International Development, Community, and Environment


Make Way for the 'New King': Farmers' Multifaceted relationships with Eucalyptus Globulus in Northwestern Ethiopia

Document Type

Book Chapter


Throughout the tropics, fast-growing multipurpose trees are promoted as sources of food and overall livelihood security that maximize the use of resources and reduce pressure on indigenous species. Since the late 19th century, farmers in the Ethiopian highlands have planted eucalyptus (Eucalyptus spp., family Myrtaceae) as an alternative source of construction material and fuel wood, as well as to generate income. We conducted individual interviews, vegetation surveys, participatory mapping, and direct matrix ranking with farming communities in the Debark District of northwestern Ethiopia to understand the value of trees in general and Eucalyptus globulus in particular. Our vegetation survey confirms eucalyptus is the dominant woody species, while indigenous cedar (Juniperus procera) and olive (Olea europaea subsp. cuspidata) are rare. According to farmers, eucalyptus does not propagate on its own, so its proliferation could be taken as enthusiasm about this species. Indeed, farmers assign high socioeconomic values to eucalyptus, in large part due to its rapid growth rate, coppicing ability, and multifunctionality. However, our interviews reveal widespread ambivalence toward eucalyptus due to its negative impacts on water resources and concerns that it is replacing indigenous trees. Furthermore, despite its being incorporated into many aspects of daily life, farmers assign far less cultural value to eucalyptus than to indigenous species like cedar and olive. These seemingly conflicting attitudes inform our understanding of folk value and generate recommendations to support farmers’ efforts to maintain populations of indigenous trees in landscapes transformed by eucalyptus.

Publication Title

The Cultural Value of Trees: Folk Value and Biocultural Conservation

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