Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research (EIAR), Research Extension Farmer Linkages, Ethiopia
Community and resource systems attributes are important in influencing the conservation and use of natural resources. Resource system attributes define the type of resource and they also dictate the type of property right systems that best ensure their sustainable management. Community attributes on the other hand shape decision making behaviour and their resource utilisation strategies. This study was conducted in the southwest part of Ethiopia with the main objective of understanding community and resource attributes that influence the conservation and use of coffee forests. Data were collective using qualitative methods viz. key informant interview, focus group discussion, and participant observation; and quantitative methods viz. formal household surveys. The study revealed that coffee forests exhibited such attributes as low excludability, high subtractability, high rate of mobility and low storage in the system, which all are the attributes of common pool resources. However, they have remained public properties quite for long and that did subject them to degradation. In so far as there is an identifiable outcome to the public ownership of the coffee forest (degradation), it lies in a preferential shift away from the standardised central state provision toward recognition of, and sympathy for, diversity, experimentation and multi/actor arrangement. Communities differed in such attributes as resource endowment, ethnicity, education, and religion; and in the perception of their own actions on the physical condition of coffee forests. On the other hand, they shared similarities in such attributes as livelihood strategies, dependence on the coffee forests, and in the autonomy to design institutions and past experience in self-organisation. When communities who share some key attributes also differ in the strength of some other key variables, aggregate resource management behaviour is often characterised by frequently dependent behaviour with strong threshold effects. The variations in some and similarities in others shape their resource utilisation strategies. The design and implementation of any institutional measure aimed at improving the management of coffee forests should therefore take these differences and similarities in attributes into account.
Keywords: Coffee forests, communities, resource conservation