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Agroecosystem Analysis of the Choke Mountain Watersheds, Ethiopia


  • Belay Simane

    () (College of Development Studies, Addis Ababa University, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia)

  • Benjamin F. Zaitchik

    () (Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD 21218, USA)

  • Mutlu Ozdogan

    () (Forest and Wildlife Ecology, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI 53706, USA)


Tropical highland regions are experiencing rapid climate change. In these regions the adaptation challenge is complicated by the fact that elevation contrasts and dissected topography produce diverse climatic conditions that are often accompanied by significant ecological and agricultural diversity within a relatively small region. Such is the case for the Choke Mountain watersheds, in the Blue Nile Highlands of Ethiopia. These watersheds extend from tropical alpine environments at over 4000 m elevation to the hot and dry Blue Nile gorge that includes areas below 1000 m elevation, and contain a diversity of slope forms and soil types. This physical diversity and accompanying socio-economic contrasts demand diverse strategies for enhanced climate resilience and adaptation to climate change. To support development of locally appropriate climate resilience strategies across the Blue Nile Highlands, we present here an agroecosystem analysis of Choke Mountain, under the premise that the agroecosystem—the intersection of climatic and physiographic conditions with agricultural practices—is the most appropriate unit for defining adaptation strategies in these primarily subsistence agriculture communities. To this end, we present two approaches to agroecosystem analysis that can be applied to climate resilience studies in the Choke Mountain watersheds and, as appropriate, to other agroecologically diverse regions attempting to design climate adaptation strategies. First, a full agroecoystem analysis was implemented in collaboration with local communities. It identified six distinct agroecosystems that differ systematically in constraints and adaptation potential. This analysis was then paired with an objective landscape classification trained to identify agroecosystems based on climate and physiographic setting alone. It was found that the distribution of Choke Mountain watershed agroecosystems can, to first order, be explained as a function of prevailing climate. This suggests that the conditions that define current agroecosystems are likely to migrate under a changing climate, requiring adaptive management strategies. These agroecosystems show a remarkable degree of differentiation in terms of production orientation and socio-economic characteristics of the farming communities suggesting different options and interventions towards building resilience to climate change.

Suggested Citation

  • Belay Simane & Benjamin F. Zaitchik & Mutlu Ozdogan, 2013. "Agroecosystem Analysis of the Choke Mountain Watersheds, Ethiopia," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 5(2), pages 1-25, February.
  • Handle: RePEc:gam:jsusta:v:5:y:2013:i:2:p:592-616:d:23391

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Getahun, Amare, 1980. "Agro-climates and agricultural systems in Ethiopia," Agricultural Systems, Elsevier, vol. 5(1), pages 39-50.
    2. Byerlee, Derek & Spielman, David J. & Alemu, Dawit & Gautam, Madhur, 2007. "Policies to promote cereal intensification in Ethiopia: A review of evidence and experience," IFPRI discussion papers 707, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
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    Cited by:

    1. Belay Simane & Benjamin Zaitchik & Jeremy Foltz, 2016. "Agroecosystem specific climate vulnerability analysis: application of the livelihood vulnerability index to a tropical highland region," Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change, Springer, vol. 21(1), pages 39-65, January.

    More about this item


    climate change; adaptation; agroecosystem; Ethiopia;

    JEL classification:

    • Q - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics
    • Q0 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - General
    • Q2 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Renewable Resources and Conservation
    • Q3 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Nonrenewable Resources and Conservation
    • Q5 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics
    • Q56 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Environment and Development; Environment and Trade; Sustainability; Environmental Accounts and Accounting; Environmental Equity; Population Growth
    • O13 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Agriculture; Natural Resources; Environment; Other Primary Products


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