Resilience principles and a leverage points perspective for sustainable woody vegetation management in a social-ecological system of southwestern Ethiopia

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Addressing ecosystem destruction and unsustainable development requires appropriate frameworks to comprehensively investigate social-ecological systems. Focusing on woody plant management in southwestern Ethiopia, we combined social-ecological resilience and a leverage points perspective to (1) assess how stakeholders perceive and operationalize resilience principles; (2) investigate resilience challenges and solutions across different levels of systemic depth; and (3) assess how different stakeholder groups noted challenges and solutions at different levels of system depth. Data were collected in focus group discussions with multiple types of stakeholders and analyzed via quantitative content and descriptive analysis. All stakeholder groups identified two principles currently applied in the landscape, while other principles were not currently applied widely. In total, we identified 37 challenges and 44 solutions to resilience, mainly focused on “deeper” systemic change. This trend was noted across stakeholder groups, but particularly by local people. Based on our work, we suggest to foster bottom-up changes in system goals, rules, paradigms, and intent, drawing explicitly on local people and their knowledge. More broadly, we suggest that further research on combining social-ecological resilience and leverage points perspectives could be helpful to better navigate and transform social-ecological systems.

Original languageEnglish
Article number34
JournalEcology and Society
Issue number2
Number of pages31
Publication statusPublished - 01.06.2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The study was funded through Deutsche Bundesstiftung Umwelt (DBU), Project ID: Az 35333/01-43/0. We thank the Governments of Ethiopia and Oromia Regional State for their permission to conduct the research. We also thank the staff of kebele, woreda, and zone offices; Jimma University and the Biodiversity Research Institute; and the local farmers for their cooperation and participation. We thank local experts and our driver for their support during data collection. We acknowledge support by the German Research Foundation (DFG) and the Open Access Publication Fund of Leuphana University Lüneburg.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 by the author(s).

    Research areas

  • Leverage points, Resilience principles, Smallholder farming landscapes, Social-ecological systems, Sustainability transformation, Woody vegetation diversity management
  • Environmental planning