Peasant Responses to Population Pressure and Land Shortage in Mixed Farming Systems: A Case Study from Southwest of Lake Chamo, Arba Minch Zuria Wereda

No Thumbnail Available



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


Addis Ababa University


The study has closely examined the multiple responses on the part of the peasants of southwest of Lake Chamo to demographic pressure, land shortage andfood supply - demand gap. The data sets for the study were mainly collected from the field through formal survey questionnaire administered to J 60 randomly selected sample households and by infolwal and semi - stt11ctured interviews and group discussion with men and women, development agents, PA leaders and knowledgeable elderly persons using PRA / RRA methods and tools. The study has employed pOint score analysis technique to identify the most important socio - economic and psychological reasons for the demcmd for bearing large number of children as well as to diagnose the most commonly percJeved negative effects of increasing population pressure on the local environment and food supply - demand gap. Moreover, descriptive techniques such as percentages, cumulative frequencies, cross tabulations, indices, graphs and inferential statistics like chi - square test have been used to summarize the important attt'ibutes of the mixed farming systems and peasant responses to population and land pressure. In the study area, bearing large number of children and family size has been considered the norm for a large majority of the populatioll. Point score analysis of peasants' perceptions revealed that continuity of the familylelan name, love of children, old - age security conSideration, economic support before old age, social acceptance and marriage stability are the most important motives, in that order, for the desire for additional children among the interviewed farmers. It is presumed that the existing valid socio - economic and emotional values attached to large mlmber of children and family size will continue to be a limiting factor to implement the national population policy until the prerequisite necessaty attitudinal changes among the mass of the peasants are effected through appropriate family planing education and improvment of their quality of life by expanding socio - economic infrastructure services. Point score analysis of peasant perceptions has also shown that the major negative impacts of growing population pressure on the local environment are, in order of importance, progressive leveling down of peasant holdings, lack of long-term security of tenure over land, increasing gap between food grain production levels and consumption requirements, declining productivity of land, environmental degradation, incidence of landless peasant households, and fragnlentation of agricultural land into smaller holdings. The peasants of the study area have developed quite several livelihood strategies to overcome these problems induced largely by demographic pressure. [n general terms, two complementC/ly sets of pressure responses on the part of the local famlers were identified The first is ref elTed to as onjarm oriented responses. This group of peasant responses comprised progressive Chatlges in the local farming systems (from semi-sedentC/ly agropastoralism to mixed famling systems), cropland and settlement encroachements onto forest! woodland and grazing resources, land use intensification (through increased cropping intensity, application of more labour inputs per unit area of land per growing season, and shifting to more labour-intensiveand high-vallie food and cashcrops), and devising local land transaction arrangements (to withstand the mismatch between key production factors such as land, labour and draught oxen). The second group of pressure responses has to do with increasing participation in rural nonfarm activities and seasonal and pemlanent out-migration, and are thus termed as nonfarm oriented responses. As a result of these interdependent sets of pressure responses labour is not generally underutilized in the study area, and most of the sampled households (about 86 percent) are still in favour of maximizing their household labour through bearing large I11Imber of children Although further multivariate statistical analysis may be necessary to empirically test the overall effects of farm-nonfarm responses on levels of household food security, these complementwy sets of livelihood strategies have significantly contributed to the statisfaction of households' annual food consumption requirements. The implication of the sutdy for ruml development is that as farm and nonfarm responses strongly contributed to rural livelihoods, I1Iral poliCies should aim at diversification and intensification of agriCllltural and nonagriCllltural activities as well as promotion of production and consumption linkages between farm and nonfarm sectors through investments in social, economic and institutional infrastructure. For rumlnonfarm activities to play their key role in relieving population pressure on agricultural land, it will be particularly essential to provide a complete package of financial, technical and management assistance to the land-hungry farmers



Peasant Responses to Population Pressure