Monitoring and Evaluating Land Use/ Land Cover Change Using Participatory Geographic Information System (PGIS) Tools

Ermias Aynekulu, Welday Wubneh, Emiru Birhane, Nigussu Begashaw1


Agricultural land degradation in Ethiopia leads to an annual loss of roughly 2 million cubic meters of top soil. The relationship between this loss of soil quality and declining agricultural productivity is increasingly threatening rural livelihoods, putting pressure on urban centres as people migrate, as well as on very scarce forest resources on which the agricultural systems eventually depend Attempts to address land degradation have required the government of Ethiopia to fully understand the underlying social and ecological drivers of land degradation. In order to fully develop the knowledge portfolio required to design and implement land rehabilitation measures in remote areas experiencing degradation, an adaptable, robust and credible system of ethno-ecological knowledge representation, analyses and communication is required. This is needed not only to bridge the technological gap between the rural and urban areas but to facilitate the representation and integration of both temporally and spatially explicit historical and 'real time' knowledge, held within rural environments. This paper describes the application of participatory geographic information systems (PGIS) tools and approaches in Tigray, Ethiopia. In this application to generate both current and retrospective information of land use processes, the use of PGIS focuses on methods of knowledge 'capture', representation and communication through the graphic representation of both past and present land uses using rudimentary tools. The information gathered in the process is then transferred into a Geographic Information System, for additional analyses, sharing with scientists and onwards transmission to decision makers and other users in a form which they respect, can understand and reproduce. The practice of PGIS in this setting in Ethiopia has encouraged broad-based participation at community levels, improved within-community communication and provided opportunities for greater social inclusion in development processes.

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