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Journal Articles Agronomy for Sustainable Development Year : 2022

Challenges and resilience of an indigenous farming system during wartime (Tigray, North Ethiopia)

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Due to war conditions, the local farmers had to largely rely on their own crop production, mainly by subsistence farming, in Tigray, North Ethiopia. We assessed the crop stands in 2021 and evaluated the level of resilience of the indigenous farming system. Quantitative data were collected from 161 farm parcels in various ecoregions of this tropical mountain region, in order to detect the share of sown land, crop types, and their status. This participatory monitoring was accompanied by semi-structured interviews. Farmers cultivated their farms late, left it uncultivated or marginally sowed oil crops as improved fallow (28%), due to lack of farming tools, oxen, fertilizer, seeds, or manpower. As compared to peace years, only few lands were sown with sorghum as there was active warfare in the sorghum planting period. The relatively good stands of wheat and barley (47%) are in line with the farmers’ priority given to cereals. Teff got a large land share because it could be sown up to the middle of the main rainy season and because farmers had consumed the seeds of their major cereal crops (wheat and barley) when hiding for warfare. Seeds left from consumption were only sown by late June, when troops had retreated, and the communities could revive. With almost no external support, the local farming system has proven to be remarkably resilient, relying on indigenous knowledge and local practices, block rotation, manure, improved fallow, changes in relative importance of crops, seed exchange, and support for one another. This is the first analysis of the socio-agronomic roots of the 2021–2022 Tigray hunger crisis, with a cereal harvest that could not at all sustain the local population as the planting season had been largely missed. The ability of the indigenous farming system to partially rebounce in times of autarky is another novel finding.
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hal-03884819 , version 1 (05-12-2022)


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Tesfaalem Ghebreyohannes, Jan Nyssen, Emnet Negash, Hailemariam Meaza, Zbelo Tesfamariam, et al.. Challenges and resilience of an indigenous farming system during wartime (Tigray, North Ethiopia). Agronomy for Sustainable Development, 2022, 42 (6), pp.116. ⟨10.1007/s13593-022-00812-5⟩. ⟨hal-03884819⟩
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