WONDO GENET, Ethiopia – Agroforestry has been the major agricultural farming system in southern Ethiopia’s Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples (SNNP) regional state for millennia, passed on from generation to generation.
For centuries, diverse ‘home gardens’ of trees, shrubs, and vegetables like enset and coffee grown in close combination have enabled millions of smallholder farmers to maintain household food security while benefiting environmental conservation and sustainable rural development.
However, this traditional land use is facing a huge challenge in the region as a new cash crop farming economy has grown: farmers who previously practiced agroforestry are increasingly converting to monocultures of a semi-legal, somewhat narcotic drug called khat.
The dawn of khat monoculture
In the 1960s and 70s, khat (Catha edulis) cultivation was widely practiced in the eastern part of the country because of high consumption in the area and for export to neighboring Djibouti and Somalia. An article published in 1973 clearly showed that khat was replacing the high quality harrar coffee there, but its expansion in southern Ethiopia as well as northern and western parts of the country is a recent development, where it is expanding at a high rate.