A social-ecological assessment of food security and biodiversity conservation in Ethiopia

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We studied food security and biodiversity conservation from a social-ecological perspective in southwestern Ethiopia. Specialist tree, bird, and mammal species required large, undisturbed forest, supporting the notion of ‘land sparing’ for conservation. However, our findings also suggest that forest areas should be embedded within a multifunctional landscape matrix (i.e. ‘land sharing’), because farmland also supported many species and ecosystem services and was the basis of diversified livelihoods. Diversified livelihoods improved smallholder food security, while lack of access to capital assets and crop raiding by wild forest animals negatively influenced food security. Food and biodiversity governance lacked coordination and was strongly hierarchical, with relatively few stakeholders being highly powerful. Our study shows that issues of livelihoods, access to resources, governance and equity are central when resolving challenges around food security and biodiversity. A multi-facetted, social-ecological approach is better able to capture such complexity than the conventional, two-dimensional land sparing versus sharing framework.

Original languageEnglish
JournalEcosystems and People
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)400-410
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Bibliographical note

This article is part of the following collections: Celebrating 10 years of the Program on Ecosystem Change and Society

This work was supported by the FP7 People: AB was funded by H2020 Marie-Curie-Actions, project number 661780. JF was funded by the European Research Council, project number 614278. Most of the research synthesized here was funded through a Consolidator Grant by the European Research Council to JF. AB was funded through a Marie-Curie Postdoctoral Fellowship. We thank two anonymous reviewers and the handling editor for constructive suggestions on previous drafts of this manuscript.

This publication was funded by the Open Access Publication Fund of Leuphana University Lüneburg.

    Research areas

  • Agroecology, transdisciplinarity, land sharing, land sparing, resilience, social-ecological systems, sustainability science
  • Ecosystems Research