Spatial and temporal variation in crop diversity in agroforestry homegardens of southern Ethiopia

T. Abebe, K.F. Wiersum, F. Bongers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

53 Citations (Scopus)


A key assumption in many homegarden studies is that homegardens are ecologically and socio-economically sustainable due to their species diversity. The precise relation between diversity and sustainability is still heavily debated, however. A basic question is how diversity in homegardens can best be characterized in view of the various dimensions of species diversity and their variation in time and space. This paper assesses different types of species diversity in the homegardens of Sidama region of southern Ethiopia. In a survey of crop species in 144 homegardens a total of 78 cultivated crop species (excluding trees) belonging to 10 functional groups were recorded; there were on average 16 crop species and 8 functional groups per farm. Within homegardens, plots differ in species composition and crop diversity. Four types of homegarden systems are distinguished differing in both type and area-share of dominant species, relative orientation at subsistence or cash production and overall crop diversity. The gradual replacement of enset by maize and of coffee by more financially attractive cash crops khat and pineapple causes a decrease in overall crop diversity. Our data demonstrate that it is incorrect to consider homegardens as generic systems with a uniform distribution of species diversity: important within and between homegarden variation exists. Ecological and socio-economic sustainability is not just related to species diversity per se, but rather to more specific features such as presence of keystone species and diversity in functional species groups. Socio-economic sustainability in terms of adjustment to socio-economic change implies dynamics in species diversity
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)309-322
JournalAgroforestry Systems
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2010


  • home-gardens
  • biodiversity

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