Resettlement and land rights: Implication on land use and land cover change in Ethiopia


  • Tadesse Amsalu Institute of Land Administration, Department of Land Administration and Surveying, Bahir Dar University, P.O Box 5001, Bahir Dar, Ethiopia
  • Berhanu Kefale Institute of Land Administration, Department of Land Administration and Surveying, Bahir Dar University



Dual land rights, Forest cover, GIS, Land administration, Resettlement


In Ethiopia, resettlement schemes have been widely implemented in response to famine and food insecurity. Since 2003, planned resettlement initiatives have been carried out, considering farm households’ willingness as a pivotal factor. To enhance the attractiveness of the resettlement program, the Amhara regional state attempted to offer resettlers dual landholding rights. These rights encompassed perpetual landholding in the new settlement and a three-year guarantee against losing their landholdings in the old settlement if they chose to leave due to discomfort. This study aimed to address conceptual and empirical gaps in understanding the relationship between the resettlement process, land rights/tenure, and changes in land use and land cover (LULC) within this new approach. The goal was to provide policy directions. Employing a socio-spatial research methodology, data was generated using GIS techniques, questionnaires, and focus group discussions. The study found that unrestricted encroachment into woodlands and grazing lands has led to severe LULC changes in the study area.  The land use land cover change analysis between 2003 and 2016 indicated that the forest cover and bushland decreased by 3,879.18 ha and 2,810.16 ha respectively, and conversely farmland has increased by 5,814.09 ha.   Furthermore, due to the absence of clear property rights definitions and the provision of dual land rights, many resettlers opted to maximize benefits from both land possessions rather than establishing a settled life in the new settlement area.  Despite the innovative nature of the resettlement program with its focus on providing dual land rights to relieve pressure in degraded highlands and transform livelihoods in more productive lowland areas, the initiative faced challenges in controlling land rights and management issues in both the old and new resettlement areas. Observations in these areas contradicted the presumption of the new resettlement policy, aiming to bolster farmers' livelihood security and environmental protection. This study underscores the intricate and multi-dimensional nature of the relationship between resettlement, land rights/tenure, and LULC changes in Ethiopia. To ensure the success of innovative resettlement programs, robust institutions supported by policy frameworks that comprehensively consider social, economic, political, and technical elements impacting resettlement are imperative. The study also recommends the implementation of a consolidated land governance system from the outset, complemented by a strong monitoring and evaluation system, to effectively address resettlers' land rights and obligations, thereby improved livelihoods and   efficient land use and management could be advanced in the settlement areas