Continuous deterioration of the natural resource base has become a serious threat to both the ecological systems and economic production in Ethiopia. Many of these problems have been attributed directly or indirectly to the rapid dwindling of the country's forest cover which is associated with unsustainable forest use and management. Closing community woodlands from human and livestock intervention to promote natural regeneration of forests has been one of the environmental restoration strategies pursued in the degraded highland areas of northern Ethiopia. However, local pressure to use reforested community lands for economic benefit has become a major threat to forest sustainability.
Using locally identified sets of criteria and indicators for sustainable community forest management, this paper applies a multi-criteria decision analysis tool to evaluate forest management problems in the northern province of Tigray, Ethiopia. Three MCA methods – ranking, pair-wise comparison, and scoring – were used in evaluating the sets of criteria and indicators and alternative forest management scenarios.
Results from the study indicate a number of noteworthy points: 1) MCA techniques both for identifying local level sustainability criteria and indicators and evaluating management schemes in a participatory decision environment appear to be effective tools to address local resource management problems; 2) Evaluated against the selected sets of criteria and indicators, the current forest management regime in the study area is not on a sustainable path; 3) Acquainting local people with adequate environmental knowledge and raising local awareness about the long-term consequences of environmental degradation ranked first among the set of sustainability criteria; and 4) In order to harmonize both environmental and economic objectives, the present ‘ecological-biased’ forest management regime needs to be substituted by an appropriate holistic scheme that takes into account stakeholders' multiple preferences and priority rankings.
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