1

1. INTRODUCTION
1.1 Background of the Study
The world is experiencing urbanization and the population residing in urban areas has reached 53% and this figure is expected to 66% by 2050 (UN, 2008; Seto et al., 2012). In Africa, it is projected to be 56% by 2050 (UNDESA, 2014) and the phenomenon is characterized by rapid and uncontrolled urban growth and causes the destruction of natural environment and sensitive areas of the urban area (Shishay, 2011).
Similarly, the Sub-Saharan country has high urbanization trends and Ethiopia has also experienced rapid urbanization and urban population increased in the last few years due to more rural-urban migration (FDRE PCC, 2016). Accordingly, Hawassa city is also one of the urbanizing Ethiopian cities and significant changes in population number have been observed with an annual population growth of 4.2% with African fast urbanization trend (UN-Habitat, 2011). According to Ministry of Urban Development and Housing MUDH report, (2015) this rapid population growth and urbanization is in a position of creating demanding societies in the urban settings has generated environmental problems.
Hence, as the world continues to urbanize challenges related to urbanization become significant and the challenges will be increasingly concentrated in cities especially in the lower-middle income countries where the process of urbanization is rapid (Cilliers et al., 2013).

Accordingly, Urban Green Infrastructure (UGI) has become an important policy initiative in many cities internationally to address a variety of problems resulted from urbanization (Kathleen, 2012; Derkzen, 2012) and it plays an important role to make the city livable, sustainable and strengthens the resilience of towns and cities to respond to the major current and future challenges of economic growth (Ely and Pietman, 2012).
One of the cities that observed UGI development in Ethiopia is Hawassa city and the development is in its infant stage and the municipality has made efforts to improve UGI development in the city. The municipality of the city has the vision to make the city smart and attractive center for recreation and set the goal for the UGI developments. Basically, development of UGI are very important and provide urban tourism for recreations to urban dwellers and greening city centers attract new visitors in turn, supports tourism potential of urban centers (Haq, 2011; John, 2011; Martin and Ely, 2013).
Urban Recreation parks are the main element in most UGI networks and it can enhance tourism in cities and play an important role for leisure and recreation to local residents and foreign visitors (Sadeghian and Vardanyan, 2013; Haq, 2011). Similarly, Derkzen (2012) stated that a recreational use of UGI is foremost found in urban parks. Therefore, in Hawassa city, there are a number of conservation parks and recreational areas considered as UGI components in which provides recreational service for visitors. The one which has a potential for recreation is the Gudumale recreational park or locally it called Amora Gedel. Old aged indigenous tree species, wildlife and different bird species considered as the natural beauty of the city found in this area was the second most visited tourism resources next to Lake Hawassa in the city (Ermiyas, 2015).
In spite of the fact that it has been enjoying a park status, it is not a much developed and organized park. But the Gudumale recreational park has immense potential to be a great tourist destination since it has various wildlife species including endemic birds. Urban recreational parks in general and Gudumale recreational park, in particular, are underutilized due to their poor services and facilities and measures are not taken to solve the problems due to lack of attention and research (Hailegiorgis, 2017). Similarly, Dawit et al., (2017) stated that studies are limited in developing countries in the valuation of improved urban ecosystem services and research-based knowledge of the value of UGI components would be highly relevant to inform urban policy makers in designing urban development policies and plans.
Based on the above argument, the primary objective of the study is to conduct choice experiment (CE) valuation technique to estimate the economic value for the park and determine the visitors’ preference of different attributes and estimate the welfare impacts of improvement of each attribute.
1.2 Problem Statement
According to Ethiopian Ministry of Urban Development and Housing MUDH report, (2015) and Government of Ethiopia’s Climate Resilient Green Economy CRGE report, (2011), Ethiopia has taken a bold and ambitious decision to set its vision to achieve lower-middle income country status by the year 2025. This vision has inspired with the hope the country to transform from agrarian economy to industrialization. This vibrant growth increases urban population in the last few years due to more rural-urban migration. This phenomenon’s which are observed in most towns and cities of Ethiopia without properly planned environment has generated environmental problems including loss of natural beauties, parks, and sceneries.
Holzinger (2011), states that the pressure on the natural environment in urban areas is increasing and the main reason is that ecosystem services and the benefits they provide to human welfare are ignored or strongly undervalued and not adequately assessed in planning and policy. Although, UGIs provides multifunctional benefits, measuring its values particularly those associated with cultural, aesthetic, and recreational values remain difficult to quantify in monetary terms since UGI components particularly urban parks and their recreational values are not exchanged on the conventional market, and therefore do not have market prices (Ely and Pitman, 2012).
Therefore, due to lack of systematic quantification and detailed estimation of the economic value of UGI components, they have been converted into other land uses basically for constructions. But, according to Blayac et al., (2011), putting an accurate value on recreational services would be valuable in resource management for comparing the importance of recreation with that of other uses of the same resources, to determine the value of the recreation to be provided by a proposed recreation site and would provide a ceiling to any fees that might be charged for its use.
Since the Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP) of Ethiopia gives priority to the green economy through the development of green areas for creating a sustainable national urban system, estimating the value of UGI components enable to see how the resource is valuable for recreation and thereby ecotourism among various streams of its benefits. Like other environmental resources and public goods, all recreational area of Ethiopia in general and Gudumale recreational parks, in particular, have immense benefit to the sustainable development of the economy and play a significant role in the fight against poverty.
Apart from this, the Gudumale recreation site is widely used as a natural recreational area for many visitors and it is prominent in its beautiful environment, boating, swimming, wildlife’s like Hippopotamus and Monkey, different bird species and its striking view of Lake Hawassa and other recreational activities. Despite the fact, the park has many sources of attraction the site has been unable to improve the qualities of its recreational services and if the site authorities are not aware of its economic value they are not able to make an informed decision about the potential environmental benefit of the site and the quality of the site may deteriorate over time, which could force visitors of the site to shift to other substitute sites. This phenomenon may over time result in an irreversible damage to the different attributes on the site and hence there is a need to estimate the value of the site to address the knowledge gap.
In Ethiopia recent studies such as Fisseha (2014) at Abijata Shalla Lakes national park, Selam (2013) at Lake Hawassa, Atalel (2013) at Lake Tana , Woubishet (2016) at Nech Sar national park , Sitotaw (2011) at Wabi-Shebele Langano recreation site and Mohammed (2007) at Wondo Genet recreational area used the Revealed valuation techniques especially the Travel Cost method (TCM) to estimate the economic value of these recreational areas. But, application of alternative valuation techniques is vital for better estimation of the resource and studies on the valuation of the multi-function and services of recreational areas have not yet been undertaken in the country in general and in the Gudumale recreational area in particular. So far there is no study conducted in the context of attributes based environmental valuation technique for UGI components (Gudumale recreational area) using CE valuation and it will be expected to fill the gap on the existing limited literature.
1.3 Objective of the Study
1.3.1 General objective
The general objective of the study is to estimate the economic value of urban green infrastructures in Hawassa City, Ethiopia.
1.3.2 Specific objectives
The specific objectives of the study are:
? To estimate the visitor’s marginal willingness to pay (MWTP) for alternative UGI attributes in the Gudumale recreational park, Hawassa.
? To estimate welfare impacts of improvement of different UGI attributes in the Gudumale recreational park, Hawassa.
? To assess visitors preferences for alternative UGI attributes improvement in the Gudumale recreational park, Hawassa
? To identify socioeconomic factors that affect visitor’s MWTP for the improvements of UGI attributes in the Gudumale recreational park, Hawassa.

1.4 Research Questions
? How much is the visitor’s MWTP for alternative UGI attributes in the Gudumale recreational park, Hawassa?
? How much is welfare impacts of improvement of different UGI attributes in the Gudumale recreational park?
? What is visitor’s order of preference for alternative UGI attributes improvement in the Gudumale recreational park, Hawassa?
? What are the socioeconomic factors that determine visitor’s MWTP for the improvements of UGI attributes in the Gudumale recreational park?
1.5 Significance of the Study
The findings of this study may help park authorities to make informed decisions for better planning and management of benefits that could be generated from the use of the resource. Since Ethiopia planned to build climate resilient green economy and the growth and transformation plans favors such studies and will benefit from such results, it could be used as an input for making informed decisions in the area of environmental circumstances. The rate of urbanization in Ethiopia is one of the fastest in the world and reductions of green areas are frequently the major environmental problems in cities (Shishay, 2011) so, a sound planning that understands the value of UGIs is crucial.
Thus the study provides information on UGI components value in monetary terms and this will benefit the institutions involved in the development of UGI.
1.6 Scope and Limitation of the Study
The study examined the economic value of UGI particularly for the recreational park in Hawassa city and does not include other UGI components of Hawassa City (Appendix 2) due to time and financial constraints. Furthermore, samples were selected from the site and some of the visitors were not willing to give necessary information openly and honestly. Similarly, unavailability of organized and documented data in the concerned institutions was also being challenging.
1.7 Organization of the Study
The thesis is organized as follows. The first chapter is devoted to the introductory parts. Chapter Two deals with the theoretical and empirical literatures and different literature regarding UGI and choice modeling are reviewed. Issues related to survey methods, model specification, questionnaire design and methods of data analysis are discussed in Chapter Three. Chapter four presents a detailed discussion of the overall findings of the study. Results of the various included models are estimated and interpreted in this chapter. The last Chapter, Chapter Five comes up with the conclusions and some policy implications.