African Journal of
History and Culture

  • Abbreviation: Afr. J. Hist. Cult.
  • Language: English
  • ISSN: 2141-6672
  • DOI: 10.5897/AJHC
  • Start Year: 2009
  • Published Articles: 187

Full Length Research Paper

Land reform and deforestation in the Gish Abbay Area: A historical perspective

Birtukan Atinkut Asmare
  • Birtukan Atinkut Asmare
  • Department of History, Faculty of Social Sciences, Bahir Dar University, Ethiopia.
  • Google Scholar

  •  Received: 29 October 2013
  •  Accepted: 18 September 2014
  •  Published: 31 December 2014


The Gish Abbay area is among one of the environmentally most affected areas where environmental deterioration has prevailed. A lot of factors have contributed to this negative development. The major ones are rapid population growth, poverty and inappropriate forest and land related laws and legislations. Among others, however, this paper attempted to highlight how government land policy over many years was responsible for deforestation in the area. It has been argued that the land reforms that were introduced during the two consecutive Ethiopian regimes, the imperial and the Derg, had an impact on the forest coverage of the area. Among these reforms, the frequent allocation of land to the patriots and other individuals that rendered services to the government, particularly in the post-liberation period, can be cited as one example of the reform. The frequent allocation of land, as a reward, was made at the expense of forests. The introduction of the first forest legislation in the mid 1960s by the state had been considered as a turning point in the use of forests communally. The regime had often claimed all forests as state property, a policy that challenged the previous tree tenure system. Thus, in order to show their hostility against the government, the peasants cleared forests and converted to cultivated land. The seizure of power by a new government, that succeeded the imperial regime in 1974, brought about a new land reform that nationalized all natural resources including land. The regime made frequent and periodic re-distribution of land within some years interval in order to satisfy the growing demand of the local population. Accordingly, the distribution and redistribution of land, the introduction of cooperative farming, the villagisation programme and the formulation of forest laws and legislations were undertaken throughout the reign of the military government. These all government reforms had its own contribution for the massive deforestation of the period. Thus, this research attempted to shed light on both continuity and change in the process of land reform and its implications to deforestation, throughout the two successive regimes; the imperial and the military. In order to achieve the research objectives, in depth interview and focus group discussion were utilized in addition to the results of the research undertaken by other scholars. The study referred data analysis from other disciplines such as the Geographic Information System (GIS) to see changes in the forest coverage of the area during the two consecutive regimes. 

Key words: Deforestation, causes, land reform, Gish Abbay, forest legislation.