In Ethiopia, Prosopis juliflora become one of the worst invasive alien species threatening the livelihood and thus food security of pastoral and agro-pastoral communities, but to date social aspects of the problem have been limited. Thus, this study explores households’ perceptions about the effects of P. juliflora invasions in Amibara district of Afar National Regional State, Ethiopia. The study used cross-sectional data collected from 130 randomly selected households based on probability proportional to household size of the 5 kebeles through the use of semi-structured questionnaire. To measure households’ perceptions, perception index was constructed based on a five point Likert scale. Two limit Tobit regression was also used to determine factors affecting households’ perceptions. The finding shows that abundance of P. juliflora in the study area was increasing through time mainly due to mobility of dispersal agents and ability of the species to resist harsh environment. Additionally, the result revealed that households’ mean perceptions rating is 0.37 and among 130 sampled households 117 disfavored; while 1 of them favored and the rest 12 were indifferent concerning the effects by the species invasion. Empirical evidences indicate that gender, market distance, extension service, and livelihood strategy had a significant negative influence while proximity to the bush land had a significant positive effect on households’ perceptions about the effects of P. juliflora invasion. Almost all sampled households have employed some form of control measures on their private land. The measures are uprooting seedlings, cutting, and burning. The study recommends that government bodies in collaboration with stakeholders should design programs which take into account households’ interests, demographic and socio-economic characteristics, and institutional factors for a successful management of P. juliflora invasions.
Keywords: Prosopis juliflora, Households’ Perception, Two limit Tobit regression
In Ethiopia, P. juliflora is among the major invasive plant species that the Federal Government of Ethiopia has identified and declared the need for its control and eradication (Taye et al., 2007). The plant was first introduced to Afar region in the late 1970’s with the aim of stopping desertification, greening up the region, and preventing drought through coordinated effort between the government and community (Wakie et al., 2016). Even if P. juliflora is first introduced to Afar National Regional States, then spread to Oromia, Amhara, Somali, and Dire-Dawa regions, but particularly it became a serious topic in Afar and Dire-Dawa regions. In Afar region, the species invasion has estimated well above 1 million hectares and about 40% of the wetlands of Baadu are covered by this invasive plant (Ayanu et al., 2015). Range land areas, forage grasses and livestock productivity has declined drastically as a result of its invasions (Wakie et al., 2012; Gerber, 2012). By the year 2020, approximately 30.89% of the study area is projected to be invaded by P. juliflora (Haregeweyn et al., 2013). In sum, in monetary terms it costs the communities around 2.2 billion birr per year as a result of its invasion (Ilukor et al., 2014). Even though the negative impacts outweigh, P. juliflora has positive contribution to the ecology and economy of the people that they invade. For instance, P. juliflora is used as fire wood, fodder, fencing, wind breaking, and charcoal making and sell to generate income (Oduor and Githiomi, 2013). In Afar region, it is also found to have increased crop yields by 29% (Jema and Abdu, 2013). Generally, rural households’ preferences over the invasive plants may change, as the nature of the goods and services offered by those plants continues to change with time and technology; and as unforeseen impacts begin to manifest themselves (e.g. Binggeli, 2001; Shackleton et al., 2007). Some species which are considered detrimental to a specific group of rural people may be considered useful to others (e.g., Kannan et al., 2008; Mwangi and Swallow, 2008). This is because invasive species (like P. juliflora) has differing characteristics offering a variety of services to farm households in developing countries. This inconsistency of interest led to explicitly call from both science and policy for research on communities’ perceptions in order to garner public support for invasive species control programmes (Fischer et al., 2011). But still, most research conducted in the country focused more on biological invasions and impacts, more often on ecological aspects than on social perceptions and attitudes of the people. According to Panneta and Timmins (2004), the first criterion for eradication success or management plans is that the sociopolitical environment should be suitable. Public perceptions of invasive species, therefore, are crucial for evaluation of the management strategies and a key factor in the shaping policies and interventions that are both effective and accepted by interested parties. Thus, this study examined rural households’ perceptions and their determinants in the Amibara district of Afar region of Ethiopia.