Enset Farming Systems: Three Case StudiesWhat are "enset farming systems"?
What was found in the Gurage Case Study
What was found in the Hadiya Case Study?
What was found in the Sidama Case Study?
What conclusions can be drawn about systems variation from the case studies?
In contrast to agricultural systems that describe the predominant crop and livestock mixtures, the term "farming system" is technically determined inductively based on a configuration of agro-economical zones and cultural practices in relation to agricultural activities, farm enterprises (e.g., crops, livestock, agroforestry), and off-farm/non-farm enterprises (e.g., wage labor, crafts and trade skills, business enterprises) (Spring, 1995a; 1995b). Within the enset systems, variations in production, distribution, the types of farm and off-farm enterprises, and farmers' management practices of enset cultivation can be described and analyzed at the household and group level. Other variations occur in planting (spacing and timing), fertilization (manuring and mulching), indigenous disease and pest control, nursery and transplanting techniques and timing, sucker propagation, harvesting and processing techniques, labor patterns, and marketing practices.
In order to study the enset farming systems and their variation at the ethnic group and household level, a number of surveys and studies haev been carried out. In terms of investigations of the farming systems, diagnostic surveys using rapid rural appraisals (RRAs) have been carried out by several groups of researchers. In several regions FARM Africa has assessed the diversity of farmers, farming systems, farmers' constraints, and potential solutions and research activities. Several surveys are specifically on enset (Alemu and Sandford, 1991 and 1996; Bull et al, 1995), while Zippel and Alemu (1995) present a field guide to enset clones for North Omo. Other publications on enset clones and their gender characteristics are Alemu and Sandford (1996); Habte-Wolde et al (1996); and Sandford and Kassa (1994); also see Abate et al (1996). Informal surveys on enset have been carried out by the Institute of Agricultural Research (Raya et al, 1988; Degu and Workayehu, 1990; Shiferaw Tesfaye and Bizauyehu Haile, 1995), and more recently by the Bureau of Agriculture, SNNPRG (Spring et al, 1996). The following case studies of the Gurage, Hadiya, and Sidama zones provide some examples of the variation in enset farming systems at the ethnic group and household levels.
One peasant association (PA) in each zone was carefully selected to include altitudinal variation (low, mid, and high), accessibility, significant enset production, and cooperation of leaders and farmers. A rapid rural appraisal and additional studies of 60 households were then carried out in the three zones. The Gurage and Sidama have an enset-dominated system with variation caused by differential resource levels among households. The Hadiya, by contrast, have two different systems: one in which enset is dominant and one in which cereal crops are dominant and enset is secondary. The major cash crops in the areas studied are coffee for the Sidama, chat (a stimulant) for the Gurage, and cereals and eucalyptus tree for the Hadiya.
The Gurage (Figure 2.2) identify themselves as "people of enset" (Shack, 1966), and are one of the ethnic groups that depend upon enset as their main staple. During group focus sessions, community leaders identified four wealth or resource categories (rich, middle, poor, and poorest of the poor) based on the amount of livestock, enset plants, cash crops, and houses owned (Figure 10.1). All Gurage in the PA studied have an enset-dominated farming system, although there are differences between wealthier and poorer households in terms of the types and amounts of cash crops and enset, and the management of enset (Figures 10.2 and 10.3). Wealthy households grow large quantities of chat and some coffee for cash, while poor households mostly produce craft items (such as baskets and pottery) to earn income. Gurage farmers, who have surplus enset and live near transportation corridors, send bundles of kocho and bulla to Addis Ababa for sales to urbanites.
Houses are grouped close together, and cattle are the main type of livestock and are grazed communally as well as in side-yards. Non-food enset products such as mats, baskets (made by women and girls), and construction materials (made by men) are ubiquitous. Because of enset, food availability is high even for the poorest of the poor, although the poor lack dietary diversity. A major difference between households is cattle; wealthier households have large herds, while poor households have none and have to "share-raise" calves by borrowing an animal and returning products, off-spring, or the animal itself.
Unique to Gurage, compared with the other ethnic groups, is planting enset in strict rows with wide spacing, up to four meters apart in each direction (Figure 10.3). Other differences are that cattle owners have more manure to apply and do so frequently; some farmers fence their properties; and more conscientious farmers weed more frequently. The frequency of transplanting and weeding have more to do with farming skills and labor availability than with wealth. Considering clonal variation, the wealthy have many more clones or varieties of enset plants than the middle and poor/very poor households (Figure 10.4).
In the study area, bacterial wilt is endemic regardless of resource level, unlike the Hadiya and Sidama areas (see below), and farmers are not knowledgeable about prevention measures. Further, the sale of entire fields of chat, the major cash crop, to Addis Ababa merchants may contribute to the spread of the disease, since these merchants cut enset leaves to wrap chat, perhaps using contaminated knives.
A starter is not used for fermentation (unlike in Hadiya and Sidama), but enset is laid on the ground to begin the process. Kocho is kept for long periods, with pits being changed periodically. A fungus affects long stored kocho. Figure 10.5 shows that rich households process many mature plants less often and their storage period is longer than poor households. The latter process small quantities more frequently, use immature plants, and quickly consume their stored kocho. Wealthier households hire labor for processing, while the poor exchange labor. Unlike some other groups, Gurage men help women in certain aspects of processing, and it is not "taboo" for men to be present during enset processing.
Female-headed households face labor constraints in many aspects of enset production, and are more likely to be poor. Both female-headed households and male-headed poor households are often involved in off-farm activity (e.g., crafts, selling labor), and their diets are less varied.
The Hadiya (Figure 2.2) grow enset in a system with cereals (wheat and barley). Wealthier farmers grow and consume more cereals than enset, while poorer ones lease bits of unused land and sell their labor for cereal production, but eat mostly enset products themselves. As a result, there are two systems, termed here Hadiya 1 and Hadiya 2. In the former, cereals predominate over enset, while the latter is completely enset-based. Wealth and livestock ownership are highly correlated (Figure 10.6), and community leaders divide their residents into wealth categories based on livestock ownership, size of the enset holdings, cash and cash crops, and housing. Ironically, they do not mention land holdings as a criterion. Land size is larger than in the other areas studied; wealthy Hadiya have much more land, as well as larger enset fields, than poor Hadiya households. Also, cultivation of annual crops and eucalyptus trees seem to contribute to soil erosion.
The diversity and number of livestock is greater than in the other areas studied. Because of cereals, oxen for ploughing are essential. In addition to cattle, rich households have oxen, as well as horses, donkeys, mules, and sheep. Poor households have few animals and have to "share-raise" a cow or calf loaned by the rich. They might rent/sharecrop their small land parcels that are not planted in enset to richer farmers for cereals production. The poor also sell crafts and their labor for food and cash (Figure 10.7).
Figure 10.8 shows that Hadiya I farmers transplant more frequently, and have wider spacing (some using row planting, as opposed to random planting, which is the norm), better management, manuring, and disease control measures. Bacterial wilt is a problem for many farmers, but the wealthy have the choice of discarding, processing, selling, or giving away diseased plants. Poorer households often are the recipients, which could contribute to the spread of the disease on their farms. Animals pests also attack enset, but richer farmers build bunds around the plants. The rich have more enset clones (Figure 10.9) than the middle and poor wealth categories.
Women in wealthier households are enset farm managers; they pay poor women to do their processing. A starter (gamama) is used in processing enset. Figure 10.10 shows that the rich and middle groups process less often (two to three times per year) using large quantities of plants, while the poorer households process small and more immature plants more frequently. None of the poor store kocho over a year, and these households are frequently short of food.
Similar to the Gurage, the Sidama system is entirely enset based, and there is some variation between households. Farm size and livestock numbers in general are smaller than in the other areas studied, but wealthier households have larger, more diversified holdings and cash crops. Enset is planted randomly and often intercropped with coffee, vine crops, and fruit trees. There is no erosion because there are neither ox ploughing nor annual crops, and the enset fields are well mulched and manured. This area seems to be the most innovative in its adoption of new technologies, as a result of farmers being organized into coffee cooperatives and having steady incomes. Community leaders estimate that 20 percent of households (compared to 15 percent for Gurage and 8 percent for Hadiya) are in the rich category (Figure 10.11). The number of livestock is declining on a per household basis as grazing lands became scarcer because of increasing human population. Cows, the main livestock type, are tethered in front of the house. Poor households are cattle-deficient and might borrow a cow for manure and dairy products. Wealthier farmers are purchasing inorganic fertilizer (DAP) to make up for cattle manure deficiencies. Although enset is still the preferred food (Figure 10.12), households also supplement their diets with cereals (usually maize) and other foods.
Enset management practices are correlated with wealth categories, farming skills, and availability of resources, and there is variation in intercropping, fencing, and manuring (Figure 10.13). This zone has the lowest incidence of bacterial wilt, and farmers seem to know about its spread by contaminated tools. There is little erosion, even on farms planted on slopes. Unlike other enset growing areas, farmers purchase enset suckers from highland farms rather than using their own. The rich have more clones than the middle and poor farmers (Figure 10.14).
A starter (gamacho) is used to ferment kocho, and many farmers put the storage pits inside their homes to prevent theft. Women are beginning to use iron scrapers instead of bamboo ones for decortication and cloth squeezers for bulla.
Between ethnic groups where enset is a staple (Gurage and Sidama) and a co-staple for some of the population (the wealthier households among the Hadiya) there are differences in many aspects of enset cultivation (clonal variation, plant spacing, disease prevalence, and manuring) and processing (tools and starter used, location, size, and disease of pits). The gender division of labor varies between groups and households, and there are differences in the mix of farm, off-farm, and non-farm enterprises.
Most differences in enset systems have been attributed to altitude. These case study data show that within an area, variation can be found based on household resources and farm enterprises, rather than only on altitudinal differences. Wealthier households have resources to maintain self-sufficiency, educate their children, vary their diets (changing to a cereal-based diet, if they chose), hire labor for farming and processing, and build many houses. They cope better with enset and livestock diseases because of diversification of clones and livestock. Poorer households lack clonal variation, are dependent on the richer ones for work and livestock to share-raise, and consume only enset-based diets with few protein sources. They work for others, have little cash or consumer goods, and are vulnerable to disease and shortages.
Land holding size is another key element determining the amount of enset and other crops planted, as well as available grazing land for livestock. The rich have the largest amount of land and enset plantations per household, followed by smaller amounts for the middle, and very small amounts (often only enset fields) for the poor and very poor. Land size strongly correlates with wealth, although community leaders list livestock, enset plants, and cash as the indicators.
Wealthier households have greater clonal variation, as well as having more mature and a larger number of enset plants (future research will determine if clonal variation is an advantage or something like a status symbol that the wealthy can better afford). They have other income sources, a more diverse diet, and an obligation to help the poor by giving them livestock to "share-raise." They process larger numbers of enset plants infrequently, and do not experience famine, unlike poorer households, which have shortages from time to time. Women in wealthier households reduce the drudgery of enset processing by hiring labor. Poor women have the double burden of working and processing on their own farms and selling their labor for such tasks to wealthier households.
There are no technical packages or extension advice on enset production being promoted to farmers. But innovation and intensification are occurring in small ways, particularly among the Sidama, where increasing population growth produces severe land shortages (even to the point of using grazing lands for settlement and enset cultivation). Sidama farmers with cash from coffee sales are purchasing inorganic fertilizers, and women are changing the location of pits and adopting an improved scraper. Gurage farmers are exploiting increased interest in enset by urban dwellers, by sending surpluses to Addis Ababa.