Owing to the fact that the economy is agrarian-based, land-use planning is central. Encroachment of agricultural activities on the forest, pasture, and wetland areas, and free grazing and urban expansion has led to severe environmental, forest and land degradation. In addition, lack of integrated land-use plans, absence of control on the use of land for what it is best suited, the rapid urban and industrial expansions have all contributed to the misuse of land. As a result, the land is not used for purposes that have a relatively greater economic return. Consequently, various land uses that could have effectively contributed to food security have not been realized. Noting this challenge, Proclamation No. 456/2005 required regional states to prepare a master land-use plan that “takes into account soil type, landform, weather condition, plant cover, and socioeconomic conditions by the competent authority”.
Ethiopia is aiming at fostering equitable spatial development across the country by conducting regional level master land use and development plans. In addition, Ethiopia is signatory to the international framework conventions and agreements, such as the Voluntary Guideline on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security, the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG), the Africa Union Declaration on Land Issues and Challenges in Africa and the Climate Change conventions (Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement). Ethiopia has prepared policies, strategies and plans including the Regional Land Administration and Use Proclamations, Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP), and Climate Resilient Green Economy (CRGE) strategy. As part of realizing these legal instruments and strategies and also to overcome the different environmental and land management challenges of the various regional states, the national Government has been envisioning to carry out Integrated Land Use Plan and Development (ILDP) for decades. All peoples’ national regional states of Ethiopia have realized and indicated in their proclamations that an integrated, aligned and harmonized land-use plan and development are necessary.
Gambella Peoples’ Regional State (GPNRS) is characterized by a diversity of resources, in terms of its biophysical resources and its cultural and ethnic composition. This has influenced its historical and current settlement and land use patterns. Possibilities for social and economic transformation have been confined to the manipulation of rural lands for agriculture. Agricultural lands have been expanding into its pristine ecologies by deforesting valuable forests. Misuse of land for what it is not best suited has been playing havoc on many fronts. For instance, many of the national parks and other important wildlife habitats have become lands where livestock are freely grazing. The gazetted Gambella National Park is the best example of this. In other situations, as much as good lands are used for free-grazing, pastoral lands that are best suited to grazing are being used for agriculture that mines the nutrients from the shallow soils. The challenge in the economic loss that has resulted from misuse of the best agricultural lands, commercial forest expansion areas, as well as lands for tourism development, is significant. All these factors strongly suggest that GPNRS needs to use its rural and urban lands in a planned and harmonious way.
The main objective of ILDP is to guide the sustainable transformation of rural and urban lives and land resources of the people and environment of GPNRS by providing coordinated, all-serving, aligned and harmonized land-use plans that have avoided conflict between the different land-use types. The plans are developed by bonded involvement of the tripartite planning actors of the plan-driving Common-Commodity community groups (CCGs), plan-guiding senior professional consultants and plan-facilitating government institutions and staffs. Those who drove the planning process gave information and knowledge and information from bottom-up reflecting Kebele-level realities while those who guided the planning process used their school-thought and reflections from their experiences. The plan facilitators brought high-level knowledge and information related to policies, proclamations national and international commitments into the planning process from top-down.
The CCGs were organized and capacitated to articulate and table their social demand and ranked concerns in their Woreda level groups that constituted Kebele-level realities. They will continue owning it through the implementation process. Similarly, the facilitators were organized into steering and technical committees at federal and regional levels whose members came from some 16 relevant ministries and bureaus respectively. The steering committee gave policy guidance and approval of the plans while the technical committees reviewed and critiqued the plan outputs periodically. However, from facilitators, the Agriculture bureau was the most involved facilitator which assigned counterparts to the planning expert-team and facilitated the routine planning process.
Horn of Africa Regional Environment Centre & Network Addis Ababa University (HoAREC&N- AAU) served as a lead secretariat of the plan facilitation institutions and hired about 35 senior-level consultants of specific disciplines and one lead ILDP study coordinator that provide technical guidance and facilitation in the planning process. The organization signed the memorandums of understandings and a common framework of engagement (CFE) with the GPNRS’s government, and the Ministry of Agriculture. This has brought the 16 relevant ministries at the Federal level and the relevant bureaus in the GPNRS to act as the Federal Steering Committees (FSC) and Regional Steering Committee (RSC) respectively to actively and responsibly engage them in the facilitation work. Similarly, the Technical Committee at both Federal (FTC) and Regional (RTC) level was organized to provide technical support and evaluate and technically approve the study at various stages of the planning process. Therefore, it is fair to assume that this ILDP is the result of these bonded tripartite actors of the panning process.