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Degife, Azeb W.; Zabel, Florian; Mauser, Wolfram (2018): Assessing land use and land cover changes and agricultural farmland expansions in Gambella Region, Ethiopia, using Landsat 5 and Sentinel 2a multispectral data. In: Heliyon, Vol. 4, No. 11, e00919
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Abstract

The pace of change in land use and cover in Ethiopia depends on three main factors that cause pressure on agriculture land: resettlement programmes, population growth and increasing agricultural investments. Gambella is one of the regions of Ethiopia that attracts large-scale agricultural investments that extensively drive land use and cover changes in the region. The aim of this study is to examine the rate, extent and distribution of various land use and cover changes in Gambella Regional State, Ethiopia, from 1987 to 2017. The analysis is mainly based on Landsat 5 and Sentinel 2A satellite images and fieldwork. Two Landsat Thematic Mapper and a Sentinel 2A image were used for determining the maximum likelihood of land use/cover classification. The results show that farmland decreased by 26 km(2) from 1987 to 2000;however, during the last two decades, agricultural land area increased by 599 km(2), mainly at the cost of tropical grasslands and forests. We found that areas cultivated by smallholder farmers increased by 9.17% from 1987 to 2000. However, small-scale farm activities decreased by 7% from 2000 to 2017. Areas cultivated by large-scale state farms totalled 202 km(2) in 1987;but by 2000, this large-scale state farming had been completely abandoned by the state, and as a result, its land use has decreased to zero. Despite this, in 2017 large-scale farming increased to 746 km(2). In addition, Gambella National Park, which is the nation's largest national park and ecosystem, was also largely affected by Land Use and Land Cover changes. The conversion of savannah/tropical grasslands to agricultural farmland has caused varied and extensive environmental degradation to the park. The Land Use and Land Cover changes in the Gambella region are discussed on the basis of underlying socioeconomic factors.