Ecosystem services from forest and farmland: Present and past access separates beneficiaries in rural Ethiopia

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Ecosystem services are essential to human well-being. Different mechanisms modify people's access to the benefits from ecosystem services, but who benefits from which services, and the underlying factors that shape such variability, often remain unclear. To address this, we surveyed current and past ecosystem service flows from forest and farmland into rural Ethiopian households. After disaggregating beneficiary groups, we explored current and past mechanisms that impeded or facilitated their access. We found five groups of current ecosystem service beneficiaries that received varying degrees of service flows from forest and farmland. Important access barriers were economic problems and shortage of land, particularly for worse-off households, and wildlife damage and labour shortage. Over time, flows from forest and those directly benefiting human well-being (e.g. food, energy) were perceived to have declined, especially for worse-off groups. In contrast, access to emerging market-oriented services with indirect benefits (such as cash crops) increased, but especially so for better-off groups who capitalised on market opportunities and agricultural intensification. Forest cover loss and protection caused decreased access across groups. Identifying group-specific access problems and trajectories, removing economic, land- and labour-related barriers, and addressing environmental challenges, are important to facilitate equitable sharing of the benefits of rural ecosystems.

Original languageEnglish
Article number101263
JournalEcosystem Services
Publication statusPublished - 01.04.2021

Bibliographical note

We are indebted to all respondents in southwest Ethiopia for their participation in this study. We thank Dadi Feyisa, Oliyad Amente, Shiferaw Diriba and Tolani Asirat for their great help with fieldwork, logistics and translations. Thanks also to the local, regional and national administration in Ethiopia for permits and assistance. The research leading to these results has received funding from the ERC under the EU's 7th Framework Programme (project ID 614278), and a Leuphana ‘Kleinforschungsprojekt’ grant to JS and HvW.