Forests are one of the most valuable terrestrial ecosystems that provide variable goods and services. A forest ecosystem is a dynamic complex of plant, animal and micro-organism communities and their abiotic environment interacting as a functional unit, where trees are a key component of the system. Humans, with their cultural, economic and environmental needs are an integral part of many forest ecosystems. (Ayenew , et al., 2015)
Forest-based ecosystem services are directly available as products derived from and within forests and those that indirectly support other production landscapes.
The direct services provided by forests include provisioning services (timber, fiber, bioenergy, grazing, clean water,
and traditional medicines) and socio-cultural benefits (ritual services, esthetic, and ecotourism). Other forest services include regulating and supporting services. Regulating services include erosion and landslide control and regulation of water, air, drought, disease, and climate. Supporting services from forests include pollination, nutrient cycling, and sources of propagules for shade and agroforestry trees, biocontrol of agricultural pests, carbon sequestration and biodiversity conservation.
Southwest Ethiopian coffee agroecosystems maintain unique and diverse biodiversity and a range of ecosystem services on which millions of subsistence farmers belonging to diverse socio-cultural groups highly depend. Most of these services were provided by forest remnants, the last remaining ecological supermarkets for the majority of forest-based provisioning and regulating services.
The traditional coffee production systems provide a variety of ecosystem services that humankind relies on, including: provisioning (e.g., food, freshwater, wood and fiber, and fuel); regulating (e.g., climate, flood, diseases); cultural (e.g., aesthetic, spiritual, educational, and recreational), and supporting (e.g., nutrient cycling, soil formation, and primary production). It appears that these systems are providing many non-timber forest products like spices, honey, and food in addition to coffee for local community living in and around the forest (Senbeta et al., 2013).
Quantifying and analyzing changes of ecosystem service values (ESVs) is an important tool to raise awareness, contribute to developing knowledge on management of natural capital, improve decision making for allocation of scarce resources among competing demands, formulate polices and provide a stimulus to conserve the ecosystems that offer the most valuable services (Konarska et al., 2002).
To obtain public support for conservation programs, an understanding of the values, attitudes and preferences towards various environmental services is necessary. The Ecosystem services trade-offs have also received limited attention in terms of management of ecosystems. For policy makers to incorporate public values and preferences into forest management and conservation policies, an understanding of the social benefits and trade-offs is critical. Humans are also less likely to take necessary steps to protect ecosystem services if they do not understand or appreciate the values these ecosystem services have on their quality of life ( Okumu, 2017)
Statement of the Problem
Southwest Ethiopian forests are home to various ecosystem services including forest coffee, honey, spices, construction materials, and ritual services. Intimate humaneforest interactions occur due to the high degree of dependence on these forest-based ecosystem services.
These forests are believed to be the origin and primary center of diversity of Arabica coffee where coffee is still grown in the wild and contains a highly diverse gene pool (Aerts et al., 2013). However, many of these forests have already been converted to agricultural landscapes, or the remnant forests are managed to produce semi-forest coffee, and a more intensive garden and plantation coffee systems ( Senbeta & Denich, 2006).
Overharvesting of high value forest products in wild forests, semi-wild and plantation coffee agroforests, or other converted landscapes in southwest Ethiopia will eventually disconnect the people from their forests if many other non-marketable services including cultural and regulating services are not also conserved. Overlooking non-marketed biodiversity and associated ecosystem services (e. g. cultural services, water purification, erosion control, or drought regulation) is contributing to deforestation and land-use changes in the region.( Getachew et al, 2014)
Land-use changes and deforestation resulted in loss of cultural and ritual resources; increased the time needed to collect forest-based ecosystem services; reduced income; and decreased ecosystem service providers. Many ecosystem services became less available due to deforestation. Honey, lianas, wild animals, soil/water/drought regulation, and cultural services were reported to be disappeared first following deforestation. Cultural and regulating services were more affected than provisioning services. (Getachew, 2013).
Rising coffee prices are also identified as a reason for converting forests into more productive semi-forest coffee agro-forestry systems. Increasing coffee prices without rules and incentives for growing and harvesting coffee sustainably, are an incentive to produce coffee more intensively or to collect more wild coffee from the forests and clear undergrowth vegetation which is competing with coffee, thereby eventually converting forests into more intensive land use forms and reducing biodiversity (Schmitt 2006).
Generally the common problem that affect the forest based ecosystem service in south west Ethiopia are high forest conversion and coffee intensification, luck of integration in conservation of forest coffee agro forest , cultural diversity on management and use of the forests and weak institutional setup. In order to prevent further loss in ecosystem service of the forest valuing and promoting ecosystem service locally preferred by the community.
Literature on valuation of forest ecosystem services in south western coffee forest are quite scant, past studies have used mainly total economic value or CVM As a departure from most studies, this study takes a different approach by employing Choice Experiment valuation method to understand the local values and perceptions of ecosystem service by valuation of forest ecosystem services, giving attention to those most affected by land-use changes which will help to promote forest values and markets for diverse ecosystem services, and design approach for reducing the loss of biodiversity and ecosystem service in the area due to deforestation.
Most of these Choice Experiment studies have been biased towards developed countries where preference for various forest ecosystem services are significantly different given the levels of economic development. Moreover, attempts to estimate different forest ecosystem services and their trade-offs are still rather scarce on Ethiopia and especially within the south western coffee forest context. This study will contribute for policy implication and literature on valuation form south western Ethiopian perspective.
Generally, this study will focuses on using the choice experiment method in order to understand the preferences for different attributes that farmers attach for the coffee forest ecosystem service and aims at estimating individual’s marginal willingness to pay for different attributes. The specific objectives of the study are to:
- Examine what it is that people value regarding forest coffee ecosystem service.
- To investigate how individuals make trade-offs between forest coffee ecosystem service and land use change
- Estimate the marginal willingness to pay and welfare impacts of improvements of each attribute of ecosystem service of forest coffee