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Gender, justice and livelihoods in the creation and demise of forests in North Western Ethiopia’s Zeghie… Asfaw, Tihut Yirgu 2009

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GENDER, JUSTICE AND LIVELIHOODS IN THE CREATION AND DEMISE OF FORESTS IN NORTH WESTERN ETHIOPIA’S ZEGHIE PENINSULA by  TIHUT YIRGU ASFAW B.A., Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia, 1994 M.Sc., Agricultural University of Norway, 1999 A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY in The Faculty of Graduate Studies (Resource Management and Environmental Studies) THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA (Vancouver) February 2009  © Tihut Yirgu Asfaw, 2009  ABSTRACT This doctoral dissertation explores how the people of Zeghie, living in a designated sacred area, have confronted and attempted to survive internal and external pressures on their forest-based, coffee-dependent livelihoods. For generations the peninsula has embraced strict rules that have helped sustain the forested and coffee-based agroecosystem. Today, the Zeghean economy is at a crossroads and rapid forest harvesting is the norm. This research adopted a number of theoretical approaches including environmental history and political ecology to understand determinants of deforestation and environmental degradation and their impact on the long-term sustainability of the natural resources and people’s livelihoods. While Zeghie’s landscape is unquestionably long-inhabited and also unquestionably regarded as sacred in the eyes of most of its inhabitants, a closer look revealed a landscape that is both historically complex and socially troubled wherein coffee is a newer livelihood than most conservation and aid agencies have assumed it to be, and that other agricultural practices have been used in the past and might be used again. It also suggests that the potential for viable livelihoods may well be over-shadowed by discourses of the sacred and of biodiversity. Research and analysis conducted as part of this work also sought to understand deeply rooted gender and power relations, which are currently fuelling poverty and marginalization. Widespread male emigration and increased numbers of female-headed households have resulted in a fierce struggle for land and have highlighted extreme problems pertaining to the absence of fair and equitable justice for women. The use of critical and feminist legal theory and feminist political ecology has been instrumental to understanding the ways in which local legal and rule-based systems reinforce inequality through imposed community harmony for all at the expense of justice for women. The study concludes that deforestation and environmental change in Zeghie are exacerbated by complex social, political-economic, and historical processes—processes entrenched in the micro politics of property ownership and gendered legal and decision-making institutions. A broader set of policies, institutional and technical interventions will be required for the sake of both local livelihoods and the management of natural resources.  ii  TABLE OF CONTENTS ABSTRACT ................................................................................................................................................... ii TABLE OF CONTENTS .............................................................................................................................. iii LIST OF TABLES ......................................................................................................................................... v LIST OF FIGURES ....................................................................................................................................... vi LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS ...................................................................................................................... vii ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS .......................................................................................................................... ix DEDICATION ............................................................................................................................................... x CO-AUTHORSHIP STATEMENT .............................................................................................................. xi 1. INTRODUCTORY CHAPTER ............................................................................................................. 1 1.1 Zeghie Peninsula: Power and Politics in a Sacred Space .............................................................. 1 1.2 Research Objectives ...................................................................................................................... 3 1.3 Thesis Outline ..............................................................................................................................20 1.4 References ....................................................................................................................................24 2. THE CONTESTED HISTORY OF SHADE COFFEE IN ETHIOPIA’S ZEGHIE PENINSULA .....32 2.1 Introduction: Zeghie’s Changing Landscape ...............................................................................32 2.2 The Physical Setting ....................................................................................................................34 2.3 Livelihoods in a Sacred Landscape ..............................................................................................37 2.4 Competing Narratives on Zeghie’s Forest ...................................................................................41 2.5 The Zeghean Identity as People of the Forest ..............................................................................48 2.6 Slavery, Conquest, and the ‘Remnant’ Forest ..............................................................................51 2.7 Zegheans’ Livelihoods at Crossroads ..........................................................................................59 2.8 Rethinking Zeghie’s Environmental History: Concluding Thoughts ...........................................68 2.9 References ....................................................................................................................................72 3. FEMALE POVERTY IN ZEGHIE PENINSULA: AN INTRICATE WEB OF LAND RIGHT STRUGGLES, LIVELIHOOD INSECURITY AND NORMATIVE AND LEGAL BARRIERS ...............77 3.1 Introduction ..................................................................................................................................77 3.2 A Mixed-Method Approach .........................................................................................................79 3.3 Gender, Agriculture, and Entitlement in Ethiopia’s Zeghie Peninsula ........................................80 3.4 Customary Forms and Land Reforms Across the Decades ..........................................................85 3.5 Gendered Land Insecurity: A Compound Labyrinth ....................................................................92 3.6 Weapons of the Weak: Women’s Coping Strategies .................................................................101 3.6.1 Marriage as a Coping Strategy for Labor Shortage ..............................................................103 3.6.2 Emerging Forms of Inheritance as a Survival Strategy.........................................................106 3.7 Closing Thoughts on the Gendered Nature of Land Insecurity ..................................................109 3.8 References ..................................................................................................................................113  4. BEYOND LOCAL JUSTICE: GENDER RELATIONS IN LOCAL LEVEL DISPUTE SETTLEMENT IN ETHIOPIA’S ZEGHIE PENINSULA......................................................... 120 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 4.6 4.7 4.8 4.9 4.10  Introduction ................................................................................................................................120 Methodological Approach..........................................................................................................122 The Zeghean Context in Brief ....................................................................................................123 Setting the Scene: An Overview of the Gender Equality Agenda..............................................125 Gender, Justice, and Power in Nascent Legal Structures ...........................................................130 Disputes and Their Settlement—A Gendered Encounter With the Law ....................................133 Negotiating In a Gendered Legal Space .....................................................................................142 Forced Conformity and Harmony in a Gendered Space ............................................................148 Concluding Remarks ..................................................................................................................153 References ..................................................................................................................................157  iii  5.  CONCLUDING THE THESIS ............................................................................................ 162 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 5.6  Anticipated and Actual Outcomes of the Research ....................................................................167 Strengths and Weaknesses of the Thesis Research ....................................................................169 New Ideas Related to the Field of Study ....................................................................................172 Significance of the Research to Environmental Studies ............................................................176 Potential Applications of the Research Findings .......................................................................178 References ..................................................................................................................................181  APPENDICES ............................................................................................................................. 185 Appendix A: UBC Research Ethics Board Certificate of Approval............................................ 185  iv  LIST OF TABLES TABLE 2-1 ZEGHIE CHURCHES AND MONASTERIES ................................................ 42 TABLE 3-1 PROFILE OF INTERVIEWED HOUSEHOLDS IN ZEGHIE ........................ 95  v  LIST OF FIGURES FIGURE 2-1 PARTIAL VIEW OF THE FOREST ................................................................ 36 FIGURE 2-2 A FALLEN TREE IN A COFFEE FARM ...................................................... 64 FIGURE 4- 1 ETHIOPIA'S ADMINISTRATIVE STRUCTURE ...................................... 135 FIGURE 4-2 MULTIPLE LEVELS OF DISPUTE SETTLEMENT IN THE AMHARA REGION................................................................................................................................. 138 FIGURE 4-3 WOMEN AT THE PA CIVIC COURT ......................................................... 141 FIGURE 4-4 SHIMGELINA IN ACTION .......................................................................... 142  vi  LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS  ADLI  Agricultural Development Led Industry  BoA  Bureau of Agriculture  CEDAW  Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women  CSC  Central Statistics Authority  EPLAUA  Environmental Protection Land Administration and Use Authority  ETB  Ethiopian Birr  EWLA  Ethiopian Women Lawyers Association  FAO  Food and Agricultural Organization  FDRE  Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia  HLS  Household Livelihood Security  MoA  Ministry of Agriculture  NGO  Non-government Organization  PA  Peasant Association  PRA  Participatory Rural Appraisal  UN  United Nations  UNDP  United Nations Development Program  US-EPA  United Stated Environmental Protection Authority  vii  GLOSSARY  Birr  Ethiopian Currency  CARE  An International Humanitarian Organizations  Delday  A member of the land distribution committee  Derg  Title assigned to a committee of military officers, a communist military junta) that came to power in Ethiopia following the ousting of Haile Selassie I and ruled from 1974 to 1987  Deraqa  Dry or uncultivated land  Fetha Negest  Constitution of the Country prior to the establishment of the civil code  Geter  Rural Area (undeveloped)  Kada  Traditional land measurement – 1 kada is approximately 0.25 ha  Kebele  Local Administrative Structure (The lowest government administrative body)  Madga  Traditional water carrying jug made from clay; contains from 1520 liters of water and often used to measure coffee beans  Peasant Association The lowest government administrative body in rural areas Semon Land  Land given to the church during the Monarchy (before 1974)  Senduk  Traditional closet or a box that is used to store closes and other personal belongings  Shimgelina  Elders’ Council – Traditional Dispute Settlement Mechanism  Shimageles  Elders  Woreda  District  Yekul  Share cropping (fifty-fifty)  Yemote Keda Land  Land of the deceased often without a heir  Zeghean  A person born in Zeghie or whose parents are born in Zeghie  viii  ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS I wish to express my profound gratitude to individuals and institutions who contributed to the successful completion of this work. I am deeply grateful for the people of Zeghie, who spent their valuable time to share their knowledge with me, in particular, Mr. Anthehun Nibret and Ms. Birtukan Mehari, who made invaluable contributions to this research as interpreters and guides. My greatest intellectual appreciation goes to my Supervisor, Dr. Terre Satterfield, who has been unfailingly supportive while I struggled with the frustrations of writing and rewriting of the thesis manuscripts. Her encouragement, questions, constructive critique, and commitment has been a continued inspiration and helped clarify my thinking enormously. I would also like to thank members of my dissertation committee, Drs. Les Lavkulich and Philippe Le Billon, for their sustained guidance, encouragement and insightful comments on this work. I am grateful for the International Development Research Center, Winrock International, the UBC Hampton fund, and Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) for financial assistance. I would like to acknowledge and appreciate CARE International in Ethiopia for logistical support. Appreciation to Ayinalem Yigzaw for his assistance while I started the field work. I would like to thank, Ms. Pamela Woodard and Jamie Bleck from Winrock International, USA and Yewbdar Hailu, from Winrock International in Ethiopia for their support and encouragement. My heartfelt thanks to my husband and friend Dr. Getnet Asrat, his support and love helped me to endure the most difficult times during this five-year long project. My appreciation and gratitude to my children Abenezer Abebe and Ruth Abebe for their love, encouragement, and willingness to sacrifice and accept the inconveniences with tolerance and positive attitude. I would like to thank my family for all their support and continued encouragement. My appreciation goes to my mother Ms. Yeshimareg Mesfin and my sister Ms. Tigist Yirgu for their love, encouragement and kind support. I am grateful for Ms. Yenat Fenta Abebe, Mr. Brian Meyers, Ms. Fatuma Mulaw, and Mr. Grafton Spooner for their generous support, encouragement and inspiration. ix  DEDICATION  This Thesis is dedicated to the memory of my beloved brother Dr. Dagnachew Yirgu Asfaw. Your words of encouragement and love will not be forgotten.  x  CO-AUTHORSHIP STATEMENT Apart from chapter 1 and 5, and as is the aim for a manuscript-based thesis, all chapters have been prepared as stand-alone manuscripts. I am the principal author on all chapters, and I assumed primary responsibility for the design, implementation, analysis, and writing of co-authored chapters. Co-author on the papers 2, 3, and 4 is Terre Satterfield, who contributed to manuscript preparation.  xi  1.  INTRODUCTORY CHAPTER  1.1  Zeghie1 Peninsula: Power and Politics in a Sacred Space Ethiopia’s Zeghie Peninsula juts into Lake Tana, the country’s largest lake as well  as the third largest in Africa (Mesfin 1972). Zeghie is renowned as ‘sacred’ due to its ancient2 Ethiopian Orthodox churches, and is also well known for its high-quality shadegrown coffee. In particular, Zeghie is part of the church and monastery lands in Northern Ethiopia, which have been described as "sacred … islands of natural forest biodiversity” (Zewge, 2001, page 2) and “sanctuaries for endangered plant and animal species … [and] indicator sites of the original ecological landscape” (Soutter et.al. 2003, page 8). The Darwin Initiative has recently declared the peninsula an ‘important bird area’ with regard to their broader biodiversity initiatives. 3 A number of scholars have referred to but not studied in any depth the religious, cultural, and economic importance of sacred areas (e.g. Dessalegn 1992; Binggeli et.al. 2003; Wassie, Teketay & Powell 2003; Posey 1999; Laird 1999). Recently the government and international aid agencies have reported that the district is beset with poverty and that deforestation is accelerating (Getachew 1993; EPLAUA 2004). The district is endowed with rich natural resources such as fertile soil, fresh water, and fish; yet those resources remain variably untapped; in many cases religious, political, and economic forces are preventing the inhabitants from using them (Getachew 1993).  1  The names Zeghie, Zege and Zage have been used interchangeably by different scholars. Zeghie or Zeghie Peninsula is used in all writing within, except when quoting or referring to the work of other scholars wherein I defer to their place name spellings. 22 The oldest church, Mehal Zeghie Giorgis, was established during the 13th century (see also page 42). 3 Important Bird Areas or IBAs, are sites that provide essential habitat for one or more species of bird. Available at: http://ca.audubon.org/iba/index.shtml. Last accessed: October 9, 2008  1  Coffee is the mainstay of the local economy, but changing rainfall patterns, political turbulence, and volatile world coffee prices are severely weakening the local economy. As a consequence of all three, traditional approaches to managing natural resources are fading, and many households have resorted to logging, agriculture mainly production of annual crops, and male out-migration in search of extra-regional employment (EPLAUA 2004). As a result of out-migration, 50 percent of households on the peninsula are now headed by women (ibid)4. Female heads of households face a number of challenges, including fierce struggles for land and resources and the absence of gender-impartial justice. The Zegheans’ economic vulnerability has negative consequences for environmental sustainability, which is defined here as the “long-term maintenance of ecosystem components and functions for future generations” (US-EPA5). Protection of the local ecosystem for current and future generations must somehow be realized in a manner consistent with the World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED), which defines sustainable development as that which “meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” (WCED 1987:8). This thesis was inspired in part by my experiences as an employee of CARE International in Ethiopia, which over seven years carried out a livelihood6 security project on Zeghie Peninsula. Zeghie Community-Based Development Project was launched in 1997 after a two-year pilot phase funded by CARE USA. The general objective of the 4  The last official population census was carried out in 1994 and it showed that 40% of the households were female headed, the current estimates are based on the survey conducted by EPLAUA and the PA records (log book) and show a 10% increase since the last census. 5 Available at: http://www.epa.gov/OCEPATERMS/eterms.html. Last accessed: October 9, 2008 6 According to Ellis (2000:10), “A livelihood comprises the assets (natural, physical, human, financial and social capital), the activities, and the access to these (mediated by institutions and social relations) that together determine the living gained by the individual or household.”  2  project was to improve livelihood security for 800 households (about half of all households) on Zeghie through community-based initiatives targeting water supplies, public health, rehabilitation of schools and clinics, and promotion of economic activities (Gebremeskel and Dehab 2003:7). Around the same time, reports produced by the Bureau of Agriculture (BoA) and the Environmental Protection Land Administration and Use Authority (EPLAUA) were documenting alarming rates of deforestation, with severe impacts on forest diversity. Tree species that had long vanished in other parts of the region and country were now being threatened. To understand why this was happening, and why now, I set out to examine the local history of land use and the impact of global changes on traditional ways of life—especially for women. My hope was that this study would help explain why women were becoming poorer as the landscape changed. 1.2  Research Objectives The main objective of my research was to understand how people living in a  “sacred” area identify with multiple social and political groups; and how they contest or negotiate their standing and livelihoods within the rules relating to control over resources, especially land. Specific questions included the following: 1. How do power relations determine access to and control over resources? 2. How do social relationships intersect with local discourses which discourage some practices and reify others? 3. How do both 1 and 2 affect natural-resource management practices and people’s livelihood systems and more specifically the plight of women? As various researchers have pointed out (Ribot 1998; Mearns 1996; Rittich 2005), property rights are relational, and the effectiveness of policies and laws rests on people’s 3  positions in society—positions that affect their capacity to claim, exercise, and contest those rights. Myriad local conditions define who controls property. The questions listed above helped me to (a) explore the various dimensions of power that determine women’s access to and control over land; and (b) identify the barriers to implementing gender equality laws and policies at the local level. This led me to a more specific set of objectives which included some more gender-specific concerns and perspectives: 1.  To determine and assess the historical, cultural, and political realities that long dictated the relationship between communities and their physical environment in sacred areas. •  What cultural, historical, political, and legal factors affect women’s access to and control over livelihood assets such as land?  •  How do these realities shape natural resource management on the peninsula?  •  What internal and external dimensions of vulnerability characterize the livelihood systems of the Zegheans and are women more vulnerable still and why?  •  What strategies exist to protect and diversify livelihoods generally and, specifically, with regard to women?  •  How do these strategies interact with livelihood systems and the forest environment?  2.  To assess the power relations among government and local institutions that affect local communities’ livelihoods and individuals’ choices. •  What does the current power structure look like?  •  How is access to natural resources negotiated and regulated? 4  •  What mechanisms exist for people to participate in decisions affecting their lives?  3.  To assess past and present policies in relation to individual and community values and the environment. •  What policies most affect the Zegheans’ livelihood system?  •  What institutions and organizations at the local, regional, and federal levels regulate resource access, use, and control?  •  How do these institutions function in light of changes in policy (local and global) and people’s perceptions and values?  Examining these questions led to a historically complex and socially troubling thesis. Quite possibly, Zeghean livelihoods are being eroded but this reality is also less subject to interventions or alternate practices due to discourses of the sacred and of biodiversity. Furthermore, the impact of this has been especially severe for women, mainly because of unfair traditional rules and practices as well as weak governance institutions. Using the political ecology of environmental change as a theoretical framework, this study attempts to understand the underlying causes of environmental degradation and the resulting impact on the livelihood systems of the people of Zeghie. Much of the focus is on social inequality as it relates to property rights, local institutions, and government policies. The many factors contributing to land and livelihood insecurity are explored in terms of past and current policies and laws. Of particular interest is the impact of wellmeant but poorly planned agrarian reforms on the economic and social well being of Zegheans, especially women. The life stories of women and their soon to be, as we will see, landless children are key to understanding the injustices faced by powerless 5  Zegheans. For example, many women have become dispossessed of their land as they were unable to offer bribes or other favors to the land distribution committees. In this thesis, I also assess how formal and informal institutions have performed under different political regimes so as to define people’s access to and control over land and resources; how those same institutions acquire and exercise power; and how they perpetuated rules and practices that undermine women’s rights to land and property. Women’s vulnerability is not simply the result of external factors such as climate change and market volatility, which, after all, are widespread in the current period; they are also a function of traditional values, customs, and rules that undermine women. For example, women’s already low position in the community becomes even weaker when they are widowed (Verma 2001) or when their husbands emigrate in search of work. Further, I consider how traditional gendered rules, customs and practices undermine women’s adaptive strategies in the hope of highlighting the reasons why Zeghean women are becoming increasingly more marginalized. To summarize, I try in this thesis to explain how Zeghie Peninsula’s designation as sacred has masked struggles over social power and natural resources that women and men have experienced over the years and has misrepresented the peninsula’s environmental history and so its future possibilities (see also Fairhead and Leach 1996). And I consider how and why women have become increasingly vulnerable and through what social and political processes. The next section provides a framework for elucidating how culture, power, and politics have come together to shape Zeghie’s environmental history and its current social and environmental landscape.  6  When I first set out to explain environmental change, my assumptions and arguments drew heavily from the new institutional economics and common property work (Ostrom 1990; Bromley and Cernea 1989; Bruce 1993; Heseling 1996). Proponents of that approach argue that the strongest barrier to environmental sustainability is the absence of legal and institutional mechanisms that encourages resource users to manage their own resources (Ostrom 1990). It follows that the best way to “solve” land rights and natural resource depletion is to decentralize management of both land and resources—in other words, to devolve resource control to “effective” community institutions (Amanor 2001). This approach is accepted by Ethiopian researchers such as Dessalegn (1992; 2000), who advocated for looking past the economic and developmental impacts of land policy in search of mechanisms to ensure the autonomy of land holders and the empowerment of local communities. Key to this framework is property redistribution (see Lin and Nugent 1995, 2307–10). In this vein, the resource access regimes have been classified into four main categories (Bromley 1992), namely; (i) State property regimes: the state owns and controls the resources. Individuals and groups use the resources with the state’s approval (examples: state forests and national parks); (ii) Individual property rights: the owner is a particular individual or “legal person,” who has the legal and socially sanctioned right to exclude others; (iii) Common property regimes: represents “group” private property, in which non-members are excluded from use of and decisions about the property. Individuals have rights and duties relating to a common property (Bromley 1991). Ownership arrangements are structured, and management rules are developed. The group’s size is established and enforced, incentives exist for co-owners to follow the institutional arrangements, and sanctions ensure compliance (Bromley and  7  Cernea 1989; Berkes 1989); and (iv) Open access resource use (res nullius): no property rights are recognized. Everyone has access to the resources. There are no barriers to entry as the authority system has broken down or has never existed. No rules exist to ensure compliance with respect to natural resources (Berkes 1996). This theory and its accompanying classifications provide for a generic understanding of the different forms of property institutions. However, it does not explain why these regimes do not guarantee access to and control over a given property. To address this gap, some scholars have called for household-level analyses that focus on the circumstances, assets, and capabilities of households and on the strategies those households follow (Schaffer 2001). Generally, these approaches are referred to as participatory and are attempt to place the household at the centre of analyses of poverty. It was Robert Chambers (1995) who pioneered this approach; soon after, it was adopted by NGOs to analyze poverty and to develop, monitor, and evaluate aid projects. To understand people’s livelihood vulnerability and their coping strategies, I turned to political ecologists who place the conditions for vulnerability at the centre of their analyses (e.g. Watts and Bohle 1993). This work helped me understand how people in various positions of advantage or disadvantage are vulnerable to risk and especially economic or biophysical shocks (Bankoff 2001). Class, caste, gender, age, ethnicity, religion, and disability, singly or in concert, can all result in marginality and exclusion; furthermore, social factors that contribute to vulnerability are deeply entrenched in hierarchical systems. Analyses of threats and vulnerabilities must focus on the socioeconomic dimensions of hazards, not just the physical ones (Blaikie  et al. 1994).  Structural conditions can leave people consistently vulnerable by reproducing inequality,  8  exclusion, and exploitation (Adger et.al. 2001; Watts and Bohle 1993; Cutter, Boruff, and Shirlely 2003). However, to understand a household’s ability to survive, we must also examine the status and process of “entitlement.” At a given point in time, a household’s entitlement is “the set of alternative commodity bundles that a person can command in a society using the totality of rights and opportunities that he or she faces” (Sen 1984:497). In turn, a household’s entitlement is a function of its endowment—that is, the resources it owns such as land, labor, capital, and livestock (Sen 1981). This entitlement can be reduced through endowment failure; endowment failure in a certain resource can force the household to seek another type of livelihood in order to secure its entitlement (ibid). Moreover, changing access to resources (and thus endowment) can lead to changes in a household’s aspirations and motivations, which will take the form of diversification (Dreze and Sen 1989). Households allocate resources from their endowment in different ways. A household’s differentiation and diversification can be described in terms of variations in gross output (i.e., the total value it produces in a year) and the proportions of various economic activities it undertakes (Sen 1981). Leach, Mearns, and Scoones (1999) have expanded this framework to incorporate the various levels at which actors interact with their networks; they refer to this as the extended entitlements approach (p.10). Specifically, they have criticized past approaches for failing to differentiate levels of power in the community, for their ecological heterogeneity, and for overlooking how certain social groups are consistently marginalized. In particular, they criticized proponents of the community-based natural resource management (CBNRM) approach for viewing communities as bounded, static,  9  and homogenous. They offer in its place an approach that heeds the need for us to consider struggles over resources as well as uneven power distributions (Leach, Mearns, and Scoones 1999). However, many of these theories focused on household and community levels and did not allow me to explore and understand how decisions “above” the household and community levels—regional, national, international—affect the security of households, including their environment. To understand how regional, national and international forces affect local level livelihoods and environmental security, I resorted to Political Ecology with an equally abiding interest in and dependence on environmental history. This analysis sheds light on the political, cultural, and historical forces surrounding environmental change and livelihood insecurity. It also helped me to understand the complexities of how groups and individuals in successive regimes have created and appropriated an environmental imaginary to some consequence for Zeghie (an imaginary that does and does not represent well local conditions or histories). Put simply, Zeghie Peninsula’s environmental history has been misrepresented by scholars and travel writers alike (Alemnew 2001; Getachew 1993). It assumes a more uniform and long-standing coffee-based agricultural history than is defensible and it attributes sustainable use and management of the forest to its sacred roots. The area’s monasteries and churches, some of them dating back to the thirteenth century, have contributed to notions that the area is sacred. This notion has been embraced by the Zegheans themselves, as well as by those who visit the local monasteries and churches to celebrate the Orthodox Christian religion and the culture of the surrounding community. Until the national regime change of 1974, the Orthodox Church as an extension of the  10  monarchy was the area’s dominant institution. Over the centuries, the church and various groups and individuals affiliated with it used their governmental power to acquire large parcels of the peninsula, which were coveted for their fertility. In particular, Zeghie was a coffee-growing centre producing a high-income crop beneficial to local and foreign exchange earnings. For centuries the church appropriated notions of the sacred as a means to transform the peninsula into a coffee growing region and largely through a slavery-based political economy. The local people are reluctant to talk about this aspect of the peninsula’s environmental history, for it tarnishes preferred notions that the peninsula is sacred, and raises doubts about assumed harmonious relationships between people and nature. Abdusammad (1997) has clearly shown the role of slaves in transforming the plough based agricultural system to a coffee based agro-ecological system. In addition, other scholars (e.g Pankhurst 1968; Pankhurst 1964; Merid 1988) have highlighted how the inhabitants of Zeghie Peninsula pursued slave and coffee trade, until slavery was totally abandoned in 1930. Key informants in Zeghie have confirmed this and added that Zeghie’s priests nonetheless continued coffee cultivation through the use of peasant labor until the 1975 land reform. To this day, a number of restrictions are in place against certain land use practices; for example, it is forbidden to plough the land with oxen or to graze animals such as goats and sheep. These prohibitions did much to transform fields into forests. All the while, the Ethiopian nobility and military applied notions of the sacred to acquire large tracts of land on the peninsula—claiming that they intended to settle there in their old age and earn redemption for their sins (points examined in detail in chapter two of this thesis). This largely explains why, before 1975, the peninsula was  11  largely controlled by priests and their supporters within the state. Those who were not affiliated with this power group were marginalized, supplying the labor for those who owned the land. Whatever the rhetoric of “land for all” and “land to the tiller,” agrarian reforms— especially land redistribution programs launched in 1975 by the Derg (the title assigned to a committee of military officers, a communist military junta that came to power in Ethiopia following the ousting of Haile Selassie I and ruled from 1974 to 1991), and in 1996 by the EPRDF government—were used as a tool for empowering those considered loyal to the ruling political regime and for disempowering supporters of the previous regime (Getie 1999). Corruption, cronyism, and sexual exploitation were the most widely cited features of these programs. All three contributed to poverty and marginalization among the Zegheans and entrenched social injustice in their community—injustice that persists to this day (Bahru 2001). As one result, a new group has emerged on the peninsula—landless youth, who regard themselves as betrayed and forgotten by land distribution programs because their parents were not able to procure land on their behalf during the distributions of 1975 and 1996. To survive, many of these young people have turned to illegal logging on unguarded land. This has accelerated deforestation on the peninsula although some have offset this need by engaging in livelihood strategies such as sharecropping and “work for inheritance” arrangements with female-headed households or with old people who are unable to work their land. Environmental change is also an outcome of global policies and programs imposed on developing countries like Ethiopia (Ericksen 2007). One notable example is the imposition of neoliberal ‘free market’ policies and the removal of government  12  subsidies for essential services (Ribot 2002). On Zeghie Peninsula, the impact has taken the form of depressed coffee prices. That is, now that the quota system has been abolished, the free market has left small farmers vulnerable to global competition, which in turn has sharply reduced their income from growing coffee (Yilma 1996). This, coupled with the lack of alternative income earning opportunities, has worsened the plight of these farmers; it has also heightened conflicts over land. In particular, it has increased the burden on female heads of households, whose lot now is to support their families while men are away looking for seasonal work (see chapter 3). As Guha (2000:xii-xiv) notes, “ecological history is also never simply about landscape change; inevitably, it links environmental change with competing perceptions of the ‘uses’ of nature”. In that sense, historical inquiry can do much to assemble the pieces when it comes to analyzing environmental change. Such change occurs progressively over decades, so that a researcher who does not employ environmental history might well miss important trends that have contributed to landscape change (Batterbury and Bebbington 1999). As environmental historians have correctly pointed out, often the only way to combat faulty premises about the environment is to conduct a historical inquiry (McCann 1987, McCann 1999; Batterbury and Bebbington 1999). Also, as Moore (1993:383) argues, “a landscape could be experienced, remembered, and contested in multiple arenas and these conflicts are simultaneously symbolic and material, as particular interventions on the landscape take on different meanings for different actors in particularly historical contexts.” Environmental conflicts take many forms and have multiple dimensions (O'Lear and Diehl 2007). To understand the multiple dimensions of conflict and struggles over natural resources, this interest in environmental  13  history is combined, as noted above, with considerable use of insights from political ecology. By political ecology I mean a framework that sheds light on discursive and material struggles for power and resources. Political ecology attempts to understand environmental conflicts as part of broader political, cultural, and historical forces surrounding human beings and their environment (Gezon 2006:13). However, as Gezon has argued (following Basset), “conflicts over land rights cannot merely be explained as a problem of dwindling resource base, since such an explanation does not sufficiently explain … why and how some groups gain access to land while others are losing their rights” (Basset 1988:453 in Gezon 2006:13). Hence, besides applying political ecology to understand the struggle for power and resources at different levels, I have resorted to feminist political ecology and critical legal theory to inform my understanding of female-headed households’ vulnerabilities— in particular, the risk they face of losing their economic assets (especially land) as a result of traditional rules and customs that subordinate women. As noted by Rocheleau, Thomas-Slayter, and Wangari (1996:4), feminist political ecology treats gender as a critical variable in shaping resource access and control; gender, that is, interacts with class, caste, race, culture, and ethnicity to shape ecological change, the struggle of both sexes to sustain ecologically viable livelihoods, and a community’s prospects for sustainable development. This framework accepts that the causes of environmental degradation are complex and changing; thus, it has enabled me to uncover the multiple and contested vectors along which power is exercised so as to determine access to or control over resources and how this exercise differentially positions women and men (Paulson, Gezon, and Watts 2003). Moreover, it points to the critical importance of  14  kinship, gender, group, and other institutional connections when access to labor and land is being determined (ibid) and so helps us understand how these things govern access to and control over natural resources. As will be evident in the following discussions, unequal ownership of resources—especially land and forests—does much to determine environmental outcomes. Feminist critical and legal theory has enabled me to understand the different challenges women experience in the context of “legal pluralism” (i.e., the existence of more than one legal system) and how power relationships within justice systems determine people’s access to and use of law. Drawing from Griffiths (1997) and Hirsch (1998), I have explored the extent to which Ethiopia’s formal and informal justice systems are accessible to rural people in general and to female heads of households in particular. Chirayath, Sage, and Woolcock (2005) informed my analysis of the government’s lack of attention to the inequities of informal justice. When land rights are constantly being contested, access to legal systems is vital to people who depend on land for survival Among other important legal issues, this thesis explores the weaknesses of the formal and informal judicial systems as a result of traditional patriarchal rules, which rely heavily on local norms rather than on federal codes that are meant to protect women’s rights to land and property. As the foregoing discussion shows, no single theory can account thoroughly for the complex and dynamic relations among diverse groups and individuals in Zeghie and how the landscape evolved and emerged as a result of these interactions. Accordingly, my analysis counters the widely held belief that portrays the landscape in Zeghie as an outcome of harmonious relations governed by the notion of the sacred. A number of  15  social, political-economic, and historical processes have contributed to this image and have gained force and legitimacy as a result of the hegemony of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. We cannot understand the Zeghean forest’s history and present-day sustainability until we understand the conflicting environmental images and discourses as they apply to institutions and the land management systems with which they are associated. The conflicting images and discourses in Zeghie define how different groups of people – including women and men – should behave to fit in or be accepted by Zeghean society.  In the words of Gezon (2006), this demonstrates “the political nature of  everyday interactions” (p.14). These interactions are governed by a multitude of factors, including gender, age, marital status, economic situation, and political affiliation, which together determine access to and control over resources, especially land. To understand this complex phenomena, we need a framework that is robust enough to shed light on the material and discursive struggles among people, groups, and institutions within or acting upon Zeghie Peninsula—struggles that are marked by a confluence of religion, power, and livelihoods—and how the environmental imagery has been created, appropriated, and contested to shape the peninsula’s social, cultural and environmental landscape. In short, we need to understand the different cultural meanings and practices, or in the words of Escobar (1998) “cultural politics” in relation to (1) the way the ‘sacred’ is invoked by certain powerful people, groups or institutions to legitimize certain practices; and (2) the way culture and tradition7 are invoked to further exploit women and fragment their rights to land and property; silencing their plea for fair and equitable justice.  7  I recognize that tradition is a contested term and that as much as there are practices that are long-standing and passed down through multiple generations, some 'traditional' practices are upheld, others are ignored, while new ones come into being so as to legitimize particular social ends or outcomes (Hobbsbawm & Ranger, 1992). The question of who makes decisions about 'traditions' to be upheld (and not) and who 16  Culture is political because meanings are constitutive of processes that, implicitly or explicitly, seek to redefine social power. When movements deploy alternative conceptions of woman, nature, development, economy, democracy, or citizenship that unsettle dominant cultural meanings, they enact a cultural politics. Cultural politics are the result of discursive articulations originating in existing cultural practices.  These processes are never pure and always hybrid yet showing  significant contracts in relation to dominant culture.” (Escobar 1998:64) The notion of cultural politics espoused by Escobar (1998) takes inspiration from Gramsci’s notion of hegemony, which refers to “the dominant cultural and political order” (Zompetti 1997:72) that guides the formulation and dissemination of cultural, ideological, and moral systems of value and beliefs -- a process by which a given social system maintains itself through the production and appropriation of ideological texts that define social reality for a given society. Three important arguments arise out of this analysis: (1) the creation and consistent use of the notion of the sacred by dominant groups and institutions masks the struggle for power and resources and the outcomes of these struggles for vulnerable groups especially female headed households and landless youth; and misconstrued the responses and actions of these people to cope with and recover from the different dimensions of risks they experience in a day-to-day basis. (2) The cultural politics of every day interactions in Zeghie -- fueled by the beliefs and practices of acceptable norms and behaviors for women and men -- justified violation of women’s rights to land and property including their bodies. Powerful political appointees have exploited women both sexually and financially resulting in increased vulnerabilities suffers them is also crucial. But for my purposes here, when the term tradition is used, it refers to practices that are locally defined as traditional. It is thus not in the scope of this thesis to unpack which interpretations of tradition are new and which are not though this too would be interesting. 17  and a growing number of landless youth who feel that they have been betrayed. (3) Women’s already low status becomes even worse when they become widows. Unfair claims to land including border pushing and tree rustling by their own kin and neighbors who covet women’s land and resources continues to shape the social and cultural landscape and the environmental history cum future of the peninsula. As Hall (1977) argued, “hegemony gains strength in social and cultural norms that are embedded in the belief system of the church, the media, education system and families” (p.333) or discourse, which include ideas, beliefs and practices shared and understood by the members of a given culture through a common knowledge and experiences (Hajer 1995). What is more important is also to realize how gender, politics and culture affect natural resource management especially land use practices and result in a number of implications. First, as will become apparent in the chapters within, women are expected to “compromise” and/or give up their rights in the spirit of harmony and peaceful resolution of disputes. Second, if women decide to challenge the traditional and even the local formal justice system they will be shunned by their own fellow women as well as their kin and neighbors exposing women to a life of isolation and so lacking in important social support. Although women are not passive in the face of these serious livelihood challenges, their efforts to rise above this situation is often challenged by rules that clearly define how women should behave and expect to compromise even when decisions and rules are patently illegal and unfair. Third, land redistribution has greatly affected and indeed produced, as we shall see in the forthcoming pages, an increasing number of landless youth who feel betrayed and denied land due to unfair treatment of their mothers during the two main land distributions as well as the denial of fair justice and trial to their  18  mothers in day to day interactions and in the settlement of specific land-dispute cases. This in turn has been used as a justification for uncontrolled logging by the landless youth. In summary, the causes of environmental change and livelihood vulnerabilities are to be found both in individual households and in community norms, practices, and leadership structures, in national legislatures which produce but do not uphold laws pertaining to equity for women among others, and national and international organizations, which have in some cases adhered their visions of the future to indefensible and inaccurate histories of land use and local religiosity. The multiple and contested arenas through which women and men struggle for land also reveals the differing fields of power that define their ability to claim their rights and contest unfair claims by more powerful individuals and groups. Only a wide range of strategies that target the multitude of causes will reduce poverty and environmental degradation and address the denial of property rights which is at the root of poverty and marginalization. Poverty limits people’s choices and capacities, thereby increasing the burden on natural resources such as forests. Unless the root causes of poverty are addressed, sustainable development will remain a dream. Thus, to reduce both poverty and environmental degradation, the legal, institutional, and policy barriers to sustainable livelihoods must be removed, for both women and men. Removing legal barriers to women will have to entail improving their access to formal and informal legal processes. In rural settings like Zeghie Peninsula, traditional legal processes are readily accessible, but the outcomes of them for women, as will too be evident below, have been mixed. Traditional processes reduce the costs associated with litigation, but they also systematically undermine the  19  rights of female-headed households to land and other natural resources. The absence of justice has a negative impact on the environment, in the sense that women are unable to bring to justice those who harvest their trees illegally and who “push” the borders of their land. This, in turn, forces women to give up some or their entire major livelihood assets, that is, land and other related resources on which women’s day to day survival depend. This has been the major force that accelerated the vulnerability of women to both internal and external shocks -- eroding their ability to cope with and recover from these shocks and pushing women and their landless children to the margin -- thereby forcing many to adopt unsustainable livelihood options. 1.3  Thesis Outline While I have sketched out some broad arguments and theoretical inspirations  above, I will turn now to the contents of the thesis proper. This thesis tells the story of the people of Zeghie, who call themselves Yeden Sewoch, which literally means “People of the Forest” Historically, economically, and individually, they are intertwined with the forest, and they are struggling for survival. At this historical moment, their key concern is to achieve some semblance of a sustainable livelihood. This is especially so for female household heads, who presently lack the power to retain their own resources, especially land. There are five main chapters herein, three of which comprise the core manuscripts of this manuscript (and so not monograph-based) thesis. These [three] chapters have been or will shortly be submitted for peer review, and eventually, publication. A brief description of each chapter follows. Chapter one, this introductory chapter, presents background information and a rationale for the study; it also discusses the study’s 20  purpose and objectives. As per a thesis of this kind, methods are discussed in the individual paper-based substantive chapters (that is chapters two through four). Specifically, chapter 2 presents an environmental and social history of Zeghie Peninsula; the approach involves historical inquiry and political ecology. Consistent with the thesis title, Gender, Justice and Livelihoods in the Creation and Demise of Forests in North Western Ethiopia’s Zeghie Peninsula, it argues that Zeghie’s forest is not the imagined primeval forest of travelers’ imaginations; rather, it is the result of many centuries of human occupation. I challenge the widely held notion that Zeghie’s forest is a remnant natural forest by exploring local and regional discourses, narratives and archival evidence, which identify how and why the notion of the sacred came to be invoked and how the earlier agricultural landscape was transformed into a forest for cultivating shadegrown coffee. That change, in turn, has buried the “real” past and transformed the identity of the people. For example, many Zegheans forget that slave labor was used to plant and grow coffee or that a different agricultural system preceded a coffee-growing one. It also examines how the Orthodox Church—the principal landholder on the peninsula until very recently—established land use rules in order to protect the forest for coffee growing. Chapter 2 also shows that the Zeghean land use system is in transition. Coffee is losing its place as the most important crop, and because of climate change and market volatility, it can no longer support the growing population. This study assesses the impact of these changes on the Zeghean economy, society, and environment. Without denying the peninsula’s spiritual significance, this chapter calls attention to the need for recognizing the sacred forest as a social and political space where women and men contest one another for resources and power.  21  Chapter 3 explores women’s struggles to defend their resource rights. Their vulnerability arises not just from natural calamities such as drought, but also from structural inequalities. The latter grow out of market forces as well as social and political changes, all of which are weakening the community’s capacity to adapt. I focus mainly on social injustice as it relates to property rights. I delineate the causes and consequences of land disputes, and I discuss how land insecurity—especially land grabbing by government appointees—is the bedrock cause of household poverty, especially among female-headed households. Decreasing resilience and increasing vulnerability to external shocks have forced many Zegheans to engage in sharecropping; as a result, many Zegheans have lost control of their land permanently. This chapter also discusses the problem of landless youth as well as the problems caused by them. Chapter 4 employs feminist and critical theory to examine the impact of weak governance and justice systems at the local level. It shows that Ethiopia’s widely heralded legal reforms have not benefited most rural Ethiopians. Female-headed households are especially at risk because they have been forced to rely on customary justice, since formal, bureaucratic justice is inaccessible to them. I argue that patriarchal gender relations have made it difficult for women to benefit from existing justice systems, which depend heavily on traditional rules and laws rather than on federal laws and policies, which on their face (i.e., only on their face) secure women’s right to land and property. The thesis concludes by reviewing my major arguments, shedding light on current realities and future prospects for the people of Zeghie. It also discusses the strengths and weaknesses of the research, discusses its overall significance for the field of study, and  22  identifies potential applications for the findings. I summarize the themes of each chapter, with a goal of stepping beyond details to see the broader picture. The survival of the Zeghean forest and its people is contingent on a number of factors, including the people’s capacity to withstand the vagaries of natural and market forces. To better understand this complex and dynamic relationship, this thesis takes broader social, political-economic, and historical processes as its focus—processes entrenched in the micro politics of property ownership and gendered legal and decision-making institutions (Moore 1993). The thesis concludes by re-emphasizing that Zeghean women are chronically short of land rights, whatever Ethiopian law states. The country must somehow find a way to take policy initiatives one step further so that women will enjoy land rights not just in theory but in practice as well.  23  1.4  References  Adger, Neil, Tor Benjaminsen, Katrina Brown. and Hanne Svarstad. 2001. Advancing a Political Ecology of Global Environmental Discourses. Development and Change 32: 681–715. Abdussamad H. Ahmad. 1997. 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Gender, Land, and Livelihoods in East Africa Through Farmers’ Eyes. International Development Research Center. Ottawa. Canada. Wassie, A., Teketay, D. & Powell, N. 2003. Opportunities, Constraints and Prospects of the Ethiopian Orthodox-Tewahido Churches in Conserving Forest Resources: The Case of Churches in South Gonder, Northern Ethiopia. Symposium in Urban Landscape Dynamics and Resource Use, Sweden. Watts, Michael and Hans-Georg Bohle. 1993. The Space of Vulnerability: The Causal Structure of Hunger and Famine. Progress in Human Geography 13(1): 43-67 WCED, 1987. Our Common Future. The World Commission on Environment and Development. Oxford University Press. Oxford, UK.  30  Yilma Yemane Berhan. 1996. Study on Coffee and Wheat. FAO, Addis Ababa. Ethiopia. Zewge Teklehaimanot 2001. Biodiversity conservation in ancient church and monastery yards in Ethiopia. In Proceedings of the workshop on the Biodiversity conservation in ancient church and monastery yards in Ethiopia.  pp. 19-24.  University of Wales, Bangor and the Ethiopian Wildlife and Natural History Society, Addis Ababa. Zompetti, J.P. 1997. Toward a Gramscian critical rhetoric. Western Journal of Communication 61:66-86.  31  2.  THE CONTESTED HISTORY OF SHADE COFFEE IN ETHIOPIA’S ZEGHIE PENINSULA 8  2.1  Introduction: Zeghie’s Changing Landscape The people of Ethiopia’s Zeghie peninsula and the Ethiopian Orthodox Church  have long designated Zeghie as sacred and they have nurtured and protected the forest for many generations (Getachew 1993). The origin of the forest cannot be determined with any reasonable certainty. However, a number of studies have indicated that the history of the forest is intertwined with the development and expansion of coffee and the emergence of regional trade-—including slave trade as a dominant way of acquiring farm labor— that connected Zeghie to the outer world (Pankhurst 1968; Abdussamad 1997). Recent characterizations of Zeghie classify it as 90 percent natural forest, home to more than forty indigenous trees (Getachew 1993; Alemnew 2001; EPLAUA 2004). Zeghie is known for its forest cover—one of the very few such locations remaining in Bahir Dar Zuria Woreda (district) (Getachew 1993). Home to a long-standing coffee-based economy, the trees shade the coffee bushes, thus slowing down water evaporation; they also minimize the impact of torrential rains, which might otherwise destroy the coffee trees (Alemnew 2001). The traditional forest-coffee sector has been dwindling for a number of reasons, including a fall in world coffee prices and changes in rainfall patterns (Getachew 1993, EPLUA 2004). Extreme weather and untimely though not lesser volumes of rain have damaged many coffee bushes and reduced their productivity (EPLAUA 2004). Chronic  8  A version of this chapter has been submitted for publication, Asfaw T. and Satterfield, T. The Contested History of Shade Coffee in Ethiopia’s Zeghie Peninsula. 32  food shortages and low household incomes have forced people to adopt a number of diversification strategies. These strategies include the felling of trees, animal production that entails removal of vegetation cover by small ruminants, small-scale agriculture, and out migration in search of wage labor (Getachew 1993, EPLAUA 1994). Key informants in the BoA, EPLAUA and CARE concluded that the felling of shade trees in particular is devastating to the coffee bushes as well as to the forest cover itself. Moreover, EPLAUA (2004:28) noted that the rate of forest extraction was “alarming” and could lead to the removal of the remaining tree species and conversion of the forest to shrub vegetation within 15 years. Past studies have attempted to but not studied in any depth the religious, cultural, and economic importance of Zeghie’s sacred sites and their contributions to biological and cultural diversity (Dessalegn 1992; Wassie, Teketay, and Powell 2003; Posey 1999; Laird 1999). Missing from these studies, and what this chapter offers, is an analysis of the forest’s political and environmental histories, which explain how these sites of forest protection and coffee production emerged and developed. By exploring the evidence and discourses of deforestation as they have come to interact with myths9 that have declared Zeghie Peninsula sacred, this research identifies the contributions these myths have made to the legitimization of certain practices that have transformed a landscape, its history, and the identity of its people, but also constrain the possibilities embraced for the purposes of future livelihoods. My discussion and arguments can be anticipated as follows: a brief background to the research area is followed by evidence for and claims of rapid deforestation. Then 9  By ‘myth’ I mean the historical narratives of origin, often sacred in tone, that have been produced and reproduced about Zeghie and that contribute to systems of thought and values by which people attach religious or spiritual significance to Zeghie. 33  follows an analysis of the historical origins of the peninsula as sacred. This will be considered in conjunction with livelihood failures and peoples’ diversification strategies vis-à-vis the current coffee crisis and the vagaries of climate change. I will conclude this examination with some propositions about the current and emerging livelihood problems in Zeghie that threaten the long-term viability of the natural environment. I argue that the designation of the forest as sacred and the accompanying rules and sanctions did much to protect the forest for centuries. However, these mechanisms have lost their effectiveness now that coffee is losing its importance in the local economy. I also suggest that claims of the forest as sacred and as ‘remnant’ and ‘natural’ may be particularly troublesome in the current period to the extent that (a) these claims are dubious, and (b) render some future options less possible. I suggest that attention should be turned to current livelihood problems and their long-term impacts and viabilities with regard to the sustainability of the forest, and that other claims should be investigated more fully or at least before they become the basis of current policy. 2.2  The Physical Setting Zeghie Peninsula is located in north-west Ethiopia on the south shore of Lake  Tana in the west Gojjam district of Amhara region, about 530 kilometres from Addis Ababa. It is 1,347 hectares in size (Alemnew 2001:17). From the regional capital of Bahir Dar, it can be reached year-round by boat (15 kilometres) or by road during the dry season (32 kilometres). Lake Tana is the source of the Blue Nile. It has more than thirty islands, on many of which are churches—which reflect the area’s unique religious history (Getachew, 1993).  34  Much of the culture of Zeghie is dominated by the Orthodox Christian Church. Each family has a designated priest that ties them directly to the church, and there are fourteen Saint Days each month during which there are limitations placed on the type and amount of work that can be conducted. Historically, the church‘s role in land use was significant—holding all rights to land ownership and imposing certain restrictions on its use.  Such restrictions included a prohibition on livestock production and plough  agriculture on the Peninsula. Though the authority of the church has been somewhat diminished following the land reform of 1975 that granted usufructuary rights to the people, it remains a very important force (Getachew 1993). The peninsula's six churches that date back as far as the fourteenth century continue to serve the immediate population, and are among the many tourist attractions found in the Amhara Region. No surveys have been conducted specifically on Zeghie’s flora, but Alemnew (2001:22) notes that: “a number of foreign scholars (Pichi-Sermolli 1957; Sebald 1968; Friis; 1986, 1992) have documented Zeghie’s vegetation as part of a more general survey of Lake Tana. According to these sources, the Lake Tana forests are part of a transition zone between the humid evergreen forests of south-west Ethiopia and the drier upland evergreen forests; they are part of a special subtype of undifferentiated afromontane forest”. The five most common species in Zeghie forest are “Coffea arabica, Justicia schimperiana, Rothmania urcelliformis, Millettia ferruginea, and Ehretia cymosa” Alemnew (2001:22). The first two species, Coffea Arabica (coffee) and Justicia schimperiana, are shrubs, while the remaining three species are trees.  35  Figure 2-1 Partial view of the forest  Photo by: Tihut Asfaw  The peninsula’s forest fauna includes vervet monkey, warthog, crested porcupine, rock hyrax, duicker, bushbuck, Abyssinian hare, civet, spotted hyena, common jackal, tree squirrel, various reptiles such as the python, and a variety of birds (EPLAUA 2004:33). The next section uses data collected through qualitative techniques such as key informant interviews, focus group discussions, as well as field observations to shed light on Zeghie’s livelihood systems and the challenges faced by the people. Some secondary data has also been obtained from different institutions including the church, the Bureau of Agriculture (BoA), Bureau of Meteorological Institution, Environmental Protection Land Administration and Use Authority (EPLAUA), and CARE Ethiopia. A list of potential interviewees was developed from the listings of all female- and male-headed households recorded in the peasant associations’ land owners’ register using a random sampling approach. The register contained 637 and 920 households in Oura and Yiganda PAs respectively. However, due to time constraints, the total number of interviews conducted 36  was limited to 50 people, 25 people from each PA. Forty percent of the total interviewees were female heads of households. 2.3  Livelihoods in a Sacred Landscape Rural livelihoods—“the capabilities, assets (including both material and social  resources) and activities required for a means of living” (Carney 1998:4) — involve a variety of activities, including subsistence and commercial agriculture, fishing, pastoralism, selling and trading, and waged and unwaged labor (see, for example, Toulmin 1983; Chambers 1995; Adams and Mortimore 1997). Land is the dominant source of livelihoods for Zegheans. However, limited land holdings were common among the households interviewed10. Coffee production has been the mainstay of the economy of Zeghie until the recent collapse noted above. Besides coffee, another important source of income for Zegheans is fruit growing. Fruits are widely viewed as an indicator of ecological sustainability because fruit production does not entail removing trees after harvest; as well, the trees help to conserve soil and water. Fruit growing is not new to Zeghie. However, through CARE’s interventions there has been a significant increase and expansion11.  CARE International attempted to promote and enhance local farmers’  capacity to produce and market fruits. Several training and demonstration sessions were held with prominent farmers, and the resulting ideas were disseminated widely. However, increased fruit production attracted wild animals, especially vervet monkeys, wild pigs, and rodents, and these are now serious threats to fruit production. The wild animals eat the fruit as soon as it appears, and some even destroy tree roots and branches. Because of 10  The average landholding was around 0.8 hectares, range: 0.25 to 2 hectares  11  [Getachew BoA, Pers. Communication] 37  this, most households prefer to plant fruit trees around their homes, which makes it easier to drive away monkeys and wild pigs. Key informants indicated that over the past few years there had been a significant increase in wild animals, as Zeghie is one of the last remaining forests in the north-west highlands. The local people do not take a positive view of this new ecological diversity, as it hurts them economically. In the words of Mr. LT, a 71 year old key informant: The weather and land was conducive for fruit production. But, what is the point? Wild animals, mainly monkeys and rodents, are destroying our fruit trees. The whole family stands on guard trying to protect our fruit but we just can’t keep up with these animals. Unless the administration gives us permission to kill them, we will soon starve to death. The administration is more concerned about the trees and the animals. Who should get priority, animals or humans? This has been confirmed by the BoA and the local administration, who reported that they have been trying to reduce the number of monkeys on the peninsula by assigning scouts who were given licenses to shoot monkeys. However, they indicated that they cannot assign a license for the farmers to shoot wild animals due to fear of endangering other wild animals. Local people reported that the results of BoA’s efforts to address this problem were insufficient. Some households reported using dogs to chase away the monkeys. This worked for a time until leopards began to appear; recent reports indicate that the dogs are not surviving their encounter with leopards. Growing hops (Rhamnus prinoides) is another source of income. The flowers of hop vines are used to prepare the local beer, called tella. The tiny flowers are collected at least twice a year between October and April. It is usually women who pick and sell the  38  hops and who brew and sell tella. Like fruit trees, hop vines can be intercropped with coffee12. Once planted, hops require no work except for harvesting and selling the flowers and removing dead branches, which are used as firewood. Livestock grazing has been prohibited on Zeghie Peninsula since coffee was introduced centuries ago (Getachew 1993). In the recent past, efforts have been made by the local administration (PA officials, and CARE employees) to encourage poultry raising, which the church has endorsed. Many households are now raising chickens. CARE has tried to introduce improved breeds of chickens to the community. The most popular variety is the Road Island, whose adoption the local CARE office has strongly encouraged. Unfortunately, chickens are easy prey for local predators, and there is a lack of veterinary services for the chickens. The chickens are kept for eggs. Very few households eat meat—if at all, only on religious holidays. The eggs are sold in nearby Afaf town, where the demand is greater than the existing supply can meet. Owing to the high cost of buying improved breeds and difficulties obtaining them, few are kept on the peninsula. Honey gathering is an old tradition in Zeghie. Most households know how to develop beehives, but only 12 percent of the total households participated in the bee keeping pilot project introduced by CARE (Gebremeskel and Dehab 2003:29). People either keep their aviaries on the ground around their homestead or high up in nearby trees. Placing them farther afield is not always wise; many farmers have found their beehives emptied by other people during the night. The production has a seasonal rhythm linked mainly to the flowering cycles of the local vegetation. The highest production is in  12  About 60.2 percent of the respondents who cultivated coffee also grew hops, with an average of 23 hop vines per plot. 39  May, the lowest in November. The villages close to the neighboring Wonjeta village keep the most bees and produce the most honey. Besides thefts, the beekeepers must contend with ants, termites, spiders, and birds (which eat the bees). Ant and termite infestations often make it necessary to move the hives. Most of the honey is also sold in Afaf, where a small workshop processes the honey and makes church candles from the beeswax. The larger producers sometimes travel to the Bahir Dar market, where they obtain higher prices. Some Zegheans fish in Lake Tana, though largely only for limited personal consumption. The lake’s fish resources are very much underexploited. It is estimated that only 10 percent of the lake’s potential has been tapped (Getachew 1993:13). This research identified limited non-agricultural income earning opportunities that are available for Zegheans. For instance, about 28 percent of study participants indicated that they depend partly on non-agricultural income. The percentage is 10 percent in Oura PA; however, in Yiganda it was only 18 percent. Though it was useful, non-farm employment faced some constraints13. Some Zegheans (11 percent) indicated that they seasonally participate in rural wage employment. These are people who live in Zeghie but engage in temporary employment in Wonjeta and other agricultural areas during peak agricultural seasons. In the next section, I shed light on how Zeghie’s environment is imagined, represented and contested. In doing so, I turned to written texts (mostly those of histories) and discourses (namely those written by travellers and recent aid and conservation workers) that attempt to explain the environmental history of the peninsula. These are augmented by local reflections and perspectives gathered through field observations and  13  The key ones were low demand (reported by 55 percent of households), poor equipment, lack of credit (11 percent each), and high raw-material prices (7 percent). 40  interviews noted above, and through oral histories provided by local elders. This has helped my understanding of how the landscape has evolved; what triggered the change in the land use system; and how both were intertwined with the shifting identity and values of the local people and their relationship to the environment. As in most oral historical accounts, there are some discrepancies in the reporting of the timing of some important events including the peninsula’s founding origin story. However, in this case, not only oral history but also written transcripts that originated from the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and published materials have helped substantiate some of the claims made by the local people as well as historians14. This analysis resulted in a number of competing explanations about Zeghie’s environmental history as will be evident below. 2.4  Competing Narratives on Zeghie’s Forest As happens so often in Africa, the degradation of Ethiopia’s landscape has  encouraged competing narratives (see also Fairhead and Leach 1996). Orthodox environmentalists and neo-Malthusians also contend that the country’s highland landscape was once far different than it is today and that there has been progressive loss of forest cover (Swain 1954; Hurni, 1988). More recent writings on the biological composition of the peninsula uphold this view in that Zeghie’s lands are typically described as “sacred … islands of natural forest biodiversity” (Zewge, 2001, p. 2); “sanctuaries for endangered plant and animal species … [and] indicator sites of the original ecological landscape” (Soutter et.al. 2003, p. 8). The general assumption is that  14  Abdussamad H. Ahmad. 1997. “Priest Planters and Slavers of Zage (Ethiopia), 1900-1935.” International Journal of African Historical Studies 29(3): 15; Bahru Zewdie. 2001. A History of Modern Ethiopia, 1855–1991. Oxford: James Currey; Pankhurst, Richard. 1968. Economic History of Ethiopia, 1800–1935. Addis Ababa: Haile Sellasie I University Press;  41  the current landscape is an “original” and “natural” landscape. Furthermore, so this view would have it, its forests have enjoyed generations of protection because they are sacred. Early travelers’ accounts reveal that the peninsula was established during the reign of the Emperor Amde Syion (1314–1344) (Rahel 1999). Other records indicate that in the fourteenth century the peninsula was visited by the Emperor Adiam Seged Iyassu, who helped found the Oura Kidanemhiret Church. This particular church is now one of the peninsula’s tourist attractions (See Table 2-1). Table 2-1 Zeghie churches and monasteries Monastery or church Village  Date Established  Founding Figure  Mehal Zege Giorgis  Sar Wodeb  1298  Abune Betremariam  Betre Mariam  Sar Wodeb  1317  Abune Betremariam  Azwa Mariam  Sar Wodeb  14th Century  Abune Yohannes & Abune Fanuel  Debre Selasse  Kam Gedel  14th Century  Abune Yohannes & Abune Fanuel  Oura Kidanemihret  Oura  14th Century  Abune Yohannes & Abune Fanuel  Yiganda Teklehaimanot  Kam Gedel  1674  Aba Bertelemeos  The people and priests of Zeghie generally hold that the peninsula is sacred—a belief for which there is said to be documentation in the closely guarded church records in the Abune Betremariam Church (founded by Abune Betremariam). One of the most influential records is known as the chronicles of Abune Betremariam. According to Mr. KN, who was the designated keeper of church artifacts and special chronicles, the chief  42  priest brings these chronicles out during important holidays and calls out the conditions stated in them to ensure that the people will observe the rules and conditions that will keep the peninsula sacred and bring blessings to its inhabitants. In addition, the EOC has played a major role in institutionalizing the notion of the sacred through the production and dissemination of a pamphlet about the history of the peninsula by effectively communicating this message not only to the local people but also to visitors, researchers and government employees visiting the area. [I had the opportunity to buy a copy of this pamphlet from the Oura Church.] According to this story, a saint by Abune Beteremariam came to Zeghie from Dembia, Gondar province, in the thirteenth century. He brought with him a rod, which he broke into three pieces. He planted each piece, and these three pieces of wood grew into coffee, hops, and lemon trees, all of which became important sources of livelihood for the local people. The blessing of the peninsula came through Abune Betremariam’s prayers and dedication. Derivative of the blessing is the belief that the peninsula is said to have a harmonious relationship between humans and nature, including wild animals. It is believed that as a result, the peninsula’s wild animals (including its snakes) do not attack people, nor does lightning strike the forest, the houses, or the people. To keep this blessing, the people of the peninsula are forbidden to keep domestic animals (including goats and sheep) or to slaughter oxen and other animals (see also Rahel 1999; EPLAUA 2004).  According to key informants, the church  demands that two kgs of coffee be allocated every year by each household as a payment for the yearly prayer service conducted by the church and so maintain the peninsula’s blessings. This particular prayer takes place between mid-March and the beginning of April, just a few days before the belg rain (short and moderate rains, which correspond to  43  Ethiopia’s secondary harvest season for the northern highland areas) is supposed to start. Most households participate in this prayer service to avoid any blame in case something bad happens (Rahel 1999 documented similar stories). As the most dominant institution in the northern highlands and the major landholder of this land, the EOC had a say in determining the land use system prior to the 1974 land distribution. Tirfe (1999) identified the role played by the EOC not only in teaching the people that the appointment, rulership and rights of the king are divine, but also that all the decisions and actions should be accepted by the people accordingly without any doubt or question. This service of the church was rewarded by the government by granting land (known as semon land), which was used for the purpose of generating income for the church and also indexes the church as an important arm of the state. The churches were generally exempted from tax payment and were allowed to collect tithes (asrat15) from those settled on the land. People who used church land also had the option of serving the church in lieu of paying land tax. Priests also employed peasants in a sharecropping arrangement and have generated wealth and prestige, particularly through the expansion of coffee production and markets at the turn of the 20th century (Abdussamad 1997). Ultimately, the church successfully transformed a plough based agricultural system that dominantly produced annual crops such as barley and maize into a coffee producing agro-forestry system due to the higher income they were able to generate from the sale of coffee, which persisted over many generations (ibid). The use of the sacred is therefore very important to the emergence of an agro-forestry system that has also come  15  Commonly one-tenth of the produce 44  to be recognized more recently for its bio-diversity or conservation benefits, especially the preservation of plant and animal species that are already extinct in other parts of the country. The persistence of this land use system can be attributed to the fact that coffee remained an important cash crop across successive regimes, at least until recently wherein this particular land use system is facing market and climactic challenges16 However, it should also be noted that these church-imposed restrictions have been observed locally and logically as not doing so would have been detrimental for coffee seedlings. For instance animal production, especially production of small ruminants, is banned—not only because it is said to disturb the sacred nature of the land, but because small ruminants, especially goats, consume the coffee and other tree seedlings hence affecting the production and productivity of coffee. In short, by invoking the sacred and institutionalizing sanctions and taboos on certain land use practices, the church and the priests have played a major role in transforming what had been an oxen-based agricultural system into a forest based, coffee growing area. This discourse is also invoked by debteras (unordained priests) who conduct rituals to protect the coffee trees against natural calamities. The person who performs the ritual is known as the ‘berd tebaki’, which literally means “the man who protects the coffee trees from frost bite”. People pledge some amount of coffee to the ‘berd tebaki’, with the belief that there will be a good harvest following the performance of this ritual. However, this practice is not accepted by conservative Christians and the church. It is condemned on the grounds that it is performed by an unsanctioned priest and is thus regarded as black magic. It is also considered malevolent magic due to the belief that  16  Pers. Communication with Getachew Biazin, Oura PA BoA extension agent 45  some of the old trees are inhabited by evil spirits; those who touch such trees are said to be harmed by angry spirits. One informant suggested, for instance, that people died violent deaths as a result of cutting old trees. These spirits are locally known as Kole17 and Adbar18 and are believed to bring blessings if they are treated with respect (share) in the form of sacrificed chickens. The same attitude pertains to coffee trees. According to Mrs. KN, since coffee came to Zeghie as a blessing to the people, those who produce, harvest and roast coffee should take that into account. A good example of doing so is the ritual undertaken before coffee beans are harvested. First, the place where the harvested coffee will be stored will be cleaned, and coffee beans will then be roasted on a small stove. This is followed by a prayer to bless the coffee beans. During the coffee harvesting period itself, no one is allowed to leave the coffee outside without having someone physically present. The coffee ceremony begins by scattering green grass on the floor and burning some incense. The coffee ceremony takes place in the midst of the coffee trees, in a place especially designated for the harvested beans. After the ceremony they will collect and store the harvest. People believe that this ritual will bring blessing (redet); otherwise, the blessing will be lost (redetun yatal). I was told that this ritual is still practiced by many people. Mrs. KN indicated that “the coffee ceremony is much more important than drinking the actual coffee”. Mrs DE similarly noted that “if one doesn’t have proper attitude, the kole/spirit could be offended and might attack the offender”. In general, discourses of the sacred, alongside the very real belief in the metaphysical, sacred and animated powers of the physical world, are used by different groups including the Orthodox Church and its 17 18  The god of the house (protector of the house) The spirit that governs the village 46  priests as well as unordained priests and it understandably has shaped the people’s attitudes and practices for many generations. Moreover, the notion of the sacred has been invoked by different groups for different purposes. For instance, the monarchy, nobility and military invoked the notion of the sacred in subsequent regimes to acquire large tracts of land on the peninsula claiming that they would settle there and achieve redemption for their sins in their old age. Whether this was the main purpose of procuring land in Zeghie is, however, questionable as members of the royal family were said to have been more interested in the incomes received from Zeghie’s coffee rather than its spiritual blessings. Abdussamad (1997) provides an example of the different ways this influential group obtained land and the benefits then derived: “When individuals without offspring failed to give their property to the church; this property was confiscated by the ruler of Gojjam, Ras Haylu Taklayamanot (1901-1932). In this way, Haylu became owner of coffee plots in Zege” (ibid: 549-550). Discourses of the sacred deployed by an already powerful institution such as the church and influential people are of course often left unchallenged, at least formally or overtly. In the case of Zeghie, the term was used to convert agricultural land (including plough agriculture) into coffee production to benefit those who had power and justify their unfair claims to Zeghie’s fertile land. The notion of the sacred was also invoked by the local people themselves in different occasions. Brosius notes that: “the sacred has been deployed by indigenous people themselves in their struggles to assert forms of connection to the land that are effaced by colonialist and/or statist projects” (Brosius 2001:126). In areas like Zeghie, 47  the contention that the forest is sacred is in fact a very basic fact of everyday life and is manifest, in particular, in the number of feast days per month intertwined with indebtedness to the church and the land. Sacred in this context thus references the spiritual significance of the land due to the long history of churches, monasteries and the laws and rules established by religious fathers. This understanding of the sacred nature of the area is also used by the people to resist the government’s forced resettlement programs (see below section on the Zeghean identity). 2.5  The Zeghean Identity as People of the Forest Given the preceding description, it would be erroneous to suggest that Zegheans  themselves haven’t also taken up an identity rooted in the sacred. Zegheans see themselves as quite different from people who are not coffee growers; they refer to themselves as the “people of the forest.” Discussions with many of them revealed that “Zeghean” is an identity that distinguishes those who hold it from neighboring groups whose land use systems are different. Common sayings to this effect include: “A Zeghean out of the forest is like a fish out of water”; and “When a Zeghean leaves the forest, he or she will wilt like coffee without shade.” These popular expressions are often invoked to resist the government’s efforts to resettle them. As their fate is often threatened by posed resettlement plans, resistance is and remains strong. Accordingly, Mr. D, a key informant in Oura PA, with whom I met in 2005 notes: We have explained our problem to our leaders in Bahir Dar. We told them to find a means that will help us pass this “hungry season” while people are waiting for the coffee to recover from drought. We don’t want to cut our trees and expose the coffee to further drought. We know the 48  consequences very well. We know about coffee and the environment more than the staff at the Bureau of Agriculture do. However, when we lack alternative mechanisms, we start cutting our precious trees. Our leaders don’t understand the problem or ignore it as they are more concerned about the trees than the people. One of their suggestions was to resettle us to other places, where we can work the land like the other farmers. It seems that our leaders don’t understand that we are not farmers. We don’t even know how to plough with oxen. It is not part of our way of life and culture. We would rather stay here and die than leave our ‘blessed land’. We know very well that cutting the trees will lead to more dry periods, we are also sure that if we leave this peninsula, we will wilt like a coffee plant that lost its shade. Clearly, Zegheans do not view themselves as ploughmen; they see their life as intertwined with that of the forest. Some respondents were indeed confused or offended when I referred to their coffee plantings as farms. One respondent pointed out, politely, that Zegheans are not farmers. Farmers are the people from the nearby villages, who grow grain, often with the use of oxen. Pointedly, Zegheans refer to people from the countryside as “getere,” which suggests quite simply “backward” or “uncivilized” (see also Rahel 1999). Zegheans do realize that they are steadily growing more destitute, yet their endurance is driven in part by the conviction that the peninsula is “sacred” and “blessed”, a ‘food’ in its own right, and thus capable of offsetting the burden of hunger. For Mrs. A, an elderly woman key informant:  49  Unlike the other areas, people can survive here with one meal a day or with a snack, because the land is blessed. We don’t have that much but we are sending our children to school. When we go to church or to other important places, we take the cloth we use for such special occasions from our senduk19, which is usually washed properly using berry of the endod.20 When we go out to places dressed in clean and decent clothes, nobody thinks we are poor. We don’t mind the temporary inconveniences because we are aware that we live in this blessed place. We also know that one day things will change; we just need to trust God and observe the taboos and sanctions that are given to our forefathers. Despite this representation of Zeghie as sacred, and Zegheans’ self regard as superior due to their agrarian practices (and the ‘sanctity’ of their landscape), few deny that most of them migrated to Zeghie from nearby agricultural areas in search of coffee-growing land. Many informants reported that significant number of Zegheans actually came from Wonjeta, a highly fertile agricultural area nearby. Key informants noted that a lot of people have migrated from Agew Midir, Kosso Ber, Achefer, and Mecha districts for the same reason. Thus Zegheans do include—besides the priests and balabats,21—those who migrated from neighboring agricultural areas in search of land for coffee cultivation and who later decided to keep their holdings on the peninsula and abandon their holdings in their places of origin (Rahel 1999).  19  A locally made closet or drawer for clothes. African soapberry plant (Phytolacca dodecandra), a plant that grows around the lake and has some detergent qualities 21 Those who have large land holdings 20  50  Most of the informants also acknowledge their blood relationship with people from the surrounding communities and villages—ties that helped minimize the impact of drought and other disasters on the peninsula and thus are vital to the survival of Zegheans. For instance, most Zegheans immigrated to the Wonjeta district during the hailstorm of 1971–72 and stayed there until their coffee bushes in Zeghie recovered from this storm. Migration to Wonjeta and other agricultural areas is still practiced by Zegheans during drought and other calamities. The market relationship between Zegheans and their neighbors is also mutually beneficial: the other communities buy coffee and fruit from the Zegheans, who buy from them maize and other foods. 2.6  Slavery, Conquest, and the ‘Remnant’ Forest  2.6.1  Zeghie’s forest – remnant or artifact? The story of how the peninsula came to be sacred does not prove that Zeghie is a  remnant forest. All it reveals is that the forest was likely cultivated into being either as or after coffee was introduced and that plough agriculture and animal husbandry were prohibited thereafter. Worth noting here is that the church was the principal landholder on the peninsula during the monarchy (1855-1974) as well as the main producer and exporter of coffee. There is however some historical evidence to suggest that Zeghie forest is not a remnant forest and that slavery was one of the principal means through which ‘coffee wealth’ in this newer cultivated forest was produced. To the first, and more minor ‘remnant forest’ point, environmental historians have suggested that the view of landscape as ‘remnant’ exaggerates the rate and magnitude of deforestation and misrepresents the role of human agency as human communities worked within different landscape and agricultural regimes (Dessalegn 51  1992). McCann, for example, refers to the neo-Malthusian viewpoint as the “deforestation narrative.” He argues that this narrative is false and that much of the existing tree cover in the highlands is not a remnant of an earlier natural forest but rather, a human artifact planted by town dwellers (McCann 1997).  He contends that the  highlands have always been treeless largely because the environment is unamenable to forest growth. The point is not that current rates of cutting aren’t extensive; they do appear to be so as noted above, and as supported by local statements of practices laid out below. Rather, the point is that assumptions about a ‘remnant’ forested past may be feeding into both a false narrative of loss of that past (when a remnant or primordial forest was never so), and, possibly, an over-estimation of cutting historically. The Derg regime was particularly concerned with narratives of loss and environmental collapse and implemented extensive soil and water conservation programs as urgent measures to avoid environmental catastrophes.  Yet, McCann (1997) has  criticized these approaches, by pointing out that such claims are often borrowed from international organizations, prominent environmentalists and consultants and hence accepted as facts due to the credibility of the authors. In his article, ‘The Plow and Forest,’ he quoted Senator Albert Gore, as stating that: One tragic example of the loss of forests and then water is found in Ethiopia. The amount of its forested land has decreased from 40 to 1 percent in the last four decades…The effects of the prolonged drought that have resulted have combined with the incompetence of its government to produce an epic tragedy: famine, civil war, and  52  economic turmoil have wreaked havoc on an ancient and once-proud nation (ibid:138). McCann further noted that “such assertions marked the steady passage of a single environmental history or narrative – the past state of Ethiopia’s forest – from the level of unfounded conventional wisdom to a statement of fact” (1997:138). Subsequent research and analysis of the environmental history of Ethiopia heavily drew from these writings and appear to have simply transplanted them to specific areas like Zeghie peninsula. For instance, Alemnew (2001:1) cited several authors and argued that: about 42 million ha, or the equivalent of 35% of Ethiopia’s land area, might once have been covered with forest (EFAP, 1994 in Alemnew 2001). With the inclusion of Savannah woodlands the estimation rises to some 66% of the country. This imagining of a remnant forest might then have led him to conclude that the forests remaining near the churches are not a more recent church product per se (a point also taken up more fully below), but were ‘remnants’ of a much greater loss. In the same paper, Alemnew states, for instance, that: “Remnants of these forests can be seen today around numerous churches where, by tradition, the trees are not cut” (Ibid). In short, some over-estimates of historical cutting may be occurring, because current rates of cutting are used to backcast the size of the original forest, by assuming that cutting rates now have always been so and thus the forest cover must have once been very extensive. This prevailing view is also thrown into doubt by physical evidence in Zeghie itself. The most important physical evidence of land use systems predating the forest (and coffee) is the presence of ancient terraces and stone bunds, which were built on the peninsula’s steep slopes in order to conserve soil and water. According to the 53  Environmental Protection Land Administration and Use Authority (EPLAUA 2004), the gradients on the peninsula range from 7 to 15 percent and had it not been for these bunds the Peninsula’s rich soil would have been severely eroded. I examined these stone terraces, whose surfaces are now flat owing to the wear of time. Quite probably, these structures fell out of use after trees and coffee bushes arrived on the peninsula, for these new arrivals served the purposes of soil and water conservation.22 2.6.2  Slavery, Forests and the Emergence of a Coffee Economy The second key point here involves the history of coffee cultivation and hence the  replacement of one agricultural system with a forested one. While several informants told me that coffee arrived on the peninsula in the fourteenth century and so is somewhat consistent with above EOC narratives, they did not know how widely it was cultivated by the local people—and there are no documents to clarify this point. However, Merid (1988) indicated that by 1809 coffee-growing was reported from Agawmidir, south of Lake Tana. “In the 1830s, coffee, both wild and cultivated, was reported from around the southern and eastern shores of Lake Tana; it was mainly used for trade rather than local consumption” (p.24). Similarly, Pankhurst (1968) indicated that the local centre of production was Zeghie. He noted that: “Zege was described by Ruppell in the 1830s as producing superior-quality beans. Half a century later, Stecker declared that the area was “especially famed for its coffee plantations.” Apparently these plantations were by then well established: Sir William Garstin noted in 1934 that “the whole of the hilly peninsula is  22  This is confirmed by EPLAUA (2004) 54  practically one large coffee estate.” Cheesman stated in the 1930s that the area was covered with coffee plantations. Cortest estimated the output at 1,000,000 to 1,200,000 kilograms, and this may well have been less at one time, for Rosen says that after the railway from Harar was built, coffee production declined on account of competition from that city” (Ibid:202) Evidence of earlier coffee production is less clear. It is likely that the Ethiopian Orthodox Church discouraged coffee production between the fourteenth and eighteenth centuries. Pankhurst (1968:202), again, has described this situation: Coffee, though native to the country and destined to become its most important export, had, like tobacco, to overcome strong opposition from the Church. This resistance, which manifested itself among the Christian population generally, was perhaps at its strongest in Shoa [the center], where Krapf reported that the priests would not tolerate coffee because it was drunk by the Gallas and Muslims, while Harris observed that cultivation was “strongly interdicted, as savoring too strongly of the abhorred Mohammedans,” though in the bordering districts where the restriction was not enforced there were “numerous and thriving” plantations. According to Merid (1988), the prohibition of coffee by the Ethiopian Orthodox Church had ended by mid-seventeenth century. He noted that “coffee was seen as a potential export from the Ethiopian Kingdom as early as the mid-seventeenth century” (p.21). Pankhurst (1968) also indicated that this opposition totally died during the reign of King Tewodros (1855-89). During the 1860s Zeghie Peninsula was described as “one of the  55  wealthiest towns in the country”. There were said to be as “many as 2000 houses” although the area was “twice raided by Tewodros’s army”. Rassam, quoted in Pankhurst, claims that the second raid in February 1866 was particularly brutal; “in less than two hours not a house was left standing.” When the Duchesne-Fournet Mission came through a few generations later, they “thought that the town had only 1,200 inhabitants, while the guide later described it as no more than an extended village” (ibid 694). Looting and plundering of villages by passing armies of Ethiopian Kings was common even as early as (325-350 A.D) -- the reign of Emperor Ezana of Aksum. But it is noteable that in this period, the ‘booty’ reflects a different agricultural system whereby Ezana took pride in the number of head of cattle and pack animals he confiscated from people. Regardless, while the agricultural systems did change, it remains the case that invasion and plunder continued throughout the 19th Century (Caulk, 1978). According to Caulk: “…like Susenyos and his successors at Gonder, Tewodros plundered recalcitrant districts for supplies and probably found it expedient to use force in other cases in order to satisfy the needs and lusts of soldiers who were ill fed and who risked injury and, more certainly, infection for the chance of booty. The year before he marched to meet Napier, Tewodros’s rule had degenerated into a reign of terror by his army against the peasantry of the very heart of his kingdom” (1978:463). Less well known or at least less acknowledged locally is the fact that in a later period regional coffee trade depended on slavery. There is evidence that Zeghie’s priests and feudal lords used slaves to cultivate coffee on the peninsula beginning in the early 1800s (Pankhurst 1964); he notes that about 25,000 slaves were exported annually out of  56  Ethiopia via different routes between 1801 and 1850’s the major route being via the Sudan frontier. Of these, about 17,000 slaves per year passed through the northwestern portion of the country, including Zeghie. According to Abdussamad (1997), this continued through to the comparatively recent period of 1900 through 1935 during which he designates Zeghie as the centre of trade in both slaves and coffee. Abdussamad (1997) also notes that the slaves came from the Gumuz area on the Ethiopian-Sudanese border and were mostly tall, dark-skinned men (ibid). They had been chosen, he reports, because they were believed to have the stamina for the arduous tasks of coffee growing and tree planting. Also, their dark skins distinguished them from the lighter-skinned Zegheans, which served to block their assimilation (ibid). Finally, he suggests that the trade in slaves was somewhat clandestine in that slaves were not sold on open markets; rather, they were kept in the houses of Muslim traders, where buyers and sellers met. Zeghie Peninsula is somewhat isolated and is also perceived that way. This is so, despite the fact that for centuries it was also part of the northern fiefdoms that dominated the country in general and in northern Ethiopia in particular. In his notable book,23 the Ethiopian historian Bahru Zewdie (2001) described how the slave trade accentuated differences between the central and the peripheral nationalities, which are often cast as “north” and “south.” The north was the home base of successive kingdoms and empires, which strengthened their power in part through southward territorial expansion. In the process, thousands were enslaved and transported to the capital and other places in the north. As a branch of the monarchy, the church played an important role in the expansion of slave trade.  23  A History of Modern Ethiopia 1855-1991 57  Despite its historical prominence, the slave trade appeared to be a taboo subject among people interviewed. They seemed fearful that it would tarnish the “sacred” image promoted by the clergy and other important local people, though some deference to the significance of the slave-labor force to coffee production was forthcoming. Only two key informants confirmed that the slaves had to work very hard on large coffee plantations especially during March and May, which is the agricultural cycle of the peninsula - to expand coffee cultivations, which involved planting and caring for the bushes and harvesting the berries. Coffee trees require regular watering, so they also fetched water from the lake, carrying it on their backs and heads. In sum, Zeghie Peninsula’s environmental history is closely linked to the economic, social, and political history of the country. The coffee economy has transformed the local landscape and radically altered land use practices. This has been encouraged by the church, which centuries ago declared the peninsula a sacred place and persuaded the local people to protect and nurture a forest advantageous to coffee and its accompanying resources. The prohibition on grazing animals helped protect the forest’s ground cover and minimize soil erosion despite the steep terrain. These are positive outcomes. However, they gloss over the underlying motives of those who ruled the peninsula historically: to generate the highest possible income from coffee by resorting to slave labor; and—critically—they may well impede the range of livelihood diversification strategies employed by Zegehans to cope with and recover from more recent vagaries of nature and market risks. It is to this question of the viability of the forest and of an economy based solely on coffee in view of these real threats that the last section of this chapter turns.  58  2.7  Zegheans’ Livelihoods at Crossroads The foregoing discussion highlighted how the designation of Zeghie’s forest as  remnant and sacred has shaped the locally reported environmental history and the identity of the people. The revised examination of Zeghie’s history then proposed a somewhat altered environmental and social history. In this next section, I will examine the relationship of these histories – reported, discursively represented and documented – to different dimensions of livelihood vulnerabilities—as they have come to affect the people and their resource management decisions. By this, I mean the coping and adaptive strategies, which may or may not be sustainable, and which are or are not used when livelihoods are vulnerable or under stress. Coping strategies “are often short-term responses to a specific shock such as drought” (Labonne and Gilman, 1999:9). For example, sharing, rationing of food and mobility have been the most commonly used coping strategies among rural communities in Ethiopia. Adaptive strategies, conversely, “involve long-term change in behavior patterns as a result of shock or stress” (ibid). Livelihood diversification is an important adaptive strategy to raise incomes and reduce the impact of environmental risk. Livelihood diversification is “the processes by which rural families construct a diverse portfolio of activities and social support capabilities in their struggle for survival and in order to improve their standard of living” (Ellis 1999 cited in Kinaro 2008:2). The extent to which the rural poor employ adaptive or coping strategies is contingent on their ability to diversify livelihoods, and depends on their access to and control over tangible assets (stores and resources) and intangible assets (claims and access to those resources) (Chambers 1995). Adaptations can be positive or negative --  59  positive if they result in increased security and resilience, negative if they lead to loss of livelihood assets and fail to contribute to a lasting reduction in vulnerability (Singh and Kalala 1997). As has been noted, the confluence of climactic and market risks has weakened Zegheans’ livelihood systems. Subsistence cash cropping has become increasingly unproductive; yields are falling, and severe weather often leads to crop failure. While 95 percent of study participants noted that nearly 80% of their income is dependent on coffee and fruit production24, a steady decline in coffee production since 1997–98 is nonetheless evident25. Food insecurity is hence chronic, often manifesting as a ’hungry season’ that is on average four to five months long. During this time, many households are forced to cut back the number and quantity of daily meals (Getachew 1993). It is noteworthy that Zegheans eat more meals per day, and more diverse foods, in the months immediately following the coffee harvest (ibid). Similarly, Zegheans reported that when coffee incomes fell, they ate poorly and could not afford health care or education for their children26. This problem is exacerbated by limited alternative income opportunities owing to a lack of markets for products and services (typically labor). Education, skills, raw materials—all necessary for new productive activities—all are in short supply. Poor access to credit also limits opportunities for developing significant alternative income 24  The average total non-forest annual income including income from coffee for sampled households was Ethiopian Birr24 (ETB) 1,350. Out of this 810 ETB was income generated from the sale of coffee. Average annual income from the forest (i.e., sale of firewood) was ETB 620.00. Overall, the average annual household income from both forest and non-forest sources was ETB 1170.00. 25 Reasons for the decline include erratic rainfall (100 percent), pests (80 percent), old coffee trees (62 percent), fall in coffee prices (44 percent), lack of shade for coffee trees i.e. deforestation (32 percent), and lack of seedlings (24 percent). Some of the most important pests mentioned by respondents include Yellow headed borer, leaf minor, berry borer and root rot. 26 According to Gebremeskel and Dehab (2003:30), “In 2002, about 61% of the households reported that they have consumed only one meal a day, 38% two meals, and 1% three meals. 60  sources.27 Although the Peninsula’s residents have access to Lake Tana, the opportunity for fishing and irrigation has not been well developed; the only exception to this rule is the unsuccessful pilot program initiated by CARE Ethiopia. According to Mr. Ayinalem28, CARE Ethiopia introduced motorized irrigation pumps in 1994 to improve coffee production and productivity. The focus of the irrigation activity was on the production of coffee seedlings and fruits and vegetables. However, this effort was not successful due to the high slope of the peninsula that restricted the capacity of the motorized water pump to irrigate large areas. The motorized pump was found totally inappropriate for Zeghie’s high sloped landscape. In addition, it was found very expensive by the majority of the coffee farmers who have land close to the water (10%) due to its high gas consumption. Hence, a decision was made to shift to the use of treadle pumps. Learning from the experience of the motorized pump, three treadle pumps were provided by the project to people who were able to pay a down payment. Only one of the recipients was able to raise more than 6000 coffee seedlings as well as different varieties of fruits and vegetables. The rest of the target groups did not have easy access to water, and hence were not able to achieve as much. Moreover, the high gradient of the peninsula has contributed to the failure of this pilot project. While lake fishing seemed an obvious alternative, respondents pointed to specific problems they felt constrained the utilization of the fish resources, such as a lack of well developed fishing technology; including, motorized fishing boats, freezers, and 27  Government regulations prohibit NGOs from direct credit provision. Formal banking services are largely absent from rural communities. 28 CARE’s Project Manager in Bahir and former Project Manager of CARE Zeghie 61  packaging and transporting mechanisms, and food taboos.29 These constraints have resulted in weak local demand. It was also noted that animal production was constrained by a number of factors, including restrictions pertaining to the designation of the peninsula as sacred and attacks by wild animals noted above. In the absence of viable alternative income earning opportunities, there has been a shift toward negative coping and adaptive strategies such as extensive logging, animal production, and replacing permanent crops such as coffee and fruits with annual crops (e.g. maize and sorghum) in an attempt to meet households’ consumption needs (EPLAUA 2004). Several sources (Alemnew 2001; EPLAUA 2004;) and key informants indicated that logging became a particular concern following the great drought of 198485. However, the problem has been exacerbated over the last ten years due to the persistent reduction and late onset of rainfall, already noted and particularly devastating for coffee production. Also, the fall in the price of coffee worldwide has been one of the reasons why the viability of coffee production and marketing lost its importance in the livelihood systems of Zegheans. During the latest field visit in 2005, a number of plots with new eucalyptus plantations and/or plots were observed that were planted with maize and sorghum, which is an indication of the growing importance of these species in the peninsula. Eucalyptus is foreign to Zeghie environment (exotic) but in high demand for fuel and construction in the growing proximate city of Bahir Dar. It competes for water and nutrients with important local species including coffee, and prevents the latter from regenerating  29  In Zeghie, a number of fasting seasons are observed by the people. In addition, throughout the year Wednesdays and Fridays are fasting days in which all kinds of animal products including fish are forbidden to eat. 62  (Alemnew 2001). The inevitable result is a long-term weakening of local livelihoods and the loss of biological diversity in what had been not a remnant forest per se, but at least a viable coffee agro-ecosystem.  Recognizing the negative consequences of this new  development, the BoA has been raising awareness and discouraging the replacement of indigenous species with eucalyptus. People prefer eucalyptus, I was told, because it will be ready for harvest in 2-3 years. Mr. YD, an elderly key informant explained: Even though we are aware of the consequences of cutting these trees, we keep doing it because we believe that “Kerehab torinet yishalal” (war30 is better than hunger). Although cutting trees is officially prohibited, 70-80 boatloads of wood are transported to the nearby towns and the city of Bahir Dar on a weekly basis. Why do we have to keep the trees if the coffee is not providing us with income? Mr. YD’s expression represents the despair many people feel in the current period. Zegheans are torn between keeping their forest for the good of the coffee trees and the sustainability of their livelihoods and staying alive by cutting the trees that serve as shade for coffee, which ultimately results in a loss of their livelihoods. This in turn leads to decreased household productivity in normal times and deprives the household of its traditional coping mechanisms. Increasing poverty also has eroded many of the more beneficial coping mechanisms such as informal mutual assistance associations. The declining ability of households to cope with periodic shocks is not adequately complemented by local or regional safety nets. Informal safety nets (peer group or church-based associations) may exist at the community level but have been severely  30  The expression ‘war with the environment’ denotes that by cutting the trees that serve as shade for coffee,, they are waging a war against the coffee trees and the environment which ultimately results in a loss of their livelihoods 63  strained due to worsening economic conditions. Local respondents report that informal mutual aid groups are increasingly inactive as members cease making periodic contributions. Figure 2-2 A fallen tree in a coffee farm  Photo by: Tihut Asfaw Clearly, the community depends heavily on the forest. When coffee production declines, the only option is to exploit the forest for fuel wood and for wood for construction, leading to high levels of deforestation. The research findings support this observation. Most respondents in Zeghie noted that there is significant amount of deforestation; however, they do not foresee a life without the forest. Many cite the coffee problem as the major cause of deforestation. They told me that as the income from coffee continued to decline, illegal cutting of trees from one’s land, including stealing from other people’s compounds has become a serious problem. Parcels that are located in remote fields are said to be more vulnerable to stealing of trees. There also seemed to be general agreement that the thieves don’t come from outside. Yet there exists little  64  evidence or motivation to apprehend those who might be responsible. One informant indicated that he has given a list of suspects to the local administration which didn’t bring much difference as the thieves manage to avoid judgments by bribing the local administration. Discussions with informants revealed that a person who is caught cutting trees will be punished a fee of 50.00 ETB per incident or for cutting one tree. But given that the income earned from the trees is much higher overall, many people are now saying it is better to cut the trees illegally and be fined 50.00 ETB than to abide by the rules. Studies conducted on the diversity and density of the forest also show that certain tree species have been targets of illegal logging, as they are not considered by the community to have ecological or coffee-beneficial value. Specifically trees that do not provide good shade for the coffee trees are often targets for extraction (Alemnew, 2001; EPLAUA, 2004). These species include Apodytus dimidiate var. acutifolia (A.Rich.), Celtis Africana Burm.f., Cordia africana Lam., Ekebergia capensis Sparrm., Juniperous procera Endl, Nuxia congesta Fresen., Olea capensis sub sp. Welwitschii (Knobl.), Olea europaea subsp.cuspidata, Podocarpus falcatus (Thunb.) Mirb., Prunus Africana (Hook.f.) Kalkam (EPLAUA, 2004:26). In general, the main reason for the current rate of deforestation is considered by most locals to be lack of alternative income earning opportunities despite recognition of the trees’ importance overall. In the words of one coffee farmer: “cutting our trees is equivalent to burning our money. Trees are our savings; we should protect them…. [But], we have to look for other income generation mechanisms to supplement the income we get from coffee”. Other important factors were also indicated including poor  65  governance, indebtedness of farmers to the big landowners, social injustice during the redistribution of land, and poor natural resource management institutions. Regrettably, Zeghie’s current livelihood challenges have not received the attention they deserve both by the government as well as NGOs working in Ethiopia due to faulty assumptions and lack of clear understanding of the environmental history of Zeghie Peninsula. The research findings revealed that no significant attempts have been made by the government to support existing livelihood activities or to encourage or promote new ones—such as fishing or other small economic opportunities to help augment household incomes. The local administration and the Bureau of Agriculture have solely focused on the loss of biodiversity instead of on people’s livelihoods as a way to ensure sustainable forest use and management. For example, Zeghie’s BoA office was established to conserve the forest—specifically to identify and conserve threatened species, to create awareness among farmers to help protect and restore threatened species, and to provide seedlings to afforest threatened local species31. The BoA has established its own tree nurseries and gathers seedlings from under “wild” trees as they start to regenerate naturally. In the same manner, the local administration has taken several steps to discourage illegal logging. It conducts surprise visits and assays fines for illegal cutting. Also, it has put in place mechanisms that compel loggers to seek technical advice before they are granted logging permits. Usually, a permit is given if the tree is not a threatened species and if the household can show it has no other income. Efforts have also been made to encourage Zeghean herbalists to practice biodiversity conservation. For example, the local administration has allocated 200 m2 to 31  This effort is informed by environmental narratives that designated Zeghie as a natural forest. These narratives have also guided CARE’s livelihood promotion project as well as research conducted by the BoA and EPLAUA and the designation of Zeghie as an important bird area (IBA). 66  Mr. Beza, an expert in traditional medicine. In return, Mr. Beza has identified local medicinal plants, especially those on the verge of extinction, and established a nursery to propagate them. Besides encouraging biodiversity conservation, the local administration has assigned one forest guard to each PA, albeit at a very low wage. The guards report that they are limited in what they can do to protect the forests in their care. Among the challenges they face are the large areas for which they are responsible, the lack of firearms needed to drive away illegal loggers or people who are engaged in stealing trees from other people’s compounds, and the need to work side jobs to supplement their low salaries. A weak police presence has also been cited as a serious problem in this regard. The police are based in Afaf town and show little concern about illegal logging, since their main responsibility is to maintain order in the town. In sum, Zeghie’s local administration as well as that of the BoA have failed to understand and respond to the underlying causes of and solutions to environmental degradation in a more coherent and consistent fashion. All of their efforts have focused on changing the attitude of people toward logging and related forest-detrimental coping strategies, that is, in treating only (or at least primarily) the threats to agro-biodiversity. Behaviorally, this is a kind of misdiagnosis of the problem in that Zegheans understand perfectly well that periodic crop failures and other factors have forced them to resort to coping strategies that may assure short-term survival but deplete household and community (e.g. forest) assets in the long-run. That is precisely why they refer to this current approach as a ‘war with the environment’. But instead this forethought and its possible resolutions are masked by the guise of the forest as remnant and biologically diverse (which it is, but not in the usual sense of the word), a masking augmented by a  67  strong historical and church-based narrative of the land as sacred [Developed-world biodiversity discourses, which often refer to ‘wilderness’ as sacred, no doubt intersect with this pre-existing discourse as well]. Both misrepresent the history of the forest and both likely constrain people’s response to current and emerging livelihood challenges. 2.8  Rethinking Zeghie’s Environmental History: Concluding Thoughts This chapter began by outlining current land use patterns and physical threats to  coffee, and thereafter situating these facts within Zeghie’s larger environmental, politicaleconomic, and social history of land use. In particular, Zeghie has been described as a sacred island of natural biodiversity in a sea of deforested landscape and as a repository of important biological and cultural diversity (Zewge 2001, Soutter et.al. 2003). This paper challenges two assumptions about this designation: that Zeghie is a remnant natural forest; and that the forest has been preserved because of its sacred nature. I argue that Zeghie’s forest is not a remnant natural forest. In fact, the landscape has been transformed over the centuries as a result of regional and global politicaleconomic forces—specifically, the Ethiopian Orthodox Church played a major role in turning the peninsula into a forest by establishing shade-coffee plantations and later expanding the plantations through the use of slave labor. The EOC (and perhaps the supporting monarchy in key periods), also appear to have legitimated this new economy through representations of the peninsula as sacred. Zeghean myths and narratives about the sanctity of the forest have, for centuries, required specific environmental rules and practices (forbidding draft animals, the grazing of sheep and goats, and the felling of trees), which in turn have transformed the landscape and inscribed the history and identity of its people. Further, the maintenance of narratives, and discourses, was 68  achieved in part by continual invocations, sanctions, and feast days, many of which centered on a retelling of the narrative of origin cited above. In view of the foregoing, it can be argued that the environmental history of Zeghie Peninsula is very much linked to Ethiopia’s economic and political history. And while the land-base is regarded as sacred and is indeed remarkable to both those who live there and those who study and visit it, current levels of poverty are undeniably crushing and not necessarily serviced in any way by this confusion of history, myth, narrative, and emerging pro-biodiversity policy in the absence of concurrent policies that will pave the way toward viable (and possibly new) livelihoods. Instead, peoples’ attempts to recover from and adapt to these risks are not clearly understood by many, including those in the different government offices who are concerned with conservation of natural resources. Their efforts are in fact more narrowly viewed as desperate measures that will eventually degrade the environment and are often labeled as “destructive” (Getachew 1993; Alemnew 2001; EPLAUA 2004). Yet, no parallel tangible efforts have been noted to address critical constraints to livelihood and environmental insecurity. To address this gap, CARE International stepped in with various programs that were implemented over the course of seven years. But, CARE’s activities have ceased due to changes in programmatic and geographic focus with the result that the Zegheans’ options are now fewer than ever Finally, the chapter notes that the people of Zeghie have not been passive in the face of these challenges; they actively sought sustainable management of forest resources and livelihoods through adaptive and coping strategies such as diversification and outmigration. The landscape in Zeghie traditionally has been able to support multiple uses  69  (as indicated by histories of both coffee growing and plough and terrace agriculture). Looking at the current changes through a historical perspective might well offset blind alleys and instead encourage a notion of livelihoods as now in a state of transition, wherein better options might be identified and then supported. Zegheans value their forest and rely on it heavily. As they say, ‘a Zeghean out of the forest is like a fish out of water.’ They well understand that by destroying their environment, they are destroying their own future. That said, the value they attach to the forest is not solely aesthetic or spiritual, it is, equally, economic. Most people still consider the forest as their home and they cannot foresee a way of life outside it. By pursuing out-migration (through education and employment outside the peninsula), supporting their families through remittance, households seek to keep the forest and their coffee trees rather than opting for a dramatic shift to other types of land uses. The challenge for policy makers, therefore, is how to support these strategies and ensure that people have secure livelihoods, while sustainably managing either the forest resources or a wisely modified new landscape. In order to protect Zeghie’s forest and the livelihood of Zegheans, efforts should be made to strengthen the local economy, especially coffee, fruits, and hops—crops that grow under the shade of the forest. All three are vital to livelihoods and have a relatively low-impact on the local ecosystem although the problem of predator species introduced as a result will have to be addressed. Allocating land to traditional healers is not a viable alternative. While this is important in terms of biodiversity, traditional knowledge, local health, and well-being, these strategies do not alleviate poverty. Better strategies might include the intensification of coffee-concurrent agricultural systems as well as a transition  70  into non-coffee, land-based, livelihoods. The government and NGOs need to support the sustainable management of forest resources by increasing assistance to coffee growers, providing credit and market information for people who would like to start small economic activities, as well as by providing assistance to Zeghie’s coffee growers in establishing coffee marketing cooperatives that can tap into the national and international coffee markets. A number of new and emerging programs might well prove worthwhile: promoting lake fishing, helping farmers market their goods, and improving non-timber forest production. Additionally, Zeghie Peninsula has been all but forgotten in terms of infrastructure development; inadequate schools, social services, and job opportunities have created a sense of hopelessness, especially among youth as Zeghie provides them neither land nor employment. The notion that Zeghie is sacred, alongside the church’s various prohibitions, might have helped to promote and sustain agro-forestry system for centuries but it has outlived its usefulness now that coffee production has dwindled. Blaming the problem on population pressure or poor practices only masks the key point—which are current livelihood problems, their effect on poverty, and their effect on long-term forest viability. Understanding environmental change in the context of sacred environments presents a challenge for both historians and environmentalists alike. A close look reveals not only a landscape that is both historically complex and socially troubled—it also reveals that the potential for viable livelihoods are overshadowed by discourses of the sacred and of biodiversity.  71  2.9  References  Abdussamad H. Ahmad. 1997. Priest Planters and Slavers of Zage (Ethiopia), 1900-1935. International Journal of African Historical Studies 29(3): 543-556. 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Zege and Its Coffee: Local Livelihoods and Natural Resource Utilization in North West Ethiopia: The Case of Zeghie Peninsula. Addis Ababa University, Addis Ababa.  74  Singh, N. and Kalala, P. eds. 1997. Adaptive Strategies and Sustainable Livelihood, Community Studies. Adaptive Strategies of the Poor in Arid and Semi Arid land of Sub-Saharan Africa. Community Report, Ethiopia. International Institute for Sustainable Development. Canada. Soutter, R., Yaa Ntiamoa-Baidu, John Smith, and Devendra Rana. 2003. Recognizing the Contribution of Sacred Natural Sites for Biodiversity Conservation”, World Parks Congress, Durban, South Africa. Swain, E.H.F. 1954. Report to the Government of Ethiopia on Forestry Policy and Forest Development. FAO Report No. 321. Project ETH/10. FAO, Rome, December. Tirfe Mamo. 1999. The Paradox of Africa’s Poverty: The role of Indigenous Knowledge, Traditional Practices and Local Institutions-The Case of Ethiopia. The Red Sea Press, Inc. Asmara, Ethiopia. Toulmin, C. 1983. Economic behavior among livestock keeping peoples: a review of the literature on the economics of pastoral production in the semi-arid zones of Africa, Development Studies Occasional Paper, 25. Norwich: School of Development Studies, University of East Anglia. Wassie, A., D. Teketay, D. and N. Powell. 2003. Opportunities, Constraints, and Prospects of the Ethiopian Orthodox-Tewahido Churches in Conserving Forest Resources: The Case of Churches in South Gondar, Northern Ethiopia. Symposium in Urban Landscape Dynamics and Resource Use, Sweden.  75  Zewge Teklehaimanot 2001. Biodiversity conservation in ancient church and monastery yards in Ethiopia. In Proceedings of the workshop on the Biodiversity conservation in ancient church and monastery yards in Ethiopia.  pp. 19-24.  University of Wales, Bangor and the Ethiopian Wildlife and Natural History Society, Addis Ababa.  76  3.  FEMALE POVERTY IN ZEGHIE PENINSULA: AN INTRICATE WEB OF LAND RIGHT STRUGGLES, LIVELIHOOD INSECURITY AND NORMATIVE AND LEGAL BARRIERS32  3.1  Introduction In recent years, significant effort has been devoted to understanding women’s  access to and control over land. In countries like Ethiopia, where more than 87% of women are engaged in agriculture (Tadele 2001:16; cited in Bashaw 2002:6), land is the single most important source of livelihood. As such, it plays a significant role in the social and cultural dimensions of people’s lives and it defines power relations between and among individuals, families and communities (FAO 2002; Platteau 1996). Over the past decade, subsistence agriculture in Ethiopia has been affected by both global and local changes leaving land-dependent communities vulnerable to livelihood insecurity. This impact has been recognized as the ‘agrarian crisis,’ a crisis that is evident in heightened pressure on land as well as an increasing number of land-based disputes and conflicts (Tesfaye 2004). National and international researchers and policy makers have offered many possible explanations for this crisis (Yigremew 1997; Dessalegn 1994, 1993, 1992; Ege 1997). The most widely accepted of these is the proposition that land insecurity is the result of successive land reform and redistribution programs (Yigremew 1997; Dessalegn 1994). However, the struggles of women in this agricultural crisis have largely been overlooked in these theories. Although there have 32  A version of this chapter has been submitted for publication, Asfaw T. and Satterfield, T. Female Poverty in Zeghie Peninsula: An Intricate Web of Land Right Struggles, Livelihood Insecurity and Normative and Legal Barriers.  77  been significant efforts by the government to promote gender equality by crafting policies that uphold the rights of women to own and administer property, most of these policies have not been realized in practice. In addition, local and rural institutions have not included gender equality considerations in their day-to-day activities and decisions. As a result, the position of women has been largely ignored—especially in the struggle between women and men over access to and control over land (Whitehead and Tsikata 2003). From the standpoint of feminist political ecology, this chapter will analyze gendered experiences of access to and control over resources. The problem of land insecurity in Ethiopia involves understanding political-economic change as it came to affect livelihoods, landscapes, property regimes, power as well as social relations between men and women (Rocheleau et.al. 1996). This work is based on a study conducted in 2004-2005 in Zeghie Peninsula, part of Ethiopia’s Amhara region in the country’s northwestern quadrant. I explore in particular the diminishing access to and control over land among female-headed households despite the existence of favorable policies, land proclamations and legal codes that promote equity between men and women. I begin by providing background information on Zeghie Peninsula, and explore the theoretical as well as historical aspects of women’s land rights in Ethiopia in general and Zeghie Peninsula in particular. I then explore the strategies by which women cope with the multifaceted challenges they face. I find that while written policies promoting gender equity are a first step toward achieving equity, policies by themselves do not address the problem at the local level, where the vast majority of women are unable to  78  negotiate local political processes and to maintain both decision authority and rights over land. 3.2  A Mixed-Method Approach Interest in and understanding of livelihood insecurity issues in Zeghie grew  initially from my experiences, as I was born and raised in Ethiopia and worked as a program staff and “gender advisor” for CARE International in Ethiopia.33 In the more recent period, the substantive portions of this chapter were drawn from field-based observation, focus group discussions, key informant interviews, social and historical analysis as well as biographical narratives to elucidate female and male perspectives in the struggle for land and power (Mohanty 1991). Many of the interviews included the elicitation of biographical narratives, as these were found to be useful for identifying practices that led to restricted opportunities for women across their life course. Interviewees were drawn primarily from the two Peasant Associations (PAs) within Zeghie. A Peasant Association is the lowest government–administrative unit in the rural areas. The two PAs are known as Oura Kidane Miheret and Yiganda Mehal Zeghie (hereafter Oura and Yiganda respectively) and the peninsula’s small town is Afaf. Afaf serves as a center for market and communication services such as telephone, postal and port for the government run marine transportation services. Together, the two PAs host 15 sub-PAs or villages, which are locally known as desh. The research focused on six villages (i.e. three from each PA), selected for their representation of the area’s various  33  The focus of this work was the implementation of a livelihood security project in Zeghie Peninsula in 1994-2003; which aimed at improving the livelihood security of 800 households on Zeghie peninsula through community-based initiatives that target key income generation activities, water supply and related hygiene concerns (Gebremeskel & Dehab, 2003:1). 79  topographical zones, which consist of the lower, middle, and steeper slopes of the peninsula’s land form. Potential interviewee names were drawn at random from the listings of all femaleand male-headed households recorded in the peasant associations’ logbooks34. Although the logbook showed 637 and 920 households in Oura and Yiganda PAs respectively, time constraints limited the total number of interviews conducted to 50 people, 25 people from each PA. In addition to the PA-based interviews, I held interviews with a group known locally as the “landless youth”. Discussed in greater detail below, members of this group were born after the 1975 land redistribution reforms and so were not its beneficiaries; as such, they do not currently own land or pay land tax. They are nonetheless a growing ‘user’ group and thus approximately 10 interviews were conducted with this group. In order to identify this group, I deferred to the chairpersons of the two PAs as well as those from the Shimgelina35, the Bureau of Agriculture (BoA), and the Environmental Protection Land Administration and Use Authority (EPLAUA) of the Amhara region. Secondary data in the form of population figures, maps and policy documents in relation to land tenure and land administration were obtained from the BoA, EPLAUA, and the District Administrative Office (the Woreda Administration Office), and published sources from the Addis Ababa University as well as other scholarly materials. 3.3  Gender, Agriculture, and Entitlement in Ethiopia’s Zeghie Peninsula  Zeghie peninsula is located in the north-western part of Ethiopia in the West Gojjam zone of Amhara Region, about 530 kilometres from the capital of Addis Ababa.  The  population of Zeghie is estimated at 10,000—of which about 1,500 live in the main town 34 35  This is the register that contains names of taxpaying households. Shimgelina is the local/informal court or decision making body that settles land disputes among others. 80  of Afaf and the remaining 8,500 are dispersed among 15 villages (Gebremeskel and Dehab 2003:7). All of the population is Amhara, speaking the Amharic language. Of the total population, about 42% are under 15 years of age, and the growth rate likely parallels the national average of about 3% per year (CARE 2001:8). Situated in the south central portion of Lake Tana, Zeghie covers an area of 1,347 hectares (Alemnew 2001:17). From the regional capital of Bahir Dar, it can be reached year-round by boat (a 15 kilometre trip) or by road during the dry season (a 32 kilometre trip). Lake Tana serves as the watershed for the Northern Mountain region and is also the source of the Blue Nile falls. The lake has over 30 islands (Getachew 1993). Of the total area of Zeghie (1347 hectares), 1,219 hectares are believed to have been covered once by densely growing forest trees and shrubs (ibid). At present, due to over-utilization of the forest, the species composition and density has been reduced significantly (EPLAUA 2004). The region’s primary market crop is coffee; currently the community is cultivating about 1,132 hectares of coffee under the shade of the forest trees (Ibid) and coffee is by far the main source of income for the majority of households. All interviewed households (100%) who have land in Zeghie had coffee plants on their plots. The average land holding of households was around 2.97 kada, which is equivalent to 0.74 hectares. The research findings also showed that the average land holding of sampled households allocated for coffee cultivation was 0.6 hectares or 86 % of the average holding. The remaining 14% is generally covered with fruits; mainly citron, sour orange, lime as well as hops which are used to supplement the household income. In areas that produce permanent crops such as coffee and fruits, having secure ownership of land is of paramount importance given that coffee or fruit trees need a long  81  time to mature before bearing fruit. In addition, farmers’ investment on the land depends on the expected amount and duration of benefits in a given year. Coffee from Zeghie is well regarded and often classified as “above average.”36 “The dependence on coffee is most dramatically illustrated by the diet of Zeghie’s residents, most of whom eat more meals per day and a more diverse diet in the months immediately following the coffee harvest” (Getachew 1993:12). The Orthodox Christian Church dominates virtually all aspects of the life of Zeghie. Each family has a designated priest that ties them directly to the Church, and there are 14 saint days each month during which there are limitation placed on the type and amount of work that can be conducted (CARE 2001). The Church previously had a key role in land use on the peninsula—holding (before land reforms) all rights to land ownership and imposing certain restrictions on its use (see chapter two). These restrictions included a prohibition on livestock production that dates back to eighteenth century. Following the land reform of 1975 which granted usufructuary rights to the people, the Church had to give up its authority, however, it still remains a very important force (Ibid). The peninsula's six churches that date back as far as the fourteenth century continue to serve the immediate population, and are among the many tourist attractions found in the Amhara Region. Over the past decade, the coffee dependent livelihood system of Zegheans has suffered from a change in rainfall patterns and a dramatic fall in the price of coffee worldwide (EPLAUA 2004). As a result, a greater proportion of men have migrated to urban and semi-urban areas to seek alternate employment, especially in cotton growing areas where employment as daily laborers is more readily available (Ibid). As most men 36  Personal communication with Alemu Checkol, BoA Extension Agent, Oura PA 82  are shifting to non-farm livelihoods, many households become dependent on women for household and farm management.37 The confluence of livelihood failure and rising female headed households in Zeghie has intensified the struggle for land; pushing many to the margin. Literature reviews on the subject of land security reveal two major approaches: the evolutionary property rights school and the institutional arrangement or communitarian approach to land tenure. The ‘evolutionary property rights school’ advocates for “tenure security and transparent and enforceable property rights as preconditions for investment and economic growth” (Amanor 2001:5). In particular, they call for owner-operated family farms; the need for freely operating land markets to permit land transfers to more efficient and productive users; and a more equitable distribution of assets (Deninger and Binswanger 1999). The rationale behind this approach is that individual or private property rights and land registration will automatically ensure tenure security and lead to increased agricultural investment and productivity (Peters 2004). However, studies conducted to evaluate the programs of land registration and titling have largely revealed negative outcomes, such as unequal access to land based on gender, age, ethnicity and class (Okoth-Ogendo 1976; Coldham 1978; Pala 1980; Davison 1988; Shipton 1988; Haugerud 1989; Attwood 1990; Shipton and Goheen 1992, 316; Shipton 994, 364-5, Basteman 1994, 1996, cited in Peters 2004, 274-275). A second line of argument, referring to changes in institutional arrangements, emphasises the need to recognize customary tenure and customary laws as part of the  37  Personal communication with Alemu Checkol, BoA Extension Agent, Oura PA  83  formal systems governing tenure and has been promoted by anthropologists and social scientists (Amanor 2001). Their arguments have led to a shift in the policies and programs of major development and aid agencies, and include calls for institutional reforms that will enhance the capacity of civil society to play a major role in land administration and so eventually empower communities to have secured access to and control over land (Toulmin and Quan 2000 in Peters 2004:276). While these theories are vital given their focus on policies and customary institutions to addressing problems of land insecurity, they do not sufficiently explain 1) the different causes of conflict and struggles over natural resources at the local level despite the existence of gender equity laws and policies; and 2) the inherent inequity within local institutions to ensure security of tenure for different groups of people especially women. I chose the political ecology framework to understand and explain environmental conflicts as part of the broader political, cultural and historical factors surrounding the relationship between human beings and their environment (Blaikie and Brookfield 1987; Moore 1993). By political ecology I mean a framework that sheds light on struggles for power and resources as it occurs in differing level fields—defined by gender, wealth, and political affiliation—in which this struggle is taking place. This approach to land tenure aims to combine ecological concerns with political economy but with more emphasis on the complex and historically changing relations that shape rural land-use decisions (Carney 1996 cited in Peet and Watts 1996:165-187). To understand deeply rooted salient gender and power issues which lie at the heart of poverty and marginalization, I turned to the work of feminist scholars in particular.  84  This framework has enriched political ecology “by exploring relations of power and knowledge as articulated through discourse in the relationship between people, land, and economy, and by examining the construction of nature in social struggle” (Paulson and Gezon 2004:95; see also Braun and Castree 1998; Escobar 1996; 1998; Neumann 1998; Peet and Watts 1996;). Moreover, in a traditional society like Zeghie, this framework needs to be expanded to include the notion of custom as it is appropriated by different groups of people as a strategic and symbolic resource in the struggle over land and power to legitimize practices that undermine the right of women (Mackenzie 2003). This approach underpins the need for interrogating informal rules, custom, and institutions that govern property ownership on women’s and men’s access to land and other resources (Wiens 2003; see also Rittich 2005). 3.4  Customary Forms and Land Reforms Across the Decades As in most parts of Africa, land in Zeghie was held historically by individuals  through a customary land tenure system known as the rist and gult systems, and the semon land of the Churches38. Following the 1974 revolution, the Ethiopian government proclaimed all land to be the collective property of the Ethiopian people under what is known as Proclamation No. 1975.  This proclamation was again affirmed in the  Constitution of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia in 199539 (FDRE 1995). According to article 40 of the constitution, “Every Ethiopian citizen has the right to ownership of private property.”  However, as Ege (1997) has pointed out, this  38  Detailed information about these customary systems can be found in (Hoben 1973) and (Pankhurst, R. 1968: 136).  39  Available at http://www.ethiopiafirst.com/Election2008/Constitution.pdf. Last accessed: October 9, 2008 85  constitutional right has not been realized, and remains controversial as the state claims ownership relegating only use right and restricting sale, transfer, or rent. Proclamation No. 89 (FDRE 1997:629) defined private property instead as only those products that are produced by the labor or capital of an individual citizen. Hence, land is not considered a property that can be owned and sold privately; rather it is the property of the nations, nationalities and people of Ethiopia (ibid). Currently, there are two major kinds of land ‘holdings’ in the peninsula, individual and joint holdings. Individual holdings were obtained through the 1975 and subsequent land distributions. In Zeghie, households were given use rights over the land allocated to them in 1975 through the PA (Oura or Yiganda) based on their family size at the time of distribution. Land allocated in scattered plots, which is also known as land parcelization, has been used as a way of ensuring equity in the quality of land distributed. A household gets a kada40 around its compound, another half kada from land that has not been cultivated earlier (deraqa), and in some cases a small plot from irrigable land. As a result, households own land in different locations. Joint land holding refer to land obtained through land distribution but held by more than one individual. Two or more people are given a plot ranging from a quarter of a kada to three or four kadas. This strategy was applied (starting in early 1996) to compensate people who did not procure adequate land during the initial 1975 distribution, or to compensate landless people born after 1975. Unless there is disagreement between people who have joint holdings, the land in joint holding may not be apportioned. Instead, the share of produce from the land is apportioned according to one’s share in the joint holding. In cases where the joint  40  1 kada = 0.25 ha 86  holders argue over the sharing of land related tasks, the land is divided (with the help of the deldays41) and a mark or sign is used to indicate borders. The stated intent of the land reform was to abolish inequality of ownership and bridge the gap between the rich and the poor. Yet as the result of corruption, lack of transparency and fairness, this objective was not met in Zeghie, among many other places (Getie 1999). Indeed, land redistribution likely had less to do with greater equity and economic prosperity than it does the desire to empower those considered “loyal” to the ruling political regime (the Derg or the “Revolutionary” group) and punish those who had been part of the previous regime’s “feudal” group (Ege 1997; Getie 1999). Subsequently, a few men, chosen from the ‘loyal’ group were given the responsibility of undertaking the land redistribution. These people were later on referred as the delday. According to key informants, those who were considered “dangerous” to the newly-elected had their lands confiscated and were transferred to the regional prison, in Bahir Dar, where they remained until they were pardoned during the Derg’s celebration of the 10th Anniversary. About 60% of the respondents interviewed for this study claim that women were especially disadvantaged during the1975 land distribution. Cultivated and developed land with coffee and other fruits and trees were by and large given to males; whereas female heads of households were given mostly deraqa or uncultivated land located very far from the lake and the town. Sexual exploitation also played a key role in the struggle for land during the 1975 period. Several women—especially female heads of households—reported being pressured for sexual favors in exchange for land. The following response by Mrs. Z is a case in point:  41  In the Amharic language, delday, literally, “a person who distributes land”. 87  Asking sexual favors was very common among the delday when women apply for a piece of land. Many women were denied land if they refused to accept this proposal. Those who agreed were able to get more benefits but the risk was very high. Some ended up with unwanted pregnancies while others became victims of sexually transmitted diseases. Had it been now, many people would lose their lives due to HIV/AIDS. Some women never got a piece of land and some died while crying and waiting.  Nobody thought that it would be the final  redistribution; we thought it was some kind of temporary arrangement, but it changed our lives forever. Not only women, even some men faced injustice in the hands of the delday. If a man refused to give his sister to the delday, he would not be given a piece of land. He could even get imprisoned and tortured. Other men got advantages by offering their sisters to the delday. This issue is very sensitive and complicated. It brought not only poverty but also shame on the community. This is what happened in 1975. The finding that many regarded the initial distribution as both sexually exploitative and as one step in an anticipated but not delivered sequence of distribution was accompanied by reports from women who had difficulty receiving land for all children living at the time. The land policy ostensibly allowed for children who were born at the time of distribution to receive 1 kada per child, but the decision whether to allocate the share of land to a child was made by the delday. A key informant for instance reported receiving a harsh response from a member of this committee when she tried to receive a share of land on behalf of her two children. In her own words, “after I received my share (0.25 hectares), I asked one of the deldays to allocate my children’s share as well, he then pointed to the  88  lake and said, they are not my problem, you can throw them in the water if you like.” At the same time, those who offered bribe or had strong relationships with the delday received land in the name of deceased people, chickens, goats, and sheep. The gap between those with initial access and those without was such that great disparity of holdings persists. Households of like size possess as many as 15 hectares42 of land while others possess only 0.25 hectares or were completely denied land and had to move to the cities in search of jobs. Initially, families would use the land that was acquired in the name of children until they were married. Upon the engagement of the child, that land is normally allocated to the child as part of the resources the parents of a newlywed couple are expected to provide. This type of land right transfer is known as matcha43. In most cases, although the land rights will be passed to the child, the parcel itself will still be kept within the family as a joint holding. The child then contributes labor or other inputs and takes a share of the harvest in return. Normally, each partner is expected to bring 1 kada of land into the marriage, but due to shortage of land, and the fact that many parents did not receive land on their child’s behalf during the initial land distribution; the number of landless youth has increased dramatically. Discussion with landless youth in the peninsula revealed the bitterness felt by those who were denied their right to land. Landless and unable to afford high school in Bahir Dar, many youth then resort to illegal logging on unguarded land. According to AG, a 24-year-old logger: “nuro kalut mekabir yimokal;” “I am living in a warm tomb.” 42  It was not possible to substantiate this through this research either because people don’t give accurate information when it comes to land size (fear of confiscation) or there is an exaggeration on the part of key informants. 43 This is a kind of bride price but in this case, families allocate land to their own son or daughter. 89  Recognizing that he feels that his life is comparable to life in the grave, it should also be noted that the land his family was given during the distribution was so small that harvesting coffee is at best a day’s labor per year. Normally, others cannot reap their annual harvest within a week even with the help of daily laborers. With the coming to power of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia (FDRE) in 1996-97, a second round of land redistribution did occur, and was ostensibly aimed at accommodating the landless population. The land involved in this reform is known as Yemote Keda land, or in English, as “the land of the deceased.” The primary purpose was to redistribute land belonging to the deceased, those without heirs, and those who have left the area permanently. Land was generally assigned to the landless or to families who applied for additional land, based on claims of insufficient initial procurements in 1975. Using the yemote keda system to redistribute the land of those who have left the area for job opportunities elsewhere has been particularly contentious. It is not uncommon for instance, for landless people to advise the local administration regarding the whereabouts of the absent person and so obtain permission to use a piece of land that would otherwise remain idle. Sometimes, the original holders return after a long absence precisely because they received news about, and wish to prevent, the reallocation of their land to another person. Despite widespread distrust of the delday by the local people, they actively worked with the administration of both Oura and Yiganda PAs when land related conflicts arise. The problem is exacerbated considerably by the absence of official records that show the exact size and demarcation of each household plot(s). Consequently, most decisions are currently made based on the memory of the delday and 90  their own records, which they never transferred to the PA administration after the completion of the land distribution. Nonetheless, the deldays' word and testimony remain the final word on decisions pertaining to land holding in the Peninsula. Although both women and men are affected by land insecurity, the source of insecurity is different for each group. According to Place and colleagues (1993),” security is an assured right to a piece of land and its benefits without any concern with regard to duration, transferability and exclusion” (p.12). The level of security determines the ability of women and men to maintain the rights and conditions that permit secure use of the land not only for current users but also for the generation to follow. Moreover, it determines access to land, transfer, and the ability to enforce land rights in the face of disputes and as adjudicated by traditional or formal judicial systems (Ege 1997). Insecurity is, therefore, related to the possibility and so widespread perception that a landowner might arbitrarily lose ownership (Sjaastad and Bromley 1997, Tekie 1999). This perception in turn has an effect on the decision of farmers to invest their time and resources, and to maintain and improve productivity of their land. It affects one’s ability to make informed decisions, to acquire labor, and to transfer land to a third party through transaction methods available and recognized as legitimate (Tekie 1999, Lawry 1994, Li, Rozelle and Brandt 1998; Kidanu and Tadesse 1994; Maxwell and Wiebe 1999). Fieldwork and interviews both indeed revealed that a major concern for the maleheaded households was a lack of assurance of ownership resulting in decreased incentive to invest on the land in any form, including planting of long maturing trees and protecting existing trees that have been used as a shade for the coffee trees. Informants from the Bureau of Agriculture (BoA) as well as both PAs identified land insecurity as a cause of 91  illegal cutting of trees and hence degraded conditions for coffee production. Indiscriminate cutting of trees was heightened further when rumors of land redistribution prevailed. The following offered by the PA level BoA staff illustrates this problem: When the two PAs, Oura and Yiganda were fighting for ownership of the land on their shared border, a person from the woreda (district) administration came to Zeghie to mediate the conflict. The woreda representative called a meeting to identify the reason for the conflict. When he learned that the major problem was related to land ownership, he commented that plans were underway to undertake an inventory of land in the woreda, which could lead in return to further land redistribution. The hope was that this suggestion would solve the whole problem of land related conflicts. Contrary to the expectation of the woreda representative, about 1,000 trees were cut over the next few days, as people did not know whether they would be able to keep their land after the redistribution, including the trees on it. The cutting continued until another person came from the district to assure the people that no land redistribution was planned for Zeghie. As the foregoing discussion shows, institutional framework and authoritative yet distrusted governance at the local level are key to this on-going condition. The overall context of insecurity is however considerably more consequential for women than for men. 3.5  Gendered Land Insecurity: A Compound Labyrinth Gender inequality in Ethiopia is identified as one of the development challenges  of the region and across the developing world more broadly (World Bank, 1998; United Nations 1995). In Ethiopia, the gap between the status of men and women is among the 92  widest in the world. The Gender Related Development Index (GDI) ranked Ethiopia as 141 out of 174 countries (UNDP 2000). Gender inequality across all of the GDI indicators revealed that inequality between men and women is very high. The traditional Zeghie community is even more patriarchal compared to other areas in the Amahra region to the extent that a range of social, cultural, political, and legal factors have undermined the rights of women to land and property. In several respects, women are considered or treated as legal minors or have unequal status which impacts on their ability to acquire, enjoy, transfer, and manage their property. Girls are expected to help their mothers from an early age forward and as a result most girls in the rural areas are not given the opportunity to pursue their education. A girl is expected to marry at an earlier age to a person who is older. Forced and early marriage, rape, and battering are very common and are not considered as unusual occurrences (Yemane 2004). Women are among the lowest economic strata compared to men due to the socio-cultural factors that contributed to the high level of illiteracy, unemployment, lack of credit facilities and entrepreneurial skills. Consistent with these conditions, most of the women interviewed were reluctant, fearful, or both, about participating in discussions about gender or power relations. The Ethiopian government has taken a number of steps to promote gender equity. The Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) was adopted and ratified by the country in 1995. Following the adoption of this convention, the Country’s Constitution was amended to include gender equity considerations. Subsequently, policies and laws that aim to promote gender equity and secure rights to land and other property by both women and men were crafted by different departments  93  including the Ethiopian Constitution. The Constitution assures women of equal rights in every sphere and emphasizes affirmative action to remedy past inequalities experienced by women (FDRE 1995). The two important articles in the constitution that clearly specified women's rights are Article 25, which assures women’s right to equality before the law and entitled women and men to equal protection of the law without distinction of any kind such as race, nation, nationality, color, sex, language, religion, political or social origin, property, birth or other status; and Article 35, which assures women equal rights with men in the enjoyment of the rights and protections in respect to marriage and the right to the benefit of affirmative action, to enable women to participate and compete equally with men in the political, economic and social fields both within public and private organizations. The constitution further specified that the State has the duty to guarantee the right of women to be free from the influence of harmful customary practices. All laws, stereotyped ideas and customs which oppress women or otherwise adversely affect their physical and mental well-being are prohibited. Subsequent policies reiterating the rights of women to own and administer property include the 1997 Federal Rural Land Administration Proclamation, which affirms women and men’s equal rights with respect to “use, administration and control of land as well as transfer and bequeathing of holding rights” (FDRE 1997:629).  In  addition, Article 62 of the new Family Code of Ethiopia (FDRE 2000) allows for joint ownership of land and property between married persons. Prohibition of discrimination on the basis of gender and the recognition of equal rights between men and women are clear and firm features of the Ethiopian Constitution and subsequent policies. However, significant gaps and discrepancies exist between these provisions and customary practices  94  due to the prevalence of “traditional” values amongst judges, police officers, and land officials (Nysamu-Musembi 2002). For women in particular, the problem linked to land insecurity (discussed below) persists as few local practices reflect these newer laws. The confluence of gender inequity and the aforementioned high number of households headed by women in Zeghie has far reaching consequences for the gender specific land insecurity and their livelihood capacities. The percentage of female heads of households in Zeghie was estimated close to 50% (EPLAUA 2004:8), which is much higher than estimates in other parts of the same region (Amhara) within Ethiopia where 20-25% is more common (Ibid). A review of household composition in Zeghie amongst those I interviewed indicates a similar pattern but a bit lower than documented average. Table 3-1 Profile of interviewed households in Zeghie Marital status  No. of interviewed of households in Oura PA  interviewed  No. of interviewed  Total Sampled HHs  houhsoelds in Yiganda PA  households  Female  Male  Total  Married*  0  13  13  0  Divorced*  0  0  0  Widowed*  11  0  Total  12  13  Female  Male  Total  Female  %  Male  %  Total  %  15  15  0  0  28  56  28  56  3  0  3  3  6  0  0  3  6  11  8  0  8  19  38  0  0  19  38  25  10  15  25  22  44  28  56  50  100  *All of the divorced and widow persons were women and all of the men were married.  As table 3-1 indicates, women headed 44% of the sampled households, while men headed 56%.  From the total number of respondents, 38% were widowed while 6% were  divorced. Interviewees generally attributed high number of female-headed households to increased male migration to urban and semi-urban areas, including cotton-growing areas 95  like Humera, where employment as daily laborers is more readily available. Seasonal labor is mostly available in the lowlands where malaria and yellow fever are prevalent. Discussion with a group of widows indicated that a lot of men die every year in Humera or return to die in their homes, as they were unable to get proper health care at the cotton farms. Accidents during logging and while transporting wood to Bahir Dar on papyrus boats are some of the additional causes of the early death of men mentioned in interviews. Some men also joined the army and died during the Ethio-Eritrea war or are stationed at the borders and so unable to communicate with their families. Cases of men declared dead and later appearing after his ‘widow’ has remarried are also reported. Mrs. DK’s husband came back after 15 years absence. She waited for 12 years and decided to marry someone who could give her a hand in the coffee farm. For three years they worked the land together, she even had two children with the new husband. They were living a peaceful life until one day her ex-husband appeared at her door and demanded his house and land. Without further question, the woman had to give up her marriage, land and house and move back to her parents’ house. With the small compensation she got from her ex-husband, she started retailing lemon, hops and other small crops. Due to concerns of this kind, some women refrain from getting married unless they are altogether certain of the death of their husbands. In some cases, especially when men joined the army, it may take several years before the family is notified of a man’s death. According to the Oura PA Chair Person, Mr. Yezih Alem, one of the factors that also contributed to the current high number of female heads of households is the increasing level of women’s sense of independence resulting from women’s  96  empowerment programs over the years. He indicated that in the past it was not acceptable for women to remain single for a long time as they were not considered capable of managing their coffee farms as well as raising their children properly44. Moreover, single women become targets of rumors of extra-marital affairs with other married or single men. Due to fear of these backlashes, women tend to re-marry soon after they get divorced or become widowed. However, over the past several years more and more women have started to challenge these practices by remaining single and raising children by themselves. As the number of female heads of households rise, such rumors and backlashes have become less important in controlling women’s decisions. Unfortunately, the high level of female heads of households has been accompanied by a rise in land-based disputes, which in many cases result in unfavorable outcomes for women. Land and resource based disputes are particularly prevalent where there exists a shared border between male versus female headed households. Most disputes occur due to the ‘pushing of borders’ (dinber megfat) and demarcations of female-headed households by mainly male neighbors. Boundaries in Zeghie are demarcated by sparsely planted trees, bushes, and big stones. Some tracts, however, may not be properly marked and thus can be tampered with easily. In many cases, women report that mostly male neighbors altered the existing border to gradually claim the newly planted coffee seedlings. Just under half of the female-headed households in this study indicated that they have experienced border pushing by male neighbors at one time or another. A euphemism for flagrant theft, interview results show, nonetheless, that men do not consider border  44  Children raised by a single mother were often ostracized and called derogatory namess. 97  pushing a problem. Instead, some appear at least to regard their actions as legitimate or at least action that can be taken with impunity to the extent that they are willing to allow complaints against them to proceed to customary adjudication. The following excerpt by Mrs. Y shows precisely this: “When my husband died, my neighbor started to tamper with the boundary demarcations. He removed the wooden pegs and stones that were placed by the distribution committee as a sign of the border and put another form of demarcation that will allow him to claim some of the land and coffee trees from my plot. I brought the case to the PA justice committee but after a long period of waiting, my case was referred to the traditional conflict resolution committee (Shimgelina). My opponent is a man with good economic and social standing in the village; he himself serves as a Shimagle. He told the Shimagles that I cannot tell with reasonable certainty about the demarcation because I was not even there when the land was assigned. It was my late husband who put the demarcations. The Shimageles ruled in his favor claiming that his case was more convincing and credible than mine. Mrs. Y was discouraged from making attempts to claim her land simply because her opponent is well experienced in legal matters and knows how to present his case very well. Border pushing also occurs on joint holdings, again, most likely if and when the owner is female. Mrs. M’s testimony reveals a case of ‘pushing’ as well: When my neighbor started pushing the border, I went and talked to him peacefully. The land was a joint holding (another woman shares the land with me). Initially, we tried to negotiate with the man without involving anyone else. However, the man 98  refused to negotiate to resolve the problem peacefully. He claimed to be the rightful owner of the land and discouraged us from making any claim. For a while we let him use the land as we tried to figure out how to approach the problem. Finally, we decided to delegate a man from the neighborhood, who is known for his experience in land related litigations. We gave him power of attorney to fight the battle for us and get a share of the produce as a payment for his service as we could not afford to pay him in cash. Both of us are single mothers and we do not have the time and the power to fight this man. We presented all the evidence and testimonies that support our claims to the PA administration and we were told to wait for their final decision. In the meantime, knowing that he might lose the battle, our opponent harvested all the coffee from our land. Before the final decision was made, we got news that the local administration office was burned down. We were told to start the process all over again as all the documents were burned in the bureau. To date our case is open and we don’t know what to do. As with Mrs. M, it was often reported that unnecessary delay of cases occurs to the detriment of women. This is said to be more likely still when an opponent offers a bribe to the local administration to influence their decisions. The expectation is that femaleheaded households will be forced to withdraw their cases due to time and financial constraints. In the case above, the women waited for a resolution for two years. Now, in the aftermath of the fire and the loss of case testimony, the prospect of initiating a new claim is daunting at best. More broadly, there exists the pervasive sense that, for women, formal claims are more often than not ineffectual performances of legal processes, which are easily derailed by the normative tolerance for bribery and/or dismissal of women’s  99  rights more broadly [The problem of the inefficacy of legal systems as concerns women, formal and informal, is taken up more fully in chapter 4]. There are also instances of multiple claims to a piece of land when a woman becomes a widow. About one-third of all interviewed female heads of households indicated that they had to share land with other claimants (such as children from other unions, in-laws and their relatives) upon the death of their spouses. The case of Mrs. A below provides an example of multiple claims made by children born of other relationships. When my husband died, his daughter from a previous marriage tried to throw me out of my house. This is a married woman who received a piece of land from the PA like everybody else, which she cultivated together with her husband. However, she wanted to acquire more land through inheritance. I refused to leave either the house or the land as long as I am alive and told her to wait until my death to inherit the land. She then insisted to share the house with me claiming that it will be too big for one person. I appealed to the elders’ council hoping that I would get a fair justice. However, the elders’ council made a decision that forced me to share the house and part of the land. I had to accept the decision made by the elders and agreed to share the house and the land. From the moment she and her husband moved to my house, they started to harass me verbally and threaten me to leave the house unless I want to lose my life. Even though I am very afraid, I have to stay because I have nowhere else to go. I have no children and relatives who will stand by me, and I do not have the ability to travel to the district court to appeal my case.” 100  Although Mrs. A is the legal claimant of the land and other property, she was victimized by others through manipulative decision-making that de facto denied her rightful inheritance. This example is not unique; discussion with groups of women in both Oura and Yiganda PAs confirmed that widows may suffer partial or total loss of assets, including land and house, to relatives of the deceased spouse. This problem is exacerbated by the fact that most women are not aware of existing laws and polices pertaining to their rights and the desire to conform to cultural norms which might otherwise lead to exclusion from important social networks. Although laws and policies are created and enacted at the federal level, their implementation at the regional and local level has been hampered by the existence of regional family laws that include elements of customary practices that have detrimental effects on women (see chapter 4 for details). 3.6  Weapons of the Weak: Women’s Coping Strategies Zeghie’s greater proportion of female-headed households also reduces the  availability of farm labor crucial to survival. Most women cannot afford to pay for farm laborers in cash or in kind; they resort to mechanisms that allow for the use of farm labor in exchange for a percentage of the harvest or a share of their land. Strategies undertaken by women to cope with labor uncertainties include sharecropping, marriage, and or manipulation of inheritance opportunities. Such strategies are, however, challenged due to existing unequal power and gender relations as described below. Sharecropping is one of the most popular strategies women and elderly people use to meet the demand for farm labor. It has also helped to absorb the rapidly growing population of landless youth in rural areas. The conventional arrangement in Zeghie is quite different from arrangements used in the highlands where people grow fast101  maturing, seasonal crops such as maize, wheat or barley (see also Pender and Fafchamps 2001). In Zeghie, even if the sharecropping arrangement is expected to be temporary, it becomes long-term due to the nature of the crops grown and the time needed for the crops to mature. For instance, it takes about five years for a newly planted coffee tree to be ready for harvest while other trees like eucalyptus and hops can mature within three years and can be harvested from time to time while maturing. Due to this, the minimum time given for a sharecropper to demonstrate his commitment in this mostly coffee-growing region has been eight years. A contract of this kind typically states that the sharecropper is responsible for clearing the land and for removing all unwanted vegetation, planting new coffee and tree seedlings, and making sure that the plants have enough shade and moisture. In addition to the newly planted coffee and other crops, the share cropper is responsible for making sure that the existing crops are well cared for. The sharecropper also pays 500 ETB45 upon the signing of the contract. Typically, he is eligible to a 50% share of all harvested crops from both newly planted as well as existing crops. He is also normally entitled to own 50% of the land when the landowner passes away. If, within these eight years, the sharecropper fails to meet his obligations as stated in the contract, the contract is generally terminated. As the law does not adequately provide for the context in Zeghie, elders with the Shimgelina prepare these contracts. When one of the contracting parties fails to abide by the agreement, the case will be referred to the elders who prepared the contract or to new elders willing to mediate the case. Sharecropping arrangements are also common among women who have land in different parcels. Women prefer to give these lands to the sharecropper as these are self-  45  1 Ethiopian Birr (ETB) is equivalent to 0.16 CAD. 102  evidently difficult to work. However, harvests from distant parcels are very difficult to monitor and women in most cases have to rely on the shareholder’s self-reports of the amount of coffee or trees harvested from such land. Reports of trees cut and sold from the compounds of women without the shareholder notifying them about such actions, and failures to share the proceeds that result are some of the concerns raised by women in Zeghie. Despite the status of sharecropping as the sole reliable alternative for many women, some shy away from such arrangements due to fear of backlashes from relatives of their deceased husbands. Normatively, land is not only a matter of livelihood, but also of honor, loyalty and family ties. Thus, even in the face of chronic poverty women are expected to leave their land as a legacy to their children. Female-headed households, therefore, can expect and do encounter family and community members who do not support their decision and may not stand by them when problems arise. Mrs. D, a 65year-old widow, indicated that she didn’t want to get into a sharecropping arrangement as it is considered a disgrace to her husband’s soul. She reports preferring to live in poverty so as to keep the land and coffee for her children. Mrs. A, whom I quoted above, was equally quick to assert that women who are faithful to their husbands do not engage in sharecropping. 3.6.1  Marriage as a Coping Strategy for Labor Shortage Given some overall resistance to share cropping and/or public condemnation  affiliated with it, female heads of households also turn to new marital relationships with the shareholders to help secure their livelihoods. Most new marital partners are migrants who come to Zeghie in search of employment. This can be mutually advantageous of 103  course, as the shareholders are mostly landless and female-headed households lack labor to work their land.  However, interviews and field observations revealed that  arrangements of this kind also result in further disagreements and accusations to the detriment of women. The following story told by Mrs. AT reveals how such arrangements can also compromise women’s existing, albeit minimal, rights to land. His name is [Mr. G]. He was a wodogeba46. He had nowhere else to go, so I let him stay with my children and me. I let him work my land with a sharecropping arrangement (Yekul). Later on, we decided to get married. We had a customary/ traditional marriage. In addition to my own land, we agreed to cultivate other people’s land through a sharecropping arrangement. We managed to take land from two neighboring plots. Since he became the head of the household, he was the one who signed the agreement with the landowners. We worked on the land together, clearing the land and planting and nurturing the coffee and hops (Gesho). At the end of the season, we collected 18 madga47 of coffee and stored it in our backyard. One day, the Shimageles came to our house without announcing. He informed the elders that he would like to divorce me as I was contemplating suicide. That was very shocking to me. I asked him “do I have any reason to commit suicide?” He did not say anything. The negotiation took three days, I was convinced by the Shimageles to accept the divorce, and sign an agreement that was already prepared. What I did not know was that he was having an affair with my neighbor who was also a single mother. We had been working her land as sharecroppers. I was cheated out of the arrangement, as I am illiterate. I did not 46  Wodogeba is a man who marries a divorced/widowed woman and lives in her house. As noted, these are usually men who do not own land or migrants who come to the area in search of jobs. 47 Traditional water carrying jug made from clay, they can contain from 15-20 liters of water. 104  know what was contained in the agreement I signed. Later on, one of the Shimageles told me that I have already released the land from both sharecropping arrangements to the man. This is but one example of how some young men exploit the circumstances to take advantage of female heads of households (see details in chapter 4). Women like Mrs. AT lose their property due to their inability to understand the full basis or implications of the contracts into which they enter. In this case, after getting married to Mrs. AT, the man used rumors against her to leave her and marry another woman. Mrs. AT herself has assumed that her former ‘husband’ bribed the elders and also used rumor and innuendo to justify his actions; evidence to support this accusation is not forthcoming, but nor is it a preposterous claim in this broader context. Most women in the peninsula also lack the basic skills to understand the laws and contracts written on their behalf by the elders. The absence of mechanisms that provide women the necessary information on the different choices and mechanism available, forced many women to rely on an already gender-constraining justice system. Virtually all (except 3) of the women interviewed for this research admitted that they lack the information and knowledge of their constitutional rights as well as policies that protect and promote their rights. The three literate women, nonetheless, stated that knowledge itself is not sufficient for women to exercise their rights to land. There has to be a deliberate effort on the part of the government to translate and enforce gender-equity at the local and customary level. Both the formal and informal justice systems, including the local administration should be altered to promote women’s equality in all spheres (see details in chapter 4).  105  3.6.2  Emerging Forms of Inheritance as a Survival Strategy As the livelihood system of Zegheans failed due to erratic rainfall and the falling  of coffee prices, most female-headed households and elderly people who could not engage in alternative income generating activities became more and more dependent on the support of families elsewhere. However, in cases when such support is not available, some families engage in arrangements that enable them to transfer the title of their land to those who will support them financially as they age. The person who inherits the land does not have to be a blood relative but does have to agree to take care of the family in exchange for inheriting the land upon their death. Most people try to find a trust-worthy, young and energetic male for such agreements. The agreement is usually based on the assumption that the potential heir will cultivate the land, and share the income equally in exchange for inheriting 50% of the land upon their death. Additional arrangements within the agreement may include taking care of the person/couple, provision of food, clothing, medications and other needs such as holiday expenses for the landowners. This will be stated in the agreement and will be properly signed by those who enter into the agreement as well as witnesses. A number of challenges have been experienced by both parties in arrangements of this kind. The following example illustrates a case in which the circumstances of a widow’s death were misrepresented to great consequence. Mrs. BK is an elderly widow, whose son never came back from the war front. She signed an agreement to give her land as an inheritance to a young man who promised to provide her with financial support until her death. However, the young man, instead of waiting for Mrs. BK’s death decided to declare her dead and transferred the title of the land in his own name. 106  That an elderly woman could enter into such an agreement and yet find its outcome malleable to this degree suggests that the only basis of contractual security might well be trust or even something akin to the integrity of the individual over and above any legal system per se as there is little to suggest legal recourse will prevail with any consistency. That said, there is also widespread fear among those young males who might enter into such a contract that keeping the land after the person assigning it has died is also a nebulous prospect. This is due in part to cases where relatives of the deceased might contest existing sharecropping or alternate inheritance agreements. During a visit to the social justice committee, where legal cases at the PA level are heard, I had the opportunity to witness the following case. An elderly woman and partner to an inheritance arrangement had died. Her children had all passed away and she had no living relatives. However, upon her death, a grandchild who used to live in another area returned to claim her land. Relevant testimony from the hearing as follows: Contract holder: I have been helping the elderly woman, as she had no children or relatives who could support her during her old age. I allocated a budget for her monthly food and medicine expenses took care of her coffee farm, and my wife did all the chores for her as she promised to leave me her land as an inheritance. Grandchild: I have been living with my mother in the rural area. I just finished elementary school and I can’t afford to go to the high school. My mother is dead and I have no one else to help me. I came back to live with my grandmother but I found out  107  that she is dead too. Since I have no land or house to live in and I am her only relative, I am the rightful owner of the land. Although the initial arrangement of help in exchange for inheritance of property was made in a customary fashion, the grandchild appealed the case to the local administration. The chairman of the local administration advised the contestants to settle the case amicably through negotiation and referred them to the traditional (Shimgelina) dispute settlement committee. While a decision in this case is outstanding, the outcome will be somewhat contingent on the ability of each disputant to influence the Shimageles. Further, discussion with the chairman of local administration revealed that if the parties failed to reach an agreement, the local administration implied they might transfer the land rights to another landless family that has been registered and waiting for land. This is consistent with the aforementioned land tenure policy that ultimately vests ownership of land with the government. Ultimately, in the case of Zeghie, many new strategies are emerging as vulnerable parties, especially women but also landless youth, seek livelihood security. Female heads of households have in particular sought to engage in informal arrangements to address labor shortages. These informal arrangements are, however, often risky for women as mechanisms do not exist to protect their interests. For instance, although the contract prepared under the customary arrangements are binding and most people attempt to fulfill their obligations, problems of enforceability persist. When one party does not fulfill his or her obligation, the elders will be asked to mediate through the traditional dispute settlement mechanism. However, they do not have the mandate to force the offender in any manner except through the use of social sanctions (generally barring the person from 108  important social activities). Enforcing contracts via social sanctions is also contingent upon the social status of the parties. In a context in which female heads of households occupy comparatively weak positions, it is likely that the few rights they hold to land will not be upheld. 3.7  Closing Thoughts on the Gendered Nature of Land Insecurity This chapter explored the multitude of factors that contribute to land and  livelihood insecurity amongst rural women (and in some cases landless youth) in Ethiopia’s Zeghie Peninsula. The confluence of gender inequity and the high number of households headed by women in Zeghie has far reaching consequences for the gender specific land insecurity and their livelihood capacities. The land distribution programs that took place in 1975 and 1996 failed to achieve equity or justice largely because these programs were implemented through institutions that employ discriminatory customary rules and practices that undermine the rights of women to land and property. Normatively and similar to other areas in the Amhara region, men are designated as heads of households, who have the moral authority to govern property ownership at the household level. Therefore, women in Zeghie cannot in practice exercise primary rights to land but instead gain access through their husbands and thereafter have repeated difficulty maintaining that precarious access. This has led to the violation of women’s rights to land, especially when they become single due to long absence of their husbands or in cases of widowhood (Verma 2001). Although patriarchal gender relations hinder women from exercising their rights in many aspects, especially in access to and control over resources, some nascent efforts have been witnessed that revealed women’s effort to enhance personal sovereignty. One example of this effort is the greater tendency for 109  women to remain single following divorce or widowhood and to raise children on their own instead of relying on other men to support them. Unfortunately, strategies employed by female-headed households to meet the demand for agricultural labor and other forms of livelihood insecurity have not been successful. When pressed, women do resort to traditional institutions, although the decisions delivered by these institutions are not generally favorable to or are passively dismissive of claims made by women (such as the stalling that was referred to in two above cases). This is true despite the fact that the constitution as well as the land tenure policies are explict about the need to protect the rights of women as property ‘owners’. Women are often unable to benefit from these policies due to lack of awareness about the policies and absence of mechanisms or normative support through which they might exercise their rights. Further, women’s dependence on customary systems for land-related transactions, coupled with the bureaucratic court procedures and lack of attention or sensitivity toward the challenges women—especially female-heads of households—are experiencing, have aggravated the inequities forcing many to give up their rights to land and property. In the final analysis, one can conceive of Zeghie’s case as a near perfect storm in which problems stemming from the normative position of women intersect with generalized rural poverty as well as the nature of tenure itself. The fact that land is held but not secured (one owns its products but not the land itself), and that consideration of the rights or needs of women are not primary in the normative or customary sense, combine to produce a kind of tolerance for (quite literally) property line and title malleability wherein the spaces of operation and cultivation “belonging” to women are 110  continually challenged by men. Moreover, when such challenges are adjudicated by ‘traditional’ decision-making or quasi-judicial bodies, they tend to end more favorably for men than they do for women. Theoretically and in reference to the case of Zeghie, both the evolutionary property rights tradition and the customary tenure approaches are correct, but only very partially. The property rights approach is correct to the extent that it posits the necessity of duration, transferability, and exclusion of title (see again, Place and Hazel 1993), a ‘security’ that cannot be said to be certain in Zeghie. Those concerned with customary tenure and the importance of bolstering the power of civil society are also correct in that they rightly recognize the role of local systems in governing decisions about land. Yet, calls for the enhancement of civil society in the absence of critical scrutiny of preexisting gender norms within such ‘civil’ societies amounts to a naïve philosophy of ‘localism as best’ when this is not necessarily so. Such a position might well enhance the sovereignty of local practice, but not the rights of women. Political ecologists, conversely and finally, have not and cannot be expected to ‘solve’ the problem of property and poverty, but they do call for a focus on changing property relations and so come closer to what legal scholars refer to as a ‘relational approach’ (Rittich 2005, p. 113). The look herein at post 1975 and 1996 changes in property regimes suggests that while land redistribution did occur it very much did so (here as elsewhere) in relation to sustained cultural and religious contexts in which women were never fully recognized as secure owners but rather as malleable and/or replaceable users. This tentative or malleable use when such use was governed by women was made all the more apparent in the face of depressed coffee prices and changing yields  111  likely due to climate change. These more global changes (and their incentives toward outmigration on the part of men) threw into relief the particularly vulnerable position of female heads of households. In short, the wide spectrum of factors contributing to the plight of rural women in Ethiopia cannot be fully addressed by policies and laws.  Unless institutions that  determine access to and control over land are altered to include gender equality considerations, women’s right to land and property remains compromised as they lack both the mechanism and the necessarily local normative support to contest unfair claims against their property and protect their livelihoods as well as their environment.  112  3.8  References  Alemnew, A. A. 2001. 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Getie Gelaye 1999. Peasant Poetics and State Discourse in Ethiopia: Amharic Oral Poetry as a Response to the 1996-97 Land Redistribution Policy. North East African Studies. 6(1/2): 171-206. Hoben, A. 1973. Land Tenure Among the Amhara of Ethiopia. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.  115  Kidanu, A., & Tadesse, A. 1994. Rapid Population Growth and Access to Farm Land. Coping Strategies in Two Peasant Associations in North Shoa. In Land Tenure and Land Policy in Ethiopia. Dessalegn, R. ed. Uppsala: Scandinavian Institute of African Studies. Lawry, S. 1994. Structural Adjustment and Natural Resources in Sub-Saharan Africa: The Role of Tenure Reform. Society and Natural Resources 7(4): 383-87. Li, G., Rozelle, S., & Brandt, L. 1998. Tenure, Land Rights and farmer investment Incentives in China. Agricultural Economics 19(1): 63-71. Mackenzie, F. 2003. Land tenure and Biodiversity: An Exploration in the Political Ecology of Murang a District, Kenya. Human Organization, Fall 2003. 62(3)255266. Maxwell, D. & Weibe, K. 1999. Land Tenure and Food Security: Exploring Dynamic Linkages. Development and Change 30(4): 825-849. Mohanty, C. T. 1991. Cartographies of Struggle: Third World Women and the Politics of Feminism. Mohanty, C.T., Ruso, A. & Torres, L., eds. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Moore, D. 1993. Contesting Terrain Zimbabwe's Eastern Highlands: Political Ecology, Ethnography, and Peasant Resource Struggles. Economic Geography 69(4): 380401. Neumann, R. P. 1998. Imposing Wilderness: Struggles Over Liveli-hood and Nature Preservation in Africa. University of California Press, Berkeley  116  Nyamu-Musembi, Celestine. 2002. Are Local Norms and Practices Fences or Pathways? The Example of Women's Property Rights, in Abdullahi A. An-Na'im, Cultural Transformation and Human Rights in Africa, New York, Zed Books Ltd. Pankhurst, Richard. 1968. Economic History of Ethiopia, 1800–1935. Addis Ababa: Haile Selasie I University Press. Paulson, Susan and Gezon, Lisa. 2004. Political Ecology Across Spaces, Scales, and Social Groups. Paulson and Gezon (eds) New Brunswick NJ: Rutgers University Press. Pender, J. and Fafchamps. 2006. M. Land Lease Markets and Agricultural Efficiency in Ethiopia. Journal of African Economies, Vol. 15, No. 2, pp. 251-284. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=915478. Last accessed: October 9, 2008 Peters, P. 2004. "Inequality and Social Conflict Over Land in Africa. Journal of Agrarian Change 4(3): 269-314. Place, F. & Hazel, P. 1993. Productivity Effects of Indigenous Land Tenure Systems in Sub-Saharan Africa. American Journal of Agricultural Economics 75(1): 10-19. Platteau, J. P. 1996. The Evolutionary Theory of Land Rights as Applied to Sub-Saharan Africa: A Critical Assessment. Development and Change 27: 29-86. Rittich, K. 2005. The Properties of Gender Equality’s In Human Rights and Development: Toward Mutual Reinforcement, edited by Philip Alston and Mary Robinson. pp. 87-113. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press. Rocheleau, D, Thomas-Slayter, B. and Wangari, E. 1996. Feminist Political Ecology: Global Issue and Local Experiences. New York: Routledge.  117  Sjaastad, E. and Bromley, D. W. 1997. Indigenous Land Rights in Sub-Saharan Africa: Appropriation, Security and Investment Demand. World Development 25(4): 549562. Tekie, A. 1999. Land Tenure and Soil Conservation: Evidence from Ethiopia. Göteborg: Göteborg University Press. Tesfaye, T. 2004. Natural Resources Scarcity and Rural Conflict: Case Studies Evidence on Correlates from Ethiopia. Paper prepared for FSS panel on environment and conflict at the second International Conference on the Ethiopian Economy, June 3-5, 2004, Addis Ababa. United Nations. 1995. Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. United Nations (UN) Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). UNDP. 2000. Human Development Report. New York: Oxford University Press. www.undp.org Verma, Ritu. 2001. Gender, Land, and Livelihoods in East Africa: Through Farmers’ Eyes. pp.263. International Development Research Center. Ottawa. Ontario. Canada Whitehead, A. and Tsikata, D. 2003. "Policy Discourses on Women's Land Rights in Sub-Saharan Africa: The Implications for the Re-turn to the Customary. Journal of Agrarian Change 3(1 and 2): 67 - 112.  118  Wiens, P. 2003. The Gendered Nature of Local Institutional Arrangements for Natural Resource Management: A Critical Knowledge Gap for Promoting Equitable and Sustainable NRM in Latin America. Rural Poverty and Environment Working Paper Series. IDRC. World Bank. 1998. Implementing the Ethiopian National Policy for Women: Institutional and Regulatory Issue. W. Bank. Washington, DC: World Bank. Yemane Berhane. 2004. Editorial: Ending Violence Against Women in Ethiopia. Ethiopian Journal of Health Development 18(3):131-132 Yigremew Adal. 1997. Rural Land Holding Readjustment in West Gojjam, Amhara Region. Ethiopian Journal of Development Research 19(2): 57-89.  119  4.  BEYOND LOCAL JUSTICE: GENDER RELATIONS IN LOCAL LEVEL DISPUTE SETTLEMENT IN ETHIOPIA’S ZEGHIE PENINSULA48  4.1  Introduction Access to fair and equitable justice has become a serious concern in Ethiopia’s  rural areas, where eighty five percent of the population resides, including Zeghie Peninsula. Intense struggle for land and property resulting from growing landlessness and growing number of female-headed households have rendered women’s property rights a contested terrain.49 While much focus and attention has been devoted on the part of the government to the crafting of laws and policies that promote gender equity (Dehab and Asmelash 2003), little has been done locally to protect women from loss of land and livelihoods due to border pushing and altering of land demarcations by their male neighbors. At the local level, where the problem is acutely felt, most people are unable to access formal judicial systems either because the costs are too high or because infrastructure and transportation are lacking. Even where a formal judicial system exists, people have little knowledge of how to use it to protect their rights and property (World Bank 2006). This largely explains why most local disputes50 do not reach the formal judicial system. The problem is not unique to Ethiopia. Chirayath, Sage, and Woolcock (2005:2) have found that “only about 5 percent of disputes are taken to court in most  48  A version of this chapter has been submitted for publication, Asfaw T. and Satterfield, T. Beyond Local Justice: Gender Relations in Local Level Dispute Settlement in Zeghie Peninsula. 49 Data collected in 2004 for this thesis indicated that, women headed 44% of the sampled households, while men headed 56%. Out of this, 38% of the respondents were widowed while 6% were divorced. The high number of female-headed households was attributed to increased job related male migration to urban and semi-urban areas, early death of men due to accidents and diseases while they travel to malaria endemic areas in search of work, and the death and or absence of men enlisted in the military. 50 In the case of Zeghie the most common form of disputes are land related (Pers. Comms, Hailu Gebre, an elder in Yiganda PA) 120  societies, including those with well-developed legal systems”. These two informal and formal dispute settlement mechanisms, as in most parts of Africa, are available to the Zegheans51. However, given the formal justice system court’s limited role, there is growing interest in local dispute settlement institutions in general and traditional52 dispute settlement mechanisms in particular. Traditional systems are often lauded by local governments as well as academic and nongovernmental development organizations as a means for reducing livelihood insecurity and human deprivation. The belief is that traditional justice institutions (1) are more accessible to local people; (2) operate with very low transaction costs; (3) are efficient and fair as they are responsible to the people they serve; and (4) are consistent with local value system. However, how local and traditional institutions effect power and gender relationship is an area as yet insufficiently explored or understood in both academic and development circles as well as within local governments wherein such approaches have been pioneered (Molyneux 2002). This chapter draws from critical and feminist legal theory to understand women’s lived experiences of existing laws (Griffiths 1998) that aim to promote equity and justice. Specifically, I explore problems with women’s access to justice, inheritance, and land manifested in their engagement with the Shimgelina (a traditional dispute settlement mechanism) and with the local ‘Peasant Association’ civic court. I examine the functioning of these local legal and rule-based systems, and the ways in which they reinforce inequality through imposition of norms of harmony at the expense of justice. Traditional dispute resolution mechanisms are built on principles such as mediation, 51  Formal mechanisms are understood here and elsewhere to be government ones and often include statebased justice institutions such as police, courts, and prisons (World Bank 2006). Mechanisms falling outside the formal justice system constitute the informal justice system (ibid). 52 Traditional justice systems are also known as customary justice and are administered by non-state actors e.g. community groups, elders, religious institutions etc. These systems operate based on local rules and customs rather than legal co-des (Original 1997). 121  arbitration and conciliation but at the same time, they enforce hegemonic ideologies; where tradition and culture are invoked, imposed, contested and experienced (Huyse and Salter 2008). The confluence of the traditional social order and women’s low social and economic status requires that women conform to the laws and rules set by the traditional system. Their attempts to access justice manifest primarily here as the ability to maintain control of land holdings are challenged by village males as well as elders affiliated with the Shimgelina. In what follows, I will outline the challenges women face in the local justice systems in Ethiopia’s rural areas and conclude with recommendations to improve women’s access to equitable legal and quasi-legal fora. 4.2  Methodological Approach This chapter builds on fieldwork and interviews conducted in north-western  Ethiopia’s Zeghie Peninsula between September 2004 and September 2005. Interviewees (n=50) were drawn from and conducted in the area’s two peasant associations (PAs): Oura and Yiganda including a broad base of community residents most of whom are coffee farmers as well as the PA chairpersons, leaders of the PA civic court, members of the traditional dispute settlement body (Shimgelina), and other informants including members of government institutions such as the Bureau of Agriculture (BoA) and the Environmental Protection Land Administration and Use Authority (EPLAUA). The names of community participants were drawn from the lists of female– and male–headed households recorded in the PA logbooks53; while specific interviewees were selected at random from some 637 and 920 households in Oura and Yiganda respectively. Additionally, interviews were held with non-Zeghie informants who had lived among the 53  A register that contains names of taxpaying household heads 122  Zegheans for a long time such as government workers. My prior knowledge about the area as a lifetime resident and citizen of Ethiopia and member of CARE’s research staff from 1994 to 2003 also helped identify important issues that shed light on how the traditional dispute settlement systems undermine the rights of women, and/or how men in positions of power use different tactics to justify and legitimize their actions. Supplemental (secondary) data were obtained from the Bureau of Agriculture (BoA), EPLAUA, the PA civic court, the Oura Kidanemihret Church and archives54 at the Addis Ababa University. As sources of information on Zeghie are comparatively unavailable, materials on the broader regional highland district often served as a proxy. 4.3  The Zeghean Context in Brief Northwestern Ethiopia’s Zeghie Peninsula is surrounded by the waters of Lake  Tana (Getachew, 1993), and connected to the regional capital of Bahir Dar by boat service. The climate is mild; average rainfall is 800 to 1200 mm (EPLAUA 2004). Little has been written about Zeghie Peninsula despite its historical and religious significance and its rich forest biodiversity. For most Ethiopians, “Zeghie” refers to the entire peninsula; for those who live on it, it refers solely to the area surrounding the small town of Afaf. Zegheans distinguish between their home territory and the cereal-growing areas adjacent to the peninsula. They refer to those latter places as rural, which suggests that the people living in those areas are ‘backward and uncivilized’. Despite such rhetoric, people often have kinship ties in these neighboring areas. Indeed, some Zegheans were born outside the peninsula and were still living there in the 1970s, when a set of hail-storms devastated the area (an event often recounted by the local people). 54  Archival records include published early travellers accounts 123  Others came to Zeghie before the 1975 land distribution as farm laborers and were able to procure land during this particular land distribution and settled in Zeghie permanently55 (See Rahel 1999). The population of Zeghie is estimated at 10,000. The growth rate is about 3 percent per year, reflecting the national average; 42 percent of Zegheans are under fifteen years of age (EPLAUA 2004:8). About 1,500 Zegheans live in Afaf, the largest town; the remainder are dispersed among fifteen villages. All Zegheans speak Amharic. As with other parts of the Ethiopian Highlands, Zeghie’s growing population and troubled history of land reform and redistribution has led to increased land-based disputes, particularly among neighbors that share land56. In addition, Elder Kassa reported that the number of land-related litigations among kin have increased, especially in those instances where male heads of households are absent due to migration, death or divorce. Recent failures of coffee crops due to changing rainfall patterns57 as well as poor markets for coffee, combined with an absence of alternative income sources, have forced many, mostly men, to resort to seasonal migration in search of jobs in urban areas and other parts of Amhara province. As a result, an increased number of households (by now about half) are headed by women (Gebremeskel and Dehab 2003:7) and are now facing fierce struggle for land. While women have not been recognized historically as land owners, legally they do possess rights (as will be discussed below) and practically the need to do so has become acute and concentrated in Zeghie precisely because of this growing number of female-headed households.  Zeghie also lacks the kind of  55  For detailed description of the land reform, see Chapter 3 of this thesis Further details on these disputes based on interviews is offered below 57 In favorable years, Zeghie has two rainy seasons, belg and meher—though virtually all those interviewed noted that rainfall has become unreliable. Locals report that the belg rains often fail completely, while the meher rains can be untimely or short. Civil servants within the regional office of EPLAUA confirm this. 56  124  infrastructure that might help facilitate its current pressures in that it can be considered underserved compared to even remote parts of the country, despite its proximity to Bahir Dar, the regional capital. There is a shortage of schools, medical or legal clinics, and agricultural programs for the peninsula’s rapidly growing population. Fishing in Lake Tana has not been encouraged due to the low demand for fish locally, and few local people make their living that way. The reasons include food taboos58, inadequate storage facilities, and weak local demand59 (EPLAUA 2004; Getachew 1993). The Orthodox Christian Church is the dominant local institution in Zeghean society. Though its authority has diminished since the land reforms of 1975 and 1996, which granted usufructuary rights to the people, the Church remains a potent force. The six churches in the Peninsula date as far back as the thirteenth century and continue to serve the local population; they are also an important regional tourist attraction (Ibid). Although the church itself does not engage in dispute settlement processes, priests are often called to chair the Shimgelina. Moreover, most Shimgelinas convene at the church compound to underscore the need for being fair for both parties in the conflict although in practice this ideal has not expressed itself in fairness to women as will become evident below. 4.4  Setting the Scene: An Overview of the Gender Equality Agenda In Ethiopia, women have been marginalized and constitute the majority of the 27  million Ethiopians living in absolute poverty (World Bank 1998), and gender inequality  58  The peninsula is home to a number of monasteries, and as a consequence several fasting and food taboos prohibit of the consumption of fish. 59 Discussion with women and men groups confirmed that the poor road and transportation facilities and absence of freezers and packaging mechanisms have been the main barriers for the slow or under development of fish marketing opportunities in Zeghie. 125  in Ethiopia has been identified as a challenge that must be addressed in terms of social and economic development. The 2005 “Gender-Related Development Index (GDI)” ranked Ethiopia 134th out of 140 countries, revealing that inequality between women and men is indeed very high (World Bank 2005:302). Literacy among adult women sits at 33 percent of the population over the age of 15 (as compared to 49.2 percent for men). The gross enrollment in primary and middle school for women versus men is similarly disparate—29 percent for women compared to 42 percent for men. Also, as of 2005, the per capita gross domestic product for women was 487 USD while for men it was 931. Gender inequality60 in Zeghie has been maintained and persisted over many generations despite a number of international and national efforts that aimed at gaining a better understanding of the situations of women and addressing gender inequalities. One notable achievement has been the inclusion of provisions for women’s equality in the Universal Declaration of Human rights. In addition, the UN designated the International Women’s year in 1975, and the United Nations Decade for Women from 1975 – 1985, in which the UN urged all governments to establish collaborative arrangements to develop approaches in their national programs toward the advancement of women (Bryan and Varat 2008). In light of this, and as one of the member states, Ethiopia ratified the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), the Convention on the Right of the Child (CRC), and the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) to protect the rights of women and girls (FDRE 2006). As a first step in the implementation of the international conventions and instruments, the Ethiopian  60  Gender inequality is often manifested in Zeghie as disparities between women and men in access to and control over resources, education, income, or in decisions affecting one’s life 126  government has established the Women’s Affairs office61 (WAO) under the office of the Prime Minister with the mandate to coordinate, facilitate and monitor activities of women’s affairs at national level, and also to strive for the enactment of new policies and the improvement of existing ones in accordance with the political and economic growth of the country (FDRE 2006). The WAO was authorized to encourage the establishment of offices of women’s affairs in all regions, ministries and public organizations at all levels so as to facilitate the implementation of the policy with full participation of women in all development activities (ibid). Subsequently policies and related development instruments were reviewed and amended with the view to improving the status of women and attaining gender equality. The two important principles in the Ethiopian constitution that promote gender equality are: Article 40, provides for the equal right of ownership of land for women and men (FDRE 1995); whereas Article 25 assures women’s right to equality before the law and entitles women and men to equal protection of the law without distinction of any kind such as race, nation, nationality, color, sex, language, religion, political or social origin, property, birth, or other status. Moreover, the family law promulgated in 2000 calls for equitable distribution of inheritances to women and men. Other policies that reiterate the rights of women to own and administer property 61  Following the coming to power of the revolutionary government (the Derg) in 1974, “the Revolutionary Ethiopian Women's Association (REWA) was established by proclamation, but this organisation was one arm of the political party, established to facilitate the consolidation of the Derg's power. Promoting the interests of women was not high on its agenda nor was it designed to influence government policies or help women benefit from development programs. As a result there was little improvement in the lives of Ethiopian women, whether in the social, economic or political sphere, especially of those who lived in the rural areas. [Available at: http://www.ethioembassy.org.uk/fact%20file/a-z/women-1.htm. Last accessed November 9, 2008.] Moreover, key informants in Zeghie including the leader of the women’s association in Yiganda, noted that participation in a women’s association was mandatory and the Derg used forced measures including imprisonment to keep women coming to the meetings and providing, as well, their membership fees. This has distorted the potential advantages of women’s associations and networks and its legacy has discouraged women, overall, from taking part in any form of government-initiated association as the fall of the Derg is still comparatively recent in the minds of most women.  127  include the 1997 Federal Rural Land Administration Proclamation, which affirms women and men’s equal rights with respect to use, administration, and control of land as well as transfer and bequeathing of holding rights (FDRE 1997). Article 35(1) of the Ethiopia’s Constitution recognizes that women shall enjoy equal rights & protections as men; article 37(1) that pertains to ‘the right to justice’, states that “everyone shall have the right to submit justifiable grievances to and obtain a decree or judgment from a court of law or any other tribunal given by law the power of adjudication” (FDRE 1995). The above laws represent a significant departure from prior civil codes. According to elder Kassa, the Fetha Negest has played a major role in establishing the subordination of women to their husbands. Although the current civil code states that marriage is by consent, in practice, for instance, betrothal will be decided by the parents. As recently as 1960, the civil code then instituted also regarded the husband as the head of the family to whom the wife owes obedience in matters of law. The husband also administered the common property of the family. The minimum age at marriage was also then 15 years for the girl and 18 years for the man. Clearly, the 1960 Civil Code was gender biased. “The 1987 Constitution was more gender sensitive and for the first time clearly postulated the equal status of women and men in their marriage relationships. It fixed the age of marriage for both at legal maturity, 18 years, and provided for affirmative measures to curb the age-old biases and ensure de facto gender equality. However, the process of aligning the laws of the country, the Civil Code in particular, to the Constitution was not completed when the Derg regime was overthrown by the EPRDF” (Dehab and Asmelash 2003:117). As noted above, the 1995 Constitution of the FDRE  128  goes even further in ensuring gender equality and measures up to all international instruments in this area. These national efforts are hallmarks of the symbolic importance of gender issues and should be viewed as the first step in the delegation of power and the acceptance of specific responsibilities for gender issues by the government. Yet, significant gaps exist between these provisions and legal practices via the local justice systems. In particular, the implementation of gender equity policies at the local level is affected by the existence of discriminatory gender rules and norms. As Rittich (2005) argues, “mere formal equality of property rights under the law is unlikely to ensure gender equality” (p.103). Laws themselves might tell us very little; rather it is the practice, disregard, or ignorance of the law that matters at the local level and in the lives of women. This discrepancy between law and practice and/or ignorance of the law locally is evident in Zeghie and cannot be understated. Discrimination against women still starts in Ethiopia on the day a girl is born (Dehab and Asmelash 2003). The birth of a girl does not receive a warm welcome compared to the birth of a boy. Priority is given to boys in terms of education, seeking medical services and provision of food (ibid). In Zeghie, a confluence of religion and tradition has clearly established the subordinate position of women in the society; abuses including wife beating and marital rape are pervasive social problems (personal communication with Ms. GT, Council Member and Assistant Speaker, Yiganda PA). The maternal mortality rate is extremely high due to birth complications, including food taboos for pregnant women (Gebremeskel and Dehab 2003). Early marriage is especially mentioned by women in Zeghie as the main explanation assigned to unequal power  129  relations within families. Although the civil code of Ethiopia prohibits the marriage of girls under the age of 15, women in Zeghie reported that it is not uncommon for girls as young as 12 years of age to be given in marriage. “Marriage to an older man sets up significant imbalances between husband and wife in terms of experience, authority and economic autonomy. Girls frequently leave school when they marry, due in part to the early onset of pregnancy and childbearing, and the consequent impairment of their education and employment prospects guarantees that a dynamic of inequality will continue throughout their adulthood” (UNIFEM 2001:9). Moreover, discussion with key informants revealed that forced marriage is common in Zeghie, especially forcing young girls (age 7-8) to marry priests. Families give their young daughters to both ordained and unordained priests, often without their consent. According to Ms. GT, priests are revered and respected due to their spiritual role in the community, while unordained priests (debteras) are feared as they are believed to practice witchcraft and sorcery and are said to use hallucinogens to harm other people. Although adequate statistical data on rape, abduction, domestic violence, early marriage and sexual harassment are not available, incidents of sexual and physical harassments and abuse are evidently prevalent there. Kidnapping and the concomitant raping of a woman, as one way of acquiring a wife, is a common occurrence. Thus, rape and kidnapping are tolerated in Ethiopian society and so too physical harm and sexual harassment (Dehab and Asmelash 2003). 4.5  Gender, Justice, and Power in Nascent Legal Structures Careful discourses of neutrality and rationality are generally the hallmark of  formalized systems of law and law-makers, which in fact can mask the relationships of power and control inherent to such systems (Davies 2007). Property law is of particular 130  relevance to women in land-based communities. Understood as a bundle of rights (Schlager & Ostrom 1992) or “a set of relations among people in respect of things tangible and intangible Rittich,” (2005:98), it can define relations between the right holder vis-à-vis other groups or individuals. It stipulates rights, duties, powers, privileges and  responsibilities  regarding  land,  goods,  resources,  familial  relations  and  responsibilities and inheritance. Further, property rights are not absolute but a function of (or dependent on) the power of the right holder versus other claimants. As Rao (2007) maintains, property related disputes “reflect and shape relationships between people over a period of time, as much as between people and resources” (p.299). Therefore, efforts to understand women’s experience in the legal arena are reflection of the relationship between women and other claimants and should be viewed as not only claims and counter claims to, for instance, property but also as a struggle over power and rights more broadly (Ibid). Of particular importance to this chapter is the role that traditional or customary legal systems play. Scholars such as Chirayath, Sage, and Woolcock (2005) have underscored the value of customary systems in “providing access to justice to 80–90 percent of the population in the majority of the developing countries” (Ibid: 2). However, as McKenzie (1995a:18) cited in Verma (2001:90) points out “customary law and statutory law are not two isolated and essential legal orders. Rather, they provide spaces within which people, differentiated by class and gender, contest rights to land” Ideally, the existence of dual systems or arenas gives women spaces where they might negotiate control over land. However, these opportunities are constrained by the existence of traditional systems and, often, men's more advantageous uses or control of these practices. Understanding these  131  differing legal spheres is important in order to appreciate the constraints women experience in the legal arena when it comes to security of tenure and women's land ownership. Customary justice systems have been considered essentially good for local people as they operate within the framework of traditional rules and value systems. This understanding is widely shared and promoted by governmental and non-governmental organizations thereby encouraging referral of conflicts to local institutions to be resolved in accordance with locally accepted norms and principles. The principles of informal conflict resolution mechanisms such as mediation, arbitration and conciliation, which Nader (1992) calls ‘harmony ideology’, have been recognized as “an effective scheme of pacification” (p.469) rather than confrontation. Harmony and peaceful resolution are invoked by powerful traditional leaders to force disputing parties to consent to their decisions; specifically “the concern with harmony [is] accomplished by silencing disputes” (p. 468). While legal theorists as explained in the above discussion illuminate the false assumption that equity in law will result in equity in practice and the fact that all legal systems are inscribed with the normative, political, and cultural contexts in which they are situated, field-based research has provided empirical and experiential evidence of the law as it is encountered by women at the local level. It is to this latter ‘local empirical’ tradition that the next section turns. The following discussion illustrates the way local legal and rule-based systems reinforce inequality both in the social, political and economic arenas; material herein is based on information obtained from key informant interviews and small group discussions, as well as some locally available case law.  132  4.6  Disputes and Their Settlement—A Gendered Encounter With the Law Zegheans are widely viewed by previous researchers as a homogenous  community when it comes to religion, culture, and language (Getachew, 1993; Alemnew 2001, EPLAUA 2004). However, there exist strong traditional attitudes and practices that portray women as naturally inferior to men—and people’s everyday interactions including many local legal and paralegal decisions reflect this stance. One of the findings of this research has been that disputes are common in Zeghie and their resolution is critical to the lives of most women, especially female heads of households. The most common class of disputes is that involving land holdings, linked inheritance rights, and use of natural resources therein. Very common crimes among Zegheans, played out on properties not belonging to the perpetrators, include felling trees without permission (i.e. tree theft) and “border pushing,” which involves trimming of pieces of a neighbor’s land by surreptitiously moving boundary markers (see also chapter 3 of this thesis). Great inequity in the distribution of land is also evident and partially explains these patterns. A recent EPLAUA survey (2004:39), for instance, found that 20 percent of Zegheans controlled 80 percent of the land. Discussions with focus groups also revealed that many people lost their ancestral lands, and as “compensation” had been assigned land that had never been cultivated, or land that had no access to the lake, rendering irrigation difficult or impassable.62 There are similar stories of injustice regarding the distribution of the ye-mote keda land. Ye-mote keda refers to the redistribution of land belonging to deceased members of 62  Loss of traditional land generally refers to those who held land under the rist system of tenure, which preceded that instituted in and after 1975. For information on this system of tenure, see especially (Hoben 1973; Cohen and Weintraub 1975; and Yigremew 2002). More broadly, it should be noted that those previously barred from owning land before 1975 (e.g., weavers, potters, those who worked on animal hides and skins), were given land in subsequent reforms. 133  a household where heirs are not ‘apparent’, that is, where there are no heirs to these land parcels or the inheritors have permanently left the area. The idea of ye-mote keda is to assign land to those without it or to growing families that have applied for more land. Functionally, however, ye-mote keda has emerged as a form of “contingent tenure” in the sense that these newly assigned tenures are often challenged and so not permanent (Tarekegn 2001). By and large, the ye-mote keda system is not functioning properly because an increasing number of long–time absentee owners return to Zeghie when they receive news about the reallocation of their land to another person. The rules and procedures of ye-mote keda are also both contradictory and ambiguous, and as a result, the various stakeholders end up competing for land access and rights (Ibid). Disputes of this kind—along with all others pertaining to land, or involving divorce, gendered violence (e.g. early and forced marriage), desertion (i.e. of wives and children by husbands), and bigamy63 (by men)—are considered points of local or domestic civil law and as such are heard by the government’s Peasant Association (PA) civic court and the informal traditional system, known as Shimgelina. The Peasant Association (PA) is the lowest level administrative body, and the PA civic court serves as the local level formal court. Figure 4-1 shows the administrative structure of the Ethiopian government adapted to Zeghie Peninsula. The PA administration consists of the council, an executive committee, a PA civic Court, and a security committee that is responsible for the village’s peace and security.  63  Being married to more than one wife at the same time is prohibited by law, however, some men who migrate to other areas in search of jobs marry and second time in the absence of divorce from their first marriages. 134  Figure 4-1 Ethiopia's administrative structure  Th e Fed eral G o v ern m en t o f E t h i o p ia  Reg io n al Co un ci l  Reg i o n al E xecu t iv e Co m mi t tee  Zo n e E xecu t iv e Co m mi t tee  D i s t ri ct (W o red a) C o u n ci l  D is trict (W o red a) E xecu ti v e C o m mi tt ee  P A E xecu tiv e C o m mi tt ee  P eas an t As s o ci at io n (PA )  P A Co u rt Co mmi tt ee  Secu ri ty Bo d y  Shim gelina  As an administrative unit of the government, the PA’s mandate is in part to mobilize urban and rural dwellers for meetings and tax collection. They register heads of each household, disseminate identification cards as well as “support letters” for people who need medical services, and serve as the information pipeline between the district authorities and local people. The PA’s executive is nominated by members of the community. Except for the chairperson, the executive members are not paid. The Ethiopian federal structure accords legislative, executive, and judicial powers to ten administrative regions, while the federal government retains authority over all matters pertinent to national defense, foreign affairs, and citizenship. The Peasant Associations (PAs) were designated as the lowest levels of government administration in rural areas. During the sustained period of political change and upheaval known as the Derg64, the PAs were established as neighborhood committees. At that time, their main concern was  64  A committee of military officers (a communist military junta) that came to power in Ethiopia following the ousting of Haile Selassie I and ruled from 1974 to 1987 135  the peace and stability of their respective villages. Later, they assumed important local administrative and judiciary functions, while helping to consolidate the government’s political control. As an arm of the government, the PA is expected to recognize and uphold gender equality. Yet, women rarely occupy positions within these institutions, and when they do, their participation is nominal. The two women currently nominated to serve in the PA administrative council in Zeghie regard the appointments and actions as an insubstantial or ‘token’ effort to meet the requirements set by the district and other higher-level authorities. Mrs. GT, one of the female council members, articulated this position accordingly, with particular reference to efforts to undermine her elected authority: I was elected by the zone council as the main speaker of the zone. The zone council is composed of ten PAs. When the news of my nomination was disclosed to my administrator, he refused to accept my nomination indicating that I do not have the required educational qualifications to assume this responsibility. He suggested that I take the position of assistant speaker. I pointed out to him that I am well aware of the roles of the speaker and the assistant speaker. Taking minutes is the responsibility of the assistant speaker, while the main speaker is responsible for leading meetings, interpreting policies and regulations, and communicating them to the meeting participants. The zone council nominated me knowing that I cannot take minutes but I could understand the concepts and lead meetings. However, the administrator used his authority to overrule my nomination and told me to either accept the assistant speaker position or forget the nomination. I raised this concern to the Zone Administrator but it did not bring  136  any change. Now, I am working as an assistant speaker. However, my participation is nominal. I am just an observer. Mrs. GT’s experience reveals how power is exercised at the level of the PA to silence women’s voices and to perpetuate existing social inequalities (Hirsch 1998). Women’s nominations, even at the lowest government office, are expressed in name only in order to bolster the official representation of women in formal office.  However, even  participation of this kind is not available for women involved in the PA civic court as the following discussion shows. The judicial arm of the PA is known as the PA civic court. These committees are distinct from the Shimgelina. Shimgelina is indigenous and ad hoc, while the PA civic Court is a quasi–government standing committee (Fig. 4-2, structure of the PA civic court).  The PA civic court has five members: a chairman, a secretary, and three  committee members, and is responsible for resolving petty disputes and cases that do not involve more than 500 ETB.65 The committee members are nominated by the district authorities.  Upon their nomination they receive a 5–day orientation to familiarize  themselves with some of the government rules and procedures. There is no regular review of the performance of these committee members in Zeghie. Key informants indicated that some of the committee members have been in this position since this government66 (FDRE) came to power. The committee members are not expected to complete high school or higher level education. Discussion with key informants revealed that disputes among Zegheans rarely rise to the district level, let alone the zone, regional, or federal levels, owing to the time and money involved. When land disputes do reach the district  65 66  Ethiopian Birr Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia 137  level, the administration more often than not refers it back to the PA. As a result, most land disputes that reach the formal structures are dealt with at the PA and district levels. Figure 4-2 Multiple levels of dispute settlement in the Amhara region  Formal Dispute Settlement Mechanism  Informal Dispute Settlement Mechanism  Amhara Regional State Court  Zonal Administration Justice  District (Woreda) Council Justice  PA Administration Justice  Shimeglina  Disputes  As the struggle for land and resources between women and men escalates, access to justice has become more crucial to women in particular due to the increasing level of female headship in the Peninsula. In particular, there is evidence of an increase in situations where male neighbors use aggressive behavior to claim land that is owned by female heads of households. Ms. WK, a female head of household, living with her children and an elderly mother, offers a case in point. Her neighbor uprooted her plants including the smitha, a  138  shrub used as a border between the different plots, in asserting his preferred border and thus acquiring further land. She mentioned that she has tried to reason with her opponent before she decided to take her case to the PA civic Court. Her attempt resulted in insult and aggression on the part of her opponent, which made her realize that she had no option except to appeal to PA civic court. In the words of Ms. WK: I could see that there was no point in trying to negotiate with him. I went to the court and appealed my case. The witnesses were called to testify what they had seen. They testified that they saw him uprooting the plants, saying that they were planted on his side of the land. The local administration assigned a group of people to check whether I had pushed his border. They checked the border and informed the local administration that the land I used for planting coffee was my own. While I was waiting for the final decision of the PA civic court, I was notified to call the witnesses for the second time and for the third time. I managed to get the witnesses to testify. Then after, I begged and asked the committee to settle my case. Why do I have to wait endlessly for the decision? I have completed all the procedures and all indications were that my neighbor was guilty. The chairperson mocked me: “If you know anything about the law, you might as well be the judge.” I have repeatedly gone to the PA court and have pleaded with the judge to make the decision. On the day the final decision was to be made, I went to the PA court, only to find out that the defendant failed to appear. I insisted that the defendant should be brought in but nothing has been done. This took more than a year. I was so sad because this injustice could be done because I am a  139  woman. I think that all women who have no one to defend their rights suffer like me. That was how I look at it—as injustice against women in general. Ms. WK’s case is a good example of the inefficiency and inefficacy of the local justice system as it pertains to women. Women who have the endurance and persistence to engage with the PA civic court are often forced to abandon or withdraw their cases through sheer force of temporal exhaustion, ‘benign’ neglect, or blatant impunity on behalf of men who fail to appear in court, yet suffer no other consequences than an advantageous (to them) delay. Normally legally significant actors, in this case, witnesses, are exhausted into omission if not submission67. Discussions with key informants and small groups confirm that the weaknesses of the PA civic court are well-known and include corruption and nepotism. Female-headed households, who participated in small group discussions, asserted that the key to getting a timely hearing is offering bribes to the judges. They further indicated that for female-headed households in Zeghie, the small fee they have to pay for buying an application chapter and getting someone to write their application is too much let alone the expense of a bribe and nepotism. [Although legal services at the PA level are supposed to be free, applicants are asked to pay a small fee to account for the chapter and folder used to open and document their files.] Ultimately, when women find it hard to get their cases settled in a timely manner, they resort to the  Shimgelina or leave it in the ‘hands of God’ and otherwise suspend all formal or informal efforts.  67  My effort to obtain statistics on the number of cases that are seen by the PA civic court was not successful because the PA civic court and its concomitant records were recently burned down. 140  Figure 4-3 Women at the PA civic court  Photo by: Tihut Asfaw While the PA civic court is the formal legal institution at the local level, an inherent weakness is its failure to take up land–based disputes and to otherwise defer these to traditional processes. Discussions with focus groups indicated that the PA civic court largely defers land related disputes and cases of divorce to the peninsula’s better–known traditional Shimgelina justice system. The Ethiopian constitution entitles women equal right to property ownership (FDRE 1995). However, customary practices in Zeghie dictate that the husband, as head of the family, has the authority to administer household property including the right to make all decisions pertaining to any household property. Also, while the formal law portends women’s equality, its interpretation and implementation at the local level are contingent on the social and economic status of the disputants, the types of networks they draw from, and the context in which the dispute arises. Each of these points is elaborated below.  141  4.7  Negotiating In a Gendered Legal Space The Ethiopian government has been undergoing decentralization of public  services since 1991 as part of the broader neo-liberal agenda promoted heavily in development circles for much of the last decade (Ribot 2002). In so doing—and similar to other public services—the decentralization of the formal justice system has become both inaccessible and dysfunctional at the local level. To fill this institutional vacuum, the involvement of informal systems for mediating local level conflicts has been widely promoted. In Zeghie and much of the Amhara region, the chief informal dispute settlement mechanism is the Shimgelina. In essence, an elders’ council, the Shimgelina is an assembly of five Shimageles (elders) who are appointed by disputing parties in on an as needed basis. However, some elders who are considered fair and are well respected are often invited by people to mediate cases.  Figure 4-4 Shimgelina in action  Photo by: Tihut Asfaw  Key informants in Zeghie held that people from all walks of life have gone through the  Shimgelina at one time or another. They also held that Shimgelina is preferred due to its accessibility (95 percent), low expenses (90 percent), and trust (65 percent). The purpose  142  of having five Shimageles is to make vote casting easier (Pers Comm Hailu Shimageles, an Elder). It is best, but not mandatory, for at least one of the five Shimageles to be a priest and for the priest to serve as chair. If a priest can’t be found, one of the other sitting elders serves as chair. He is responsible for making sure that both disputants receive a fair hearing, though our female key informants reported that this doesn’t often happen. Often cases referred to Shimgelina include divorces and property disputes (e.g. theft and “tree rustling”). When the process succeeds (i.e. the dispute is settled amicably), both parties contribute 2 Ethiopian Birr (ETB)68 as an expression of gratitude and invite the Shimageles to celebrate the conclusion. Elders mention that the law applied by the  Shimageles is part of the Fetha Negest, which served (noted above) as the Constitution of the Country prior to the establishment of the civil code. The development and enactment of this latter legal instrument did not diminish the value of the traditional law. It has been passed on through folklore, stories, and personal experience, and can be understood as implicit knowledge (Maiese 2005). Written documents on the history of Shimgelina are difficult to find. However, Ghelawdewos (2004) has noted that Shimgelina has been around for generations. He links its emergence to the Ethiopian/Aksumite tradition, which ensures that every citizen be entitled a ‘hearing’ in the event of dispute, transgression, or crime (ibid). As one of the oldest institutions in Ethiopia, it has always been respected by both the people and the government. The 1960 Civil Code of Ethiopia reflects this respect, in that it extends  Shimgelina a major role in resolving disputes, including marital ones. Shimgelina is nonetheless informal, and all of its procedures are based on the consent of the parties involved. However informal its setting, article 317(1) of the Civil Code still requires that 68  1 CAD = 10 ETB 143  Shimgelina follow the procedures of a court of law (Original 1997:11), including the gender equity statutes noted above. The elders are expected to weigh the evidence of the parties and make their decisions on the basis of existing laws and handle their cases and files like the court of law (Ibid).  However, in practice, decisions are invariably  contingent on local norms, rules and networks. As is common in small communities,  Shimageles in Zeghie often rely on their networks and other indirect sources of information to achieve their decisions. Among the networks most commonly mentioned by those interviewed are those that facilitate not only information exchange but also the exchange of gifts and promises in anticipation of favorable legal outcomes at the local court. Such networks do much to position women and men and strongly affect their access to and control over resources (Griffiths 1998). Networks that are specific to men include the senbete, a religious association that involves men’ gathering once a month to commemorate a saint or an angel of importance to the community (e.g., St. Gabriel or St. Michael), and the much less formal though very influential routine gathering of men at local bars (tella bet). Women are excluded from these practices and the networks they foster. The small bars are often used by contestants to influence those involved in decisions69 through bribes (gifts and/or offering promises). The case of Mrs. BT reveals the subtle but common problems of bribe in the Shimgelina. When my daughter who lives in Bahir Dar gave birth, I went to see her and stayed for a while to help her with the kids. After six months I came back to Zeghie and found out that my neighbor had been cutting trees from my compound 69 Decision makers in this case could include the members of the court or Shimgelina or mainly the Chair of the PA civic court or the Shimgelina  144  illegally. When I asked him about the trees, he became very angry and said he was not my guard. I asked a couple of Shimageles to help me settle this problem with my neighbor. They agreed to attend to my case and informed my neighbor about my request. My neighbor brought two more people. The four Shimageles brought a priest and took our case. On the day of the appointment, I was called first and asked to explain the problem. I told them what happened. They also called my neighbor separately and asked him if he has been cutting trees from my compound in my absence. He denied the charges. I was then asked to bring eyewitnesses. I brought three eyewitnesses. The Shimageles on his side were not willing to accept the testimony of the eyewitnesses. Though I expected that the two people would take my opponent’s side, I was surprised when the chairperson ruled against me. Later on, I learned that my opponent had influenced the chairman’s decision through bej azur (indirect influencing mechanisms; more specifically bribe). The night before the case was settled, the chairperson was seen at a local bar with my opponent’s cousin. Mrs. BT’s case is not unique, particularly as contestants attempt to influence the chair’s decisions in many ways though bribes are certainly most common. According to Mr. KE, bribes are offered in cash or in kind depending on the season. During the pre–harvest seasons, it is often difficult for people to offer cash. People then make promises to the  Shimageles to pay a certain amount of coffee or cash upon the harvest of coffee. In some cases, people sell their possessions to offer bribes or offer to do work for the chair. Although women themselves are not allowed to go to small bars where men exchange bribes and other favors, they can use their kinship ties— including family members, in–  145  laws or others who can negotiate on their behalf—to influence decisions. This approach is consistent with patterns of ‘every day acts of resistance’ espoused by Scott (1990) that allow women to contest injustice in informal, intimate, or ritual settings. Some of these settings include coffee ceremonies, women’s work parties, and women’s monthly religious gatherings to commemorate Saint Mary’s day, and funeral gatherings wherein kinship ties can be invoked to assert influence. For instance, the coffee ceremony is an essential part of daily life for most people living in rural areas, and key to the exchange of information at a limited scale. Discussion with local women confirmed this; however, it was indicated that the number of female-headed households who have such influence is very insignificant. Access to networks and influence is in turn heavily dependent on women’s ability to host different social gatherings and feasts as well as the strength of their economic and social position in the community. Female headed households occupy lower social and economic positions by virtue of their marital status as well as limited sources of non-coffee sources of income. The only exception is the case of female heads of households who have access to remittance from grown up children living outside Zeghie. Women’s inability to read and write (illiteracy) has also entrenched their limited access to justice in the present day. Most women have to rely on the Shimageles or a male relative or neighbor regarding contracts and negotiations as they lack basic literacy and numeracy skills while most men in Zeghie have at least completed church education; hence they can read and write . Even those who can read and write lack knowledge of the laws and policies that would enable them to make informed decisions or defend that which is legally theirs. Ms. GE’s story below reveals how women under these circumstances have come to be exploited:  146  Ms. GE is an illiterate woman. When her husband died she was unable to manage the coffee farm and so she resorted to sharecropping. In that exchange, she consented to sharing 50% of the produce, an agreement ostensibly expressed in a contract that was prepared by Shimageles. As she knew the Shimageles involved and trusted them, she did not ask for a second opinion. However, when the coffee was harvested, the sharecropper refused to distribute Ms. GE’s portion to her. When she demanded a share of the harvest, he firmly told her that she had no right to the land as she had already sold it to him. Unfortunately, the actual contract did indicate that she had transferred her rights to the land to the sharecropper. Although she did not receive any cash, she signed a contract that states that she sold the land. Angry and frustrated she rushed to the Shimageles who then confirmed that the agreement clearly showed that she had sold the land. Ultimately, she was a victim of her illiteracy and trust, and now remains totally dependent on her children who send her a small amount of money every month. Ninety-eight percent of the women I interviewed did not know how to read or write, let alone understand contracts written on their behalf. Ms. GE could not take her case to the formal court, since the contract stated clearly that she had sold the land even though she had been unaware of this prospect and had not received any payment for the land ‘sold’. According to Ms. GE, the sharecropper had conspired with Shimageles whom he knew well and who had agreed to help him in exchange for money. She added that her opponent has good relations with most people in the community and that he had convinced them that he was in the right by showing them the contract.  147  4.8  Forced Conformity and Harmony in a Gendered Space One of the central problems with the Shimgelina, as identified by women  interviewed for this study, is the inability of women to contest decisions after-the-fact even when they transgress formal civil codes of law. In addition, when complaints are registered, Shimageles have been known to discourage women from appealing to the PA civic court, suggesting instead that such acts are a waste of time and money. Conformity is also imposed through appeals to ‘higher order’ goals of peace and community cohesion. Although the goal of maintaining harmony and peace is desirable for all involved in disputes, the outcome of these overwhelmingly less favorable to vulnerable groups and individuals. Women are especially disadvantaged due to the absence of a gender-level playing field and the existence of discriminatory practices that are part of the unwritten but enforced customary law. Women who decide nonetheless to appeal to the PA civic court are often ostracized for behaving ‘contemptuously’ toward the work of the  Shimageles. Other people, including relatives, are aware of these risks and tend to discourage women from taking their cases to higher civil courts given this awareness. Mrs. KT’s case below reveals how she was forced to resort to the Shimgelina and accept their decisions even though she was convinced that these decisions were unfair: As soon as my husband died, my neighbor rearranged the border and planted trees on my land. My initial reaction was hurt and anger. I was surprised how cruel my own neighbor could be. I went to his house and asked him why he tampered with the border. He didn’t even respond to my question. He sent his dogs to attack me whenever I tried to approach him. I went to the PA but they told me to settle the problem with the Shimgelina. Finally, the issue was resolved by the Shimageles  148  but I had to give up some of the area as a compromise for peaceful resolution. I was advised not to go against the decision of the Shimageles. In this way, women are forced into silence, rendering the traditional justice system an arena where hegemonic ideologies (invoked in the name of tradition and culture) are imposed, contested and experienced. These ideologies, are fueled by the ‘cultural politics’ of decision making whereby “...discursive articulations originating in existing cultural practices are used to assert traditional moral authorities at the expense of marginalized groups” (Escobar 1998:64). As such practices are enforced not only by the Elders, but through deference to the Shimgelina on the part of both women and men in the community, those who attempt to challenge these impositions will be silently shunned, ignored and will be forced to distance themselves from social networks that are important aspects of social life. This resonates with what Cain (1983:101 cited in Silverman ( 2000:403) noted as the practice of: “local courts [being] used as an entry into a hegemonic process.” He argued that the “law played a part in the creation of both the political and the ideological elements of hegemony, first by unifying the emergent directive class and its allies, and then by bringing the masses to conformity” (ibid). The subtle but powerful mechanisms (e.g. social sanctions) used by individuals and institutions to ensure forced conformity are recognized by legal anthropologists as coercive and controlling. For example, Nader (1997) uses two important notions, “coercive harmony” and “controlling processes.” No one can escape social sanctions. The price of resisting local rules, especially for those who rely on (albeit at a limited scale) social networks and support systems, can be very high. This leads to not only tacitly  149  accepting local rules but also active participation of subordinated groups. As Nader and colleagues noted: although the study of controlling processes looks at how central dogmas are made and how they work in multiple sites (often arrayed vertically), it also focuses our attention on micro-processes; that is, it is the study of how individuals and groups are influenced and persuaded to participate in their own domination …. (Nader et.al. 1997:712) These processes are detrimental to rural people’s everyday interactions. The conclusion of dispute settlements is expected to be graciously accepted and celebrated by disputing parties through financial contributions, to compensate those who dedicated their time to help resolve cases in the first place. Shimgelina is benign (especially compared to litigation) to the extent that it resolves conflicts quickly, cheaply, and peacefully. However, as the discussion has shown, it is an institution that can easily be manipulated and corrupted. Illiterate women, which is to say, the vast majority of adult females in Zeghie, are easily exploited. Once the process is in the hands of the Shimageles, no appeal is possible because the appellant is ostracized as working against the upholding of peace and harmony in the community. While legal anthropologists have identified the coercive nature of forced harmony, this theory could also benefit from deeper analysis of the gendered nature of the power dynamics in the local level justice processes and institutions in the developing world. Overlooking the realities and interests of less powerful people have often lead to embracing a “general” vision promoted by dominant voices, with the result that much development has left the hierarchies and biases of poverty firmly in place, or has indeed  150  strengthened the inequities embedded therein. Without having a clear grasp of how networks, illiteracy, and tacit adherence to enduring norms such as those enshrined locally and/or embodied in prior legal codes (e.g. Fetha Negest) stand in contradiction to the needs of poor women and likely some men in the rural area. In particular, promoting naively the ostensibly egalitarian-democratic or ‘culturally sensitive’ belief in systems of “local justice” as a panacea for better governance could hamper rather than promote just development. Further, in support of the Ethiopian government’s effort to mainstream gender issues, donor communities, international and national NGOs, and bilateral agencies have contributed immensely by addressing gender in their respective policies, programs and implementation strategies (Rose and Subrahmanian 2005). However, these policies and programs have not been translated into action at the local level especially as concerns the operation of local institutions such as the Shimgelina or traditional justice systems. A case in point is CARE’s experience in Zeghie. From the period between October 1997 and May 2003, they were committed to implementing a livelihood promotion project with an overall goal of improving the livelihood security of 800 households (50% of total households) through technical assistance on improved coffee production technologies, training and provision of improved bee hives, water and sanitation programs, as well as general infrastructure and development support (Gebremeskel and Dehab 2003). The project has since demonstrated significant positive change in alleviating women’s workloads through the implementation of water development activities (i.e. by reducing the travel time for women to fetch water). Moreover through infrastructure development activities the project has created mechanisms for improved transportation facilities and  151  health services, many of which benefited women directly. To deliver its objective of building community capacity the project also established Village Development Committees (VDCs) wherein a 50% participation rate by women was reported following expectations of the same by CARE (Gebremeskel and Dehab 2003). However, the same report indicated that although the project achieved a VDC representation rate of 50%, women’s actual participation in decision making was very minimal. Apart from mere demographic representation, the project was not able to bring about comparatively rudimentary changes in men and women’s attitude toward the roles and judgments of women. The project report, in translation, attributed this to “inadequate gender promotion activities tailored to the unique situation in Zeghie” (pp. 47). Moreover, discussions with Mr. Ayinalem Yigzaw, who has managed this particular project, revealed that one of the weaknesses of this approach has been the lack of mechanisms that could sustain the VDC approach when CARE left the area, that is, the VDC were not taken up by other governmental and community based institutions and groups. It has been looked at instead as a prerequisite for getting project funds as opposed to an approach to addressing gender inequality and women’s lack of participation in project related activities. Moreover, the VDC’s existence was closely attached to the project and no significant attempt has been made to ensure the persistence of these committees once the project is complete. In short, the VDC approach has helped to ensure women’s participation in need identification, project design, implementation and evaluation, but otherwise exists as discrete. It cannot be expected to contribute to lasting change or sustained exemption from harmful practices, except perhaps in those situations where specific in situ attention is paid to what George (2007) refers to as ‘indigenous  152  interpretations of feminism and gender equality’. More commonly, as in this case, small windows of obedience to women’s concerns are expressed only as demographic representation, which at best can be said to be an ephemeral impact. And while the rational for informal or traditional justice system both by the state and non-state actors in Ethiopia has been the belief that peaceful resolution is better than court litigation or by the maxim ‘even a poor settlement is better than the best fight.’ (Gowok 2008:278), the burden of consequence rests with women. There is little incentive for men to avoid thieving land when some gain in the name of peace is more likely than not. Moreover, the Shimgelina and other similar systems are appealing to communities whose experience is that formal justice is much more cumbersome and bureaucratic. Indeed, the role of traditional conflict resolution mechanisms cannot be underemphasized in societies like Ethiopia, where the formal system has been inefficient, weak and even inaccessible by the majority of the population, especially those residing in the rural areas (Chirayath, Sage and Woolcock 2005); World Bank 2005).  4.9  Concluding Remarks This chapter set out to examine women’s access to formal and informal justice in  a rural setting in Ethiopia as it affects their ability to maintain a land-based livelihood. The research indicated that access to fair and impartial justice is unavailable to most rural women—especially female household heads. Feminist legal scholars have played a significant role in the integration of gender equality principles in the family codes and other laws pertaining to property. The effort of these scholars has resulted in a number of concrete changes, including the inclusion of gender equality consideration when formulating policies and drafting laws. In addition, extensive legal reforms, including 153  those attentive to gender equity, have been introduced at the federal and regional levels. Yet this research has identified that the gains from these efforts have not been realized at the local level, especially in rural areas where the majority of Ethiopian people reside. This absence of any pervasive realization of these goals in rural Zeghie peninsula is explained in part by the work of legal anthropologists such as Nader (1992; 1997). The notion of ‘coercive harmony’ is especially relevant to elucidate how traditional leaders control adherence to peace over and above gender equity at the local level. However, for complete understanding of how this system affects the most powerless especially female headed household a deeper analysis of social, cultural and gender issues is of paramount importance. Gender inequality and gendered power relations at the local level interact with other historical (e.g. the much older legal code “Fetha Negest”), political (largely male leadership), and cultural factors (i.e., normative pressures), rendering women especially female headed households vulnerable in this period of rapid socio-economic change. Women’s effort to seek fair and equitable justice is often challenged by more powerful litigants who employ various mechanisms to influence decision makers both at the PA civic court and the Shimgelina levels. The PA civic court is not functioning in an efficient and equitable manner and does not uphold the gender equity laws and policies. Lack of proper training, inadequate staffing and increasing load of cases resulted in a tendency to refer most cases to the Shimgelina where decisions are made based on local rules and cultural practices than constitutional and formal laws. The local justice system is revealed to be part and parcel of the traditional norms that undermine the constitutional and human rights of women. Elders expect women to “compromise” their rights in the spirit of harmony and the peaceful resolution of  154  disputes. Those who resist these practices risk isolation as they will be forced to distance themselves from social networks and like support systems. Attempts to assign cases affecting women to the next level judicial level are hampered by other women and men who seek to uphold these discriminatory rules and tradition and by courts that systematically use delay, neglect, and intimidation to restrict access to timely and fair hearings. Legal reformers would do well to examine more carefully the enhanced vulnerability of new gendered demographic groups (e.g., female heads of households) who have come up against habits of decision making and normative though not literal rights to property in moments of significant male emigration from traditionally patriarchal territories. Addressing the lack of literacy among women is also crucial as well as the inadequate awareness of new civil codes among women and men in Ethiopia’s rural areas. Increasing women’s literacy skills as well as awareness of legal rights would hopefully lead to greater capacity to interpret the law in women’s interests or at least avoid out right predation on women dependent on the literacy of others. Legal reform programs might also work with traditional justice systems to establish ways to create female-friendly legal spaces where women are encouraged to voice their concern and contest unfair decisions. They need to understand women’s experience in the legal arena not only as claims and counter claims to property but also as a struggle over power and rights and so property as well (Moore 1993). Another focal point for justice reform programs might be the lack of skilled people at the PA level. The government’s decentralization program has not been accompanied by the development of local skills in service provision. Members of PA  155  civic court receive a mere five days’ training in Ethiopia’s laws and legal procedures. PA civic courts are tasked with mediating minor disputes and cases that involve less than 500 ETB. At the PA civic court, traditional rules and customs strongly influence decisions, especially when the two litigants are a man and a woman. It matters little how clearly the formal law articulates women’s equality when those laws are interpreted and implemented locally in ways that assign paramount importance to the social and economic status of the disputants, including the networks available to them, and, obviously, their gender. I suggest that justice reform programs should address the needs of the PA civic court by building their capacity to handle complex cases; assigning qualified staff even if they are not politically affiliated; integrate the concept of gender equality and the need for delivering justice to women and men irrespective of their economic and social status and irrespective of competing norms of harmony so as to eliminate the ability for men to act against women with impunity.  156  4.10  References  Alemnew Alelign. 2001. “Diversity and Socio-Economic Importance of Woody Plants on the Peninsula of Zeghie, North Western Ethiopia: Implications for their Sustainable Utilization”. Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences. Bryan, Elizabeth and Varat, Jessica. 2008. Strategies for Promoting Gender Equity in Developing Countries: Lessons, Challenges, and Opportunities. The Woodraw Wilson International Center for Scholars. Washington. D.C. pp.30. Chirayath L., Sage C., and M. Woolcock. 2005. Customary Law and Policy Reform: Engaging with the Plurality of Justice Systems. New York: World Bank. Cohen, John and Weintraub, Dov. 1975. Land and Peasant in Imperial Ethiopia: The Social Background to a Revolution. B.V. Gorcum and Company. The Netherlands. Dehab Belay and Asmelash W/Mariam. 2003. Old Beyond Imaginings: Ethiopia Harmful Traditional Practices. National Committee on Traditional Practices of Ethiopia. Addis Ababa. Ethiopia Davies, M. 2007. Unity and Diversity in Feminist Legal Theory. Philosophy Compass 2(4):650-664. EPLAUA (Environmental Protection and Land Use Authority). 2004. Problems on the Natural Forest of Zeghie Peninsula and Recommendations for Action. In Amharic. Bahir Dar. Escobar, Arturo. 1998. "Whose Knowledge, Whose nature? Biodiversity, Conservation, and the Political Ecology of Social Movements." Journal of Political Ecology 5.  157  Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia (FDRE). 2006. Report of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia on the Implementation of the AU Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality in Africa. August 2006. Addis Ababa. Ethiopia. Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia (FDRE). 2000. The Revised Family Code Proclamation of 2000, Federal Negarit Gazeta. Extraordinary Issue No.1/2000, Addis Ababa: Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia (FDRE). Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia (FDRE). 1997. Federal Republic of Ethiopia Rural Land Administration and Use Proclamation. Proclamation 1997, Addis Ababa: Federal Negarit Gazeta of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia (FDRE). Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia (FDRE). 1995. The Constitution of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia. Addis Ababa: Federal Negarit Gazeta of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia (FDRE). Gebremeskel D. and Dehab B. 2003. Final Evaluation of the CARE Zeghie Community Based Development Project. CARE International in Ethiopia. Addis Ababa: CARE Ethiopia. Getachew Diriba. 1993. A Socio-Economic Study of Zeghie Peninsula. Addis Ababa: CARE Ethiopia. Ghelawdewos A.  2004. Designing Continuum to Enrich Ethiopian Educational  Discourse and Debate Culture. Institute of Development and Education for Africa (IDEA). http://www.africanidea.org/designing.html George, Glynis (2007). Interpreting Gender Mainstreaming by NGOs in India: A Comparative ethnographic approach. Gender, Place & Culture. 14(6):679-701.  158  Gowok, Shipi M. (2008). Alternative Dispute Resolution in Ethiopia – A Legal Framework. African Research Review. 2(2):265-285 Griffiths, A. 1998. Reconfiguring Law: An Ethnographic Perspective from Botswana. Journal of the American Bar Foundation 42: 123–39. Hirsch, S. 1998. Pronouncing and Preserving: Gender and the Discourses of Disputing in an African Islamic Court. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Hoben, Allan. 1973. Land Tenure among the Amhara of Ethiopia: The Dynamics of Cognatic Descent. University of Chicago Press, Chicago, USA. Huyse, Luc and Salter, Marc. 2008. Traditional Justice and Reconciliation after Violent Conflict: Learning from African Experiences. International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance. Sweden. Maiese, M. 2005. Theories of Knowledge. Beyond Intractability. Eds. Guy Burgess and Heidi Burgess. Conflict Research Consortium, University of Colorado, Boulder. Available at: http://www.beyondintractability.org/essay/knowledge_theories. Last Accessed: October 9, 2008. Moore, D.S. 1993. “Contesting Terrain in Zimbabwe's Eastern Highlands: Political Ecology, Ethnography, and Peasant Resource Struggles.” Economic Geography 87, no. 3: 380–401. Molyneux, Maxine (2002). Gender and the Silences of Social Capital: Lessons from Latin America, Development and Change, 33, 2, 167-188. Nader, Laura, Alicia Barabas, Miguel Alberto Bartolome, John H. Bodley, Guita Grin Debert, Susan Drucker-Brown, Hugh Gusterson, Ellen Hertz, Margaret Lock, June Nash, Rik Pinxten. 1997. Controlling Processes: Tracing the Dynamic  159  Components of Power [and Comments and Reply]. Current Anthropology 38(5):711-737. The University of Chicago Press on behalf of Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research. Nader, Laura. 1992. From Legal Processes to Mind Processing. Family Court Review. 30(4):468-473. Original W/Giorgis. 1997. The Functions of Family Arbitrators Under the Ethiopian Civil Code. Sponsored research. Addis Ababa: Ethiopian Women Lawyers Association. Rahel M. 1999. Zege and Its Coffee: Local Livelihoods and Natural Resource Utilization in Northwest Ethiopia. M.A. thesis in Social Anthropology, Addis Ababa University. Rao, N. 2007 Custom and the Courts: Ensuring Women’s Rights to Land, Jharkhand, India. Development and Change 38(2):299-319. Institute of Social Studies. Ribot, Jesse C. 2002. African decentralization: Local Actors, Powers and Accountability. UNRISD Programme on Democracy, Governance and Human Rights. Paper Number 8. United Nations Research Institute for Social Development and International Development Research Center. December 2002. Rittich, K . 2005. The Properties of Gender Equality” in: Alston and Robinson (eds). Human Rights and Development, Towards Mutual Reinforcement. pp. 87-113. Oxford University Press. Oxford. Rose, Pauline and Subrahmanian, Ramya. 2005. Evaluation of DFID Development Assistance. Phase II Thematic Evaluation: Education. DFID Working Paper 11. pp.44. Glasgow. UK.  160  Schlager, E. and Ostrom E. 1992. Property-Rights Regimes and Natural Resources: A Conceptual Analysis. Land Economics 68(3):249-62. Scott, J. 1990 Domination and the Arts of Resistance: Hidden Transcripts. Yale University Press, Ann Arbor. Silverman, Marylin. 2000. Custom, courts, and class formation: constructing the hegemonic process through the petty sessions of a southeastern Irish parish, 18281884. American Ethnologist. 27(2):400-430. Tarekegn Yibabe. 2001. Struggles over the Land of the Deceased." Thematic Briefings. Forum for Social Studies. Addis Ababa. Ethiopia. United Nations. 2005. Gender Equality: Striving for Justice in an Unequal World. UNRISD/UN Publications. New York. UNIFEM. 2001. Turning the Tide: CEDAW and the Gender Dimensions of the HIV/AIDS Pandemic. United Nations Development Fund for Women. New York. USA. Verma, Ritu. 2001. Gender, Land, and Livelihoods in East Africa Through Farmers’ Eyes. International Development Research Center. Ottawa. 280 pp. World Bank. 1998. World Development Report. Washington. ______2005. World Development Report. Washington. ______2006  World Development Report. Washington.  Yigremew Adal. 2002. Review of Land Holding Systems and Policies in Ethiopia Under the Different Regimes. EEA/Ethiopian Economic Policy Research Institute. Working Paper No.5/2002. Addis Ababa. Ethiopia.  161  5.  CONCLUDING THE THESIS This thesis has attempted to answer three important questions about Zeghie’s  forest: What has sustained the forest despite rising population pressure and rapid urbanization in the surrounding area? What threatens it today? And why do women appear to be so vulnerable amidst those threats? It also examined the guise of the sacred and why, for whom, and with what consequence the land has been designated as sacred. To answer these questions, the research mainly employed a political ecology framework—one that included historical inquiry—in order to understand environmental change, power relationships, and struggles for land and resources among various groups of people on the peninsula. The research also drew from feminist political ecology and feminist and critical legal theory to explore women’s vulnerabilities vis-à-vis internal and external threats as well as those emanating from weak legal systems, both formal and informal. It involved qualitative methods such as observation, key informant interviews, and focus group discussions. Zeghie’s conventional environmental history is assumed to be a remnant of an earlier forested period; and its protection was attributed to the designation of the landscape as sacred. However, this research has shown that the history of the forest and the coffee that is grown under the shade of the forest is newer than assumed. In fact, Chapter 2 indicated that extensive cultivation of shade coffee is an outcome of the growing demand for coffee in neighbouring districts, including what is now Sudan and through the use, historically, of slave labour (see also Abdussamad 1997).  162  Several factors contributed to the protection of the forest over many generations and include the establishment of strict rules and taboos that have promoted certain land use practices and discouraged others. For instance, the EOC and its priests discouraged/banned the use of oxen for agricultural production, animal production, and logging, which were an important part of the mixed-farming system adopted by the people for many generations. Instead they promoted the production and marketing of three important crops: coffee, fruits, and hops, which do not have any detrimental effect on the environment. In fact, these crops have played a significant role in the development, explanation and protection of the peninsula forest as trees are known to prevent loss of moisture and protect coffee shrubs from torrential rains. The thesis argues that narratives and discourses that represented the peninsula as a remnant forest have silenced all other explanations and, consequently, possible solutions. For instance, how the sacred has been invoked by powerful groups in subsequent governments including and the use of slaves in the sacred peninsula to transform an agricultural land into a forest, is a history that has been omitted from representations of the peninsula, and from church related and government archives. This research has also demonstrated that Zeghie’s economy is at a crossroads (EPLAUA 2004); shade coffee that supported the growing population and the lives of the people for centuries has lost its viability. In addition to the vagaries of climate change, which by many people was viewed as the “straw that broke the camel’s back”, the coffee dependent economy has been negatively affected by the fall in the price of coffee worldwide, which has also affected the local coffee market in which the coffee from Zeghie is traded (EPLAUA 2004). Many Zegheans have lost their economic assets and  163  are highly vulnerable. Male migration to cities and towns in search of seasonal employment has been one response. Two others have been to cut the peninsula’s trees for sale in the nearby cities and villages, and to graze livestock. Regrettably, these attempts to recover from and adapt to newly emerging climactic and market pressures were not clearly understood by many, including those in the different government offices concerned with conservation of natural resources. In fact, these efforts were viewed as desperate measures that will eventually degrade the environment and are often labeled as “destructive” (Getachew 1993; Alemnew 2001; EPLAUA 2004). However, the research countered this assumption by showing that the land use system on the peninsula might well be better understood as a zone of transition to a mixed farming system – a system practiced prior to the emergence of shade-grown coffee as the dominant crop. This transition entails adoption of animal production, logging, and planting short maturing tree species. Notwithstanding the fact that some acts may indeed be destructive of forest cover, no tangible efforts by development or policy agents have been noted to differentiate between viable and spurious constraints on livelihood, why, or which of these produce environmental insecurity. One result of internally and externally induced economic stress has been rapid growth (to what is today said to be approximately 50 percent) in the number of femaleheaded households (EPLAUA 2004). Many of those households rely on sharecropping to address the need for farm labour to maintain the coffee plantings. The increasing level of female headed households has also been accompanied by struggles over land (Moore 1993). Male neighbours often “push” the borders of land held by female-headed households, and those female heads are rarely able to push their neighbours back. The  164  research has identified a number of reasons why female-headed households are forced to give up their rights; these include myriad cultural and legal biases that undermine women’s right to land and property. Chapter 3 examined land and livelihood insecurity as it affects rural women on Zeghie Peninsula. Collapsing coffee prices and changing rainfall patterns have led to an increase in the number of female-headed households, who have been losing control over their land. This has been happening notwithstanding the central government’s laws on land tenure and women’s rights, which at face value (and only at face value) call for gender equity (Dehab and Asmelash 2003). This chapter further explored how powerful individuals and local institutions in Zeghie exploited the “land to the tiller” agenda to grab land owned by women and those who were unwilling and unable to offer bribes (See also Yared 1995). This has exacerbated women’s vulnerabilities to both internal and external shocks due to loss of their land or access to better lands, namely land that is well developed and has access to the lake for irrigation purposes. The current high number of landless youth who now depend on logging for their daily subsistence has also been identified as a major outcome of unfair land distribution and re-distribution processes. Chapter 4 draws from feminist and anthropological legal theory, to examine women’s experiences in the legal and quasi-legal arenas. The findings indicate that the central government’s reforms have not made significant inroads as to the betterment of the position of rural women in Zeghie as they encounter both civic and traditional means for dispute resolution, especially land-based ones.  This absence within formal  institutions of significant efforts to address gendered social inequalities has rendered some female-headed households especially vulnerable to predatory behavior on the part  165  of male neighbors. Women’s attempts to seek legal protection are often met with resistance and ridicule from those whose responsibility it is to administer formal justice. When Zeghean women find themselves blocked from the formal justice system, their only real option is informal justice. Regrettably, even informal justice demands too high a price for women, who typically are expected to compromise their rights to land by accepting punitive decisions handed down by traditional elders. Traditional norms and values in Zeghie are strongly gendered, and traditional institutions have long been in place to enforce them. Customary justice systems have been shaped by normative frameworks that reflect the values and behaviors of a male-dominated society and that operate independent from the central government’s laws and policies on gender equity and social justice (Nyamu-Musembi 2007). More broadly, this thesis has made the following key arguments: Firstly, environmental narratives that depict a certain area as sacred may have or have had a positive impact on the management of natural resources. However, these representations are rarely goal-neutral or historically accurate. Careful analysis of discourses reveal how these narratives have been employed to legitimize coercive processes that shaped the environmental history of the peninsula while at the same time marginalizing certain groups of people including women. The research revealed that the environmental history of Zeghie is closely connected to the country’s economic and political history. For many generations, people from different economic, political and social backgrounds have coveted and fought for this fertile land (Dessalegn 1992). However, these discourses have masked the way the environment has been imagined, interpreted and contested. This thesis instead works to expose how culture and tradition are invoked by local institutions  166  to violate women’s rights to land and property. The cultural politics of everyday interactions (Escobar 1998) in the courts, with neighbours, and in conjunction with processes of traditional decision making reveal the consistency and sheer ordinariness of women being forced to give up their rights to land and property. Thirdly, women become even more vulnerable when they become widows as aggressive male neighbours manipulate property boundaries, while landless men also exploit women through fake marriage arrangements and forged contracts. Women’s attempts to seek justice have also been silenced by powerful local elders, who frequently enforce conformity with their decisions, thereby achieving ‘community’ harmony at the expense of women (see also Nader et.al. 1997). Gender inequality in Zeghie has been maintained and persisted despite a number of important local, national and international initiatives, laws and policies.  5.1  Anticipated and Actual Outcomes of the Research I began this research with the objective of understanding the causes of  deforestation. My assumption was that Zeghie is a remnant natural forest that had been protected by traditional religious rules and sanctions as a consequence of being a sacred area. Thus I examined local institutions and property rights governing access to and control over resources but in that process came to be increasingly skeptical and questioning of the narratives and cultural discourses surrounding the “rules” and “sanctions” that governed these sacred environmental spaces and practices.  My  understandings and interest were shaped by theories of political ecology, especially discourse analysis, as well as environmental history (with its emphasis on empirical evidence for histories of land use). In particular, I have explored how the environmental imaginary associated with the sacred is deployed in Zeghie Peninsula and to what end, 167  especially as it affects the diversification strategies employed by Zegheans to cope with the various risks and hardships they face. The research findings challenge two beliefs that informed my initial assumptions in relation to the Zeghean forest: first, that it is a remnant natural forest; and second, that unwise use of the forest will lead quickly to the removal of forest cover. The designation of the forest as sacred helped create and protect the forest’s ecosystem, but it did much to silence other explanations of the peninsula’s environmental history—especially the role of regional trade and slave labor in the expansion of coffee plantations (Abdussamad 1997)—and to legitimize practices that exploited and marginalized people in terms of access to and control over resources. The thesis further questions the overwhelming focus on the possibility that Zeghie’s forest will be totally removed within 15 years (Alemnew 2001:45), at the expense of all other futures. While deforestation is occurring and there is a very real possibility that the forest cover as it now stands will disappear, this is not to say that environmental and food security will disappear with it. These two points should be decoupled in future research and in popular discourses about Zeghie so as to gain a better understanding of the adaptations now underway and or future ones to be considered. New agricultural practices (animal production especially small ruminants such as sheep and poultry; intercropping annual crops such as maize and sorghum with the coffee trees, planting short maturing tree species such as eucalyptus) are occurring (EPLAUA 2004), some of which might be sustainable, some not.  In the current  moment, this research found that at least some of the adaptations underway now in Zeghie are indeed very close to older practices on the peninsula and may or may not be the outcome of people’s creative and possibly well-informed decisions. Indeed, the  168  sustainability of the forest depends on the ability of Zegheans to sufficiently undertake both much older but locally viable practices but perhaps to also promote non-forest based diversification strategies such as fishing, honey production, and other alternative employment opportunities to earn income to support their families (see also Yihenew 2002). Likely non-agricultural strategies will also be important, such as mechanisms whereby Zeghie’s children might have access to education (at all levels) and so expand their opportunities for non-farm employment in the region as well as nationally. Children who have received education and have been employed in the public and private sectors were able to support their families through regular cash transfers (remittance) thereby delaying the need for cutting trees or renting or selling their land. In short, the complex and deeply rooted livelihood problems in Zeghie call for more creative programs and strategies to ensure the sustainability of the forest as well as the livelihood of the people.  5.2  Strengths and Weaknesses of the Thesis Research This research has brought to light certain key practices that are oppressive to  women. These practices, which are firmly embedded in the complex political relations between women and men, have been sanctioned by the defacto reinstitutionalization of the traditional social order. That is, most development-focused funding agencies as well as the international NGO community more broadly, support the idea that local practices and by definition good, when in some cases this simply means an invigorating of practices detrimental to women. It has been possible to bring these issues to light through individual narratives, focus group discussions, and oral histories that elucidate the perspectives of both women and men as they struggle for land and power (Mohanty 1989; Mohanty et.al. 1991). Individual narratives provided me with accounts of male-centered 169  gender relations and at the same time indicated that the present-day situation is the result of a series of past events -- unfair cultural practices, beliefs and attitudes -- that undermine the rights of women. These attitudes and practices have been imposed by traditional leaders, church leaders and community members to maintain and sustain the unfair treatment of women by different local institutions including legal ones. This has helped to maintain the power imbalance and the status quo that upholds women’s subordination and men’s domination and exacerbates women’s vulnerability to internal and external shocks, despite a number of notable global and national policies and programs aimed at eliminating social injustice and gender inequality. Regrettably, this research has been weakened by a paucity of data to support some of its arguments. In part, this was because of political instability (specifically, an election crisis that produced a sustain period of martial law) in Ethiopia in 2005, the year the data were collected. In response to rising political tensions, the government clamped down on public protests and simple gatherings. Around forty students were killed and many others wounded and beaten while protesting in Addis Ababa and other parts of the country. In addition, thousands of students and other protestors were arrested. Most of the latter were released after being physically and mentally tortured. That was the situation when I began data collection in June 2005, and it had a number of implications for my work: (1) people were afraid and suspicious of outsiders; (2) there was high level of anxiety about the future and people were generally afraid that civil unrest was about to break out; (3) there was a strong military presence in the regional capital of Bahir Dar, with civilians being harassed with little or no cause; (4) government officials and their cadres resented the people of Bahir Dar for voting against the current government; (5) few officials in the  170  local government offices were available to provide information, made all the worse by the fact that the local bureaucracy was just then being reorganized; and (6) each of the two sides during the troubles (i.e., the government and the local people) tended to assume that I was working for the other side. In spite of all this, I was able to collect data with the help of the local people and the new appointees, even though those bureaucrats that had supported my research initially had been replaced. It helped that I already knew the area and that my first language was the local language. Data collection barriers aside, every study is an act of learning both ‘what to do’ and ‘what not to do’ and every study is accompanied by a certain number of regrets whereby new research ideas occur at the writing and not the data collection stage. In my case, I wish I had understood early on that the adaptive strategies that I recorded as underway were or might in fact be quite wise and/or knowingly linked to knowledge of past practices. However, as I did not really understand the persuasive powers of languages of the sacred, nor fully comprehend a temporally deep environmental history, I did not think to investigate more fully peoples’ reasoning behind new agricultural practices. I focused too fully on the ‘why’ of cutting down trees and not the ‘why’ of new practices. I also think that I might have paid more attention to the micro-processes through which women’s low social and political status is maintained in the Zeghie society and how they are shunned or ostracized for taking their cases to the courts or the  Shimgelina. I also may have discounted or paid insufficient attention to the possibility that the recent 'rise' of the prominence of the Shimgelina has actually reinforced traditional gender roles, rendering them ‘worse’ and not just an unquestioned continuance from the past. While some of this was evident and so I wrote about it in chapter 3 and 4, I  171  have since become more aware of the troubled intersections of first world feminisms expressed in legal codes and developing world traditions with regard to women and would have liked to have said more on this point had I had the evidence to do so. That said, it is also difficult to write about a place such as Zeghie peninsula for a largely First World audience in that some aspects of life there are so profoundly compromised (especially as concerns women) that improvements long taken for granted in the world of my [academic] audience do not exist in Zeghie and I wonder how fully that audience can even comprehend the realities of girls forced into marriage at the age of 7 or women simply dismissed outright in the court room (see also chapter 4 of this thesis).  5.3  New Ideas Related to the Field of Study While much has been written about wilderness imagined in the developed world  as sacred, primeval, and untouched (Cronon 1996), scholars have been less quick to examine landscapes in the developing world though some notable examples exist (see Fairhead & Leach 1996; Neumann 1998). In Zeghie, the landscape is unquestionably long-inhabited, but it is also regarded as sacred in the eyes of most of its inhabitants. The question is why, for whom, and with what consequence and as linked to what kinds of land use practices now and in the future that is becoming apparent. When it comes to sacred sites, past studies of the region have focused on their biological, cultural, and spiritual significance (Pankhurst 2001; Wassie, Teketay, and Powell 2003; Posey 1999; Laird 1999). However, these studies are short of historical analysis, particularly environmental history, and fail to account sufficiently for political and economic forces, both regional and global—including the role of slave labor and emergence of regional and international trade in transforming Zeghie’s environment its history, and its people’s 172  identity. Sacred sites have been recognized as cultural landscapes and as models for biodiversity by the 1972 UNESCO Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage (The World Heritage Convention) (Hay-Eddie 2000). This thesis offers an explanation of Zeghie’s environmental history by examining how powerful individuals from the Ethiopian monarchy and nobility as well as the Ethiopian Orthodox Church have strategically invoked the sacred to procure large tracts of land and reinforced the slave trade in ways that have shaped the peninsula’s history and its people’s identity. For instance, the sacred was invoked by the Church, which is the dominant institution in Ethiopia’s northern highlands to institutionalize sanctions and taboos against certain land use practices. Thus, the Church did much to transform an oxen-based agricultural area into a forest-based coffee-growing area. The prominence of the sacred resulted in an agro-forestry system that promoted biodiversity by preserving plant and animal species that had already gone extinct in other parts of Ethiopia. Consistent with its interest in expanding coffee production and regional trade, the Church forbade certain land use practices that could harm coffee seedlings. For instance, livestock grazing was banned not because it disturbed the sacred aspects of the land but because small ruminants—especially goats—would have consumed the seedlings of the coffee bushes and of the trees that protected them. By banning oxen-based agriculture and planting more trees, the priests were protecting an agro-forestry system that supported the production of shade-grown coffee. This dramatic shift in land use was only possible because slave labor was utilized. This was how the Church was able to legitimize its control over most of the peninsula’s land prior to the 1975 land distribution.  173  The nobility and the military also invoked the sacred. Some members of the nobility embraced the notion of sacredness as a rationale for holding large tracts of land on the peninsula, contending that they would settle there and achieve redemption for their sins in their old age. Though they claimed spiritual reasons for procuring land on the peninsula, the historical evidence suggests that these people were more interested in the income from Zeghie’s coffee than in spiritual blessings. When hegemonic institutions such as the Church employ the term sacred, such discourses and narratives are unlikely to be challenged. Assumptions of the sacred thus tend, here and elsewhere in the literature, to essentialize populations as “ecologically noble” (Cronon 1996; Satterfield 2002), which in turn misinterprets their struggle for survival and emerging adaptive strategies as ecologically “destructive” and justify the lack of attention and supporting mechanisms by responsible government and non-government institutions to the problem. It also hides important gendered power relationships regarding access to and control over natural resources and suggests that all is well in areas designated as sacred. Without denying that sacred areas play an important role in creating and protecting forest ecosystems, we need to investigate how these narratives have silenced other explanations for the environmental history of such sites—including the role of regional trade and slave labor in the expansion of coffee plantations—and for the legitimization of practices that have exploited and marginalized people in terms of access to and control over resources. This research has been able to expose the political and economic forces that employed the notion of the sacred to legitimize their practices. This has heightened our understanding of the peninsula’s true history.  174  Moreover, this thesis brought to light some determinants of poverty and environmental degradation through analysis of the salient factors that rendered women’s land rights a contested terrain. Hidden under the rubric of harmony and tradition as well as the guise of sacred and culture, deeply rooted relations between gender and power, are currently fuelling poverty and marginalization as well as the sustainability of Zeghie’s forest. In addition to historical injustice that rendered many female headed households landless (or deprived them of the land that was well developed and/or irrigable), the current period is characterized by insecurity manifested through fierce struggle to maintain existing land holdings and an absence of fair and equitable justice (for women) when holdings are challenged. Inequity and foresight at the point of land redistribution is also responsible for the growing landlessness among young people, who rightly feel betrayed by those earlier distributions; and hence see logging as the most viable incomeearning alternative. The existence of gender equality laws and policies has done little to protect women from crop theft and altering of land demarcations by their male neighbors. Options such as civic courts and informal decision-making processes known as the  Shimgelina have been largely unfavorable to women. In demonstrating this, this thesis has thus also challenged the view that local and traditional institutions are necessarily ‘good’ and worthy of endorsement by development agencies, whose aims also include the improvement of conditions for women. It does so by calling attention to how local legal and rule-based systems, and the ways in which they reinforce inequality through imposed harmony—are built on principles such as mediation, arbitration and conciliation but at the same time, enforce traditional ideologies where cultural and gendered expectations are invoked, imposed, contested and experienced.  175  5.4  Significance of the Research to Environmental Studies Without question, traditional conservation practices are important for the  sustainable management of natural resources, and those practices have important symbolic value indexing important relationships between nature and humanity. That said, researchers and policy makers in Ethiopia have yet to pay sufficient attention to naive assumptions about conservation and biodiversity that have come to be realized elsewhere (Mascia et al. 2003). Environmental degradation is not a one-way street (Blaikie 1985). The multiple lenses this research has utilized are significant; they are also a consequence of how, in everyday situations, many different aspects of society and development are contingent on one another. Instead of studying each of these aspects in isolation, this research has attempted to understand how the different conditions and processes overlap and interact to determine environmental and livelihood outcomes for the people. This approach is especially necessary in the context of traditional communities like Zeghie, which are and are likely to remain dependant on the natural environment for daily survival. Ethiopia’s economic growth will depend heavily on land, resources and on agriculture in particular. In the present day, the pillar of the country’s economic development is a policy referred to as Agriculture Development Led Industrialization (ADLI). The success of ADLI will depend, among other things, on the sustainable utilization of land, yet the current trend toward land degradation is threatening Ethiopia’s economic future (FDRE 2002). The need to reverse land degradation is therefore obvious. Accordingly, studies that examine the causes of and solutions to land degradation are significant, and this study makes a contribution along those lines. A premise of this study  176  has been that when land degradation and the social causes of it are insufficiently understood—and by and large, they are—then only stopgap measures are possible. By clarifying the social determinants of environmental degradation, this study has helped identify farmers’ decision-making processes when it comes to deforestation. The fact that this study was conducted in a part of the country where there is scant information on resource degradation makes it even more significant. This thesis does not deny the existence of environmental problems in the highlands, nor does it question the impact of population pressure on environmental degradation. Rather, it argues that understanding the links between poverty and environmental degradation requires us to look beyond the obvious and most heavily discussed issues such as population pressure and ‘backward’ land use methods (HomerDixon 1995; Ehrlich and Ehrlich 1990). The research has attempted to expose the often murky and rarely specified “rules of the game” that mire people in certain positions while power remains in the hands of a few. Zeghie Peninsula is a fine example of this. The problems that have arisen in Zeghie cannot be attributed to lack of resources per se. Rather, the key issue for Zeghean society and the environment is that social injustice and power imbalances are endemic in Ethiopia, especially when it comes to land distribution and women. Understanding that makes it possible to understand why some households find themselves more vulnerable than others and why so many unemployed youth see logging as their best option. Rising poverty and a lack of political voice for most people, and again, especially women, merit attention as the fundamental causes of Ethiopia’s struggle to emerge from poverty.  177  Finally, this study has attended to external factors such as climate change (specifically, erratic rainfall) and the effects of economic globalization (including fluctuating coffee prices). As markets become more volatile and as the climate becomes less amenable to coffee agro-ecosystems, Zegheans will continue to change how they manage their land, but the how of doing so well or poorly remains largely unexplored (empirically or locally). Forest cover will continue to be lost, but to what extent and to what end remains a critical question. Even so, deforestation should not be viewed merely as a response to material needs and demographic pressure (Dessalegn 1992). It is also the result of social struggles arising from the claims and counter-claims of political forces (Hildyard 1999). It must be understood that social conflicts surrounding the environment and resources are a result of inequality and injustice, both of which threaten the livelihood of the rural poor— especially women and various landless groups, who lack mechanisms for voicing their concerns and contesting injustices. To understand these phenomena, we need to employ the insights of political ecology to examine the political dynamics surrounding material and discursive struggles over the environment that are embedded in control over natural resources (Bryant 1998). -  5.5  Potential Applications of the Research Findings Several studies have been conducted with the goal of understanding  environmental change and its impact on livelihoods. However, these studies have failed to address the particular, local-level impacts of these changes on vulnerable groups— especially on female heads of households. This study’s findings could be used to bridge this gap and to suggest environmental and development programs. 178  Cause-and-effect relationships between environmental change and economic upheaval are inevitably too simplistic when they ignore the multitude of contextual and institutional factors that feature so strongly in analyses of sustainable livelihoods (Blaikie and Jeanrenaud 1996). To address this gap, this thesis has pointed to various mechanisms that would enable poor and marginalized people understand their rights to land and other property and play a meaningful role in important decisions affecting their lives. Policy crafting is the first step toward ensuring equity and justice. This thesis suggests taking the process one step further—that is, ensuring that these policies are communicated to and injected into local institutions, both formal and informal. The multitude of factors contributing to the plight of Ethiopia’s rural women cannot be fully addressed by policies and laws. Until land tenure and local justice institutions are reformed so that they adopt gender equality, women’s rights to land and property will remain compromised, for women will continue to lack mechanisms for contesting unfair claims against their property. Access to justice is crucial for rural people, especially female heads of households, and especially as this particular household configuration is on the rise. Access to juridical systems should be given priority in order to promote a secure livelihood for women. This research has highlighted the grim fact that decentralization of legal systems does not bring justice to rural women. This is especially so in the case of traditional societies, in which deeply ingrained rules and social relations too often benefit only a few. The broad spectrum of factors contributing to the plight of Ethiopia’s rural women calls for an equally broad spectrum of gender equity measures-- measures that would alter the workings of local institutions including the justice system (both formal  179  and traditional) as well as empower women to have more control over decisions that affect their lives. In addition, NGOs, as well as the central and Amhara regional governments of Ethiopia, need to support the sustainable management of forest resources by increasing assistance to coffee growers, examining better the pros, cons, and long-term sustainability of emerging practices, providing credit and market information for people who want to start small enterprises, and building and expanding the local infrastructure (schools, clinics, roads) to foster educational and skill development and link peripheral lands to nearby cities.  180  5.6  References  Abdussamad H. Ahmad. 1997. “Priest Planters and Slavers of Zage (Ethiopia), 19001935.” International Journal of African Historical Studies 29(3): 15. Alemnew Alelign. 2001. Diversity and Socio-Economic Importance of Woody Plants on the Peninsula of Zeghie, North Western Ethiopia: Implications for their  Sustainable Utilization. Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences. Blaikie, Piers. 1985. 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Sillitoe P., Bicker A. and Pottier J. ASA. London, Routlege. Hildyard, N. 1999. “Blood, Babies, and the Social Roots of Conflict.” In Ecology, Politics, and Violent Conflict, ed. Mohamed Suliman, 3–24. London: Zed. Homer-Dixon, T. 1995. The ingenuity gap: Can poor countries adapt to resource scarcity? Population and Development Review 21.587-612. Laird, S.A. 1999. Forests, Culture and Conservation. London: UNEP and Intermediate Technology Publications.  182  Mascia, M., J. P. Brosius, T. A. Dobson, B. C. Forbes, L. Horowitz, M. A. McKean, and N. J. Turner. 2003. Conservation and the social sciences. Conservation Biology 17:649-650. Mohanty, C.T., Ann Ruso, and Lourdes Torres, eds. 1991. Cartographies of Struggle: Third World Women and the Politics of Feminism. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. pp.1-50. Mohanty C. T. 1989. 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