Wetlands and Indigenous Knowledge in the Highlands of Western Ethiopia
Wetlands in the highlands of western Ethiopia are important natural resources that provide a range of goods and services to local communities. A perceived increase in the drainage and cultivation of these wetlands in the mid 1990s, however, prompted concerns of widespread wetland degradation and unsustainable levels of utilisation, with consequences for food and water security. Drawing upon participatory field research carried out in Illubabor zone, Ethiopia, this chapter discusses the contribution of indigenous knowledge (IK) to wetland management in the area, and assesses its implications for the sustainability of the wetland environment. The results of the research suggest that continuous wetland drainage and cultivation in Illubabor has been ongoing for at least 30 years and that indigenous management practices based on IK have evolved over time, through farmers' experience of the wetland environment. Contrary to initial concerns, these management practices appear to form the basis of sustainable wetland use strategies. It is suggested, however, that recent government initiatives that are not sensitive to indigenous wetland management practices may threaten the sustainability of the wetland system.
Keywordsindigenous knowledge wetland management sustainability Ethiopia
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