Project 2: Living with uncertainty: Analyzing rural livelihood and rethinking sustainability in south Ethiopian rift valley

Problem identification took place in response to the VLIR-UOS programme call 2015 through various stakeholder meetings. The major problems in the Lake Abaya-Chamo basin were identified by participants. Environmental degradation, low agricultural productivity, poor livelihood, poor health and natural resource depletion were the most important issues. Based on identified problems different teams were formed grouping diverse specializations. Our team was formed to focus on socio-economic issues. Following a thorough investigation of the problem we confirmed that non-sustainable livelihood strategies practiced by local communities are a major contributing factor to poor livelihood in the area. Due to this problem, the poverty status and quality of life among communities in the project area remains far below the standard. For example, more than one third of population spends below the poverty line for their daily consumption requirements. Vulnerability to poverty ranks much higher compared to the national level which stood at 44.6% (Endale, 2011). Solving this problem is in line with the poverty eradication goal of the Ethiopian government. Over the next five years (2015/16-2020/21), the second Growth &Transformation Plan (GTP2) envisions a major leap in terms of not only sustaining rapid economic growth but also ensuring sustainable livelihood strategies to increase quality of life. The problem of poor livelihood is very common in the South Ethiopian rift valley and particularly in the Abaya-Chamo Lake basin where a large number of ethnic groups strive for livelihood. Excessive dependence on natural resources is frequently resulting in ethnic tensions in the area. Resolving these problems requires well-developed human capital and significant financial support which neither the university nor the local government can provide. Hence, external assistance and collaboration are of high importance. Specifically, collaboration with Flemish universities through VLIR-UOS offers a unique opportunity, in view of the well-known positive experiences in Mekelle and Jimma universities of Ethiopia.

Relevance of the project can be derived from the following three arguments:

1. One among the eight MDGs is reducing poverty through improved livelihood strategies, which will have a direct impact on sustainable development. Improving livelihood has a direct link with socio-economic development theme of VLIR-UOS, as stated in country strategic document for cooperation considering Ethiopian demands and Flemish interest/expertise for cooperation.

2. Ethiopia is one of the developing countries in which poor livelihood is major challenge to realize sustainable development. As a result, the country is striving for rapid economic growth but facing a trade off in developing environmentally a resilient green economy. Hence, enhancing sustainable and diversified livelihood will be of a great importance for realizing such goal.

3. One of the expected outcomes of this project will be an increased number of qualified graduate and post graduate academic staff at AMU.  This will bring a positive developmental impact by increasing the quality of education and research which is at the heart of the national GTP2 and the five year strategic plan of the university.

In addition, Ethiopia has launched a project that addresses basic needs under the name “Protection of Basic Services (PBS) Project”, which became effective in mid-2006 and has a direct link to livelihood. Therefore, the project will give great importance to the sustainable development of the country by contributing to the achievement of a sustainable economic development goal.

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