lands is enhanced rather than diminished (Gebremedhin & Swinton 2003; Shiferaw & Holden 2000). This signifies a research agenda for systematic analysis of the microeconomic behaviour of smallholders in order to design appropriate development interventions to redress poverty, land degradation and stagnant agricultural production (Shiferaw & Holden 1998, 1999). This requires an in-depth understanding that goes beyond a universal assertion that regards private property rights in land or population density as prominent incentives for adoption of conservation technology, since they determine the expected returns of investment (Besley 1995). Recent empirical works (eg Carter & Olinto 2003; Kabubo-Mariara 2007; Holden & Yohannes 2002; Pender & Gebremedhin 2007) report that addressing the problem of land degradation calls for a combination of short-term and long-term policy measures to provide adequate incentives for adoption of conservation technologies. Such policies and development endeavours should aim not only at ensuring tenure security, but also at reducing household poverty by enhancing the livelihood assets.
The researcher shares the widely held view of many scholars (eg Besley 1995; Deininger & Jin 2006; Place 2009; Smith 2004) on the presence of a knowledge gap in the literature to improve one’s understanding of farmers’ investment decisions. Earlier studies (eg see Amsalu & De Graff 2007; Bugri 2008; Kabubo-Mariara 2007; Marenya & Barrett 2007; Pender & Gebremedhin 2007; Shiferaw & Holden 1998; Wannasai & Shrestha 2007) note that farmers have multiple production objectives and, hence, their risk aversion behaviour may not be easily captured by a universal utility maximization model of economic theory. In addition, smallholders’ decisions to adopt conservation technologies are mediated by several variables as farm households have a dual characteristic of production and consumption units (Shiferaw & Holden 1999). An individual farmer’s decision to implement conservation technologies is thus determined by the perpetual influences of the social world that are found in a given farming system (Beshah 2003:53; Edwards 1993; Van de Flier & Braun 2002; Vilei 2011). Edwards (1993:104) notes that the movement towards research of a farming system emerged as a response to take into account the complex aspects of various farming systems before designing and introducing any development intervention. In view of this, the farming system model helps to analyse a number of contextual variables such as agro-ecological potential, context specific farming practices, market opportunities, policy implementation discourse, and population density to improve one’s understanding of existing empirical results. This highlights the need to regard sustainable use of farmlands from a farming system model within the systems theory perspective, which is often overlooked in conventional development thinking and practice. Section 3.3 examines the farming system model.

Table of Contents
1.1 Introduction
1.2 Background of the research topic
1.3 Ethiopia as case study area
1.4 Evolution and status of land tenure policies in Ethiopia
1.5 Research problem
1.6 Research objectives
1.7 Rationale of the study
1.8 Research methodology
1.9 Ethical considerations
1.10 Organization of the thesis
1.11 Conclusion
2.1. Introduction
2.2 Sustainable development
2.3 Land reform and sustainable development
2.4 Debates of sustainable land management
2.5 Conclusion
3.1 Introduction
3.2 The sustainable livelihood framework
3.3 Farming system model
3.4 Analytical framework of this study
3.5 Conclusion
4.1 Introduction
4.2 The role of land in rural Ethiopia
4.3 Role of agriculture in the Ethiopian economy
4.4 Macroeconomic policy frameworks and agricultural development policies
4.5 Ethiopian farming systems and associated land-use systems
4.6 Livelihood assets and strategies in rural Ethiopia
4.7 Conclusion
5.1 Introduction
5.2 Contextual analysis of the Amhara Region
5.3 Contextual description of Yilmana Densa woreda
5.4 Status of livelihood assets in the case study kebeles
5.5 Conclusion
6.1 Introduction
6.2 Research design and rationale
6.3 Research paradigm debate
6.4 Site and respondent selection
6.5 Data collection tools and techniques used in this study
6.6 Ethical issues
6.7 Limitation of the methodology
6.8 Strengths of the methodology
6.9 Method of data analysis
6.10 Conclusion
7.1 Introduction
7.2 Perception of land tenure security
7.3 Perception of sustainable land use
7.4 Knowledge and attitude of farmers to conservation technologies
7.5 Perceptions of the impact of land registration and certification on sustainable use of farmlands
7.6 Observed patterns of change towards sustainable farming in the pre- and postcertification periods
7.7 Factors that affect the sustainable use of farmlands
7.8 Conclusion
8.1 Introduction
8.2 Summary
8.3 Conclusion and recommendations

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