For advancing the WoodCluster research and higher education cooperation, two scientists from our institute, Prof. Pretzsch and Dr. Auch, met with the Ethiopian partner team from the Wondo Genet College of Forestry and Natural Resources (Hawasa University) end of November 2017.
One outcome of the trip was to discuss and identify with both, the local team and village representatives, the study site for the Socioeconomic Field Laboratories (SFL)*. Selection criteria were that in the village there is a demand for wood, are small-scale farms with woodlots and the willingness of the community to cooperate with our project in the next years (community discussions, receiving students for research work).
A suitable village area was found with the so called Chefasine Kebele in a district closely located to the lake and town Hawassa, in Sidama Zone in Southern Ethioipa. It is an average village in this area with around 12.000 inhabitants. The population practices agroforestry and plants Eucalyptus as woodlots and for farm boundary. First studies in this area were done by two students (Shibire Bekele, Ysabel Perdomo) from the Tropical Forestry MSc course at TU Dresden.
This year, WoodCluster will start establishing SFLs and will support national and international students to do their thesis research in the selected villages of the partner countries Ethiopia, Tanzania and Uganda. Chefasine is now one of them for Ethiopia, where SFL will be conducted.
* Socioeconomic Field Laboratories (SFL):
There are many tools for participative actions in place, mostly designed as rapid intervention with rather short-term events, resulting in limited impact. The main difference of SFL is the long-term character, beyond the funding period of a project. “SFL are villages where household members and external researchers have agreed on a long-term collaboration (10+ years), to conduct a participatory learning and research process, resulting in diagnosis, options, models and scenarios for further development of livelihood strategies. The main objectives are:
- to establish common technology development and learning platforms on a local level,
- to foster rural development, and by this way,
- to stabilize rural areas.
Laboratories are in-situ, just the village and appendant households. The core group of participating actors is composed of farmers, scientists, extension agents and students. Further actors like local leaders, politicians and representatives from the private sector can be involved in the process. In the field laboratories all steps are shared, from the diagnosis to the identification and testing of new land use practices or technologies, resulting individual and/or collective action. The learning experience builds resilience and adaptive management capacity of the actors and creates knowledge for benefit of all.” (Pretzsch and Auch, upcoming).
By Eckhard Auch, Maxi Domke