The Role of Soil and Water Conservation Practices on Soil Properties Improvement in Ethiopia

Seminar Paper, 2021

22 Pages, Grade: A


Table of Contents


1.2. Methods of Review

2.1. Over View of Soil Erosion and Soil and Water Conservation in Ethiopia
2.2. Type of Soil and Water Conservation Measures
2.2.1. Agronomic soil and water conservation measures
2.2.2. Biological Soil and Water Conservation Measures
2.2.3. Physical Soil and Water Conservation Measures
2.3. Role of Soil and Water Conservation Practices on Soil Properties
2.3.1. Role of Soil and Water Conservation Practices on Chemical Properties of Soil
2.3.2. Role of Soil and Water Conservation on Physical Properties of Soil




Agricultural production in the arid and semi-arid areas are highly dependent on rainfall because water for irrigation is scarce or farmers cannot afford the technology. In order to have successful rainfed crop production in such areas, rain water conservation is essential (Barron et al., 2003). The success of on-farm soil water conservation however depends upon many soil factors such as soil bulk density, porosity, soil surface sealing and crusting, surface roughness, hardpans, hydraulic conductivity, and infiltration rates as they determine the hydrological properties of soil (Strudley et al., 2008).

Agriculture is the main sector of the Ethiopian economy and contributes approximately 42% to the gross domestic product (GDP) and employs over 80% of the population (MoFED 2010; Diao 2010; ATA 2013). Despite its role, agricultural production is constrained by high climate variability where rainfall distribution is extremely uneven both spatially and temporally, and this has negative implications for the livelihoods of people (Georgis et al., 2010). Drought frequently results in crop failure, while high rainfall intensities result in low infiltration and high runoff causing enhanced soil erosion and land degradation. Land degradation in the form of soil erosion and declining land fertility is a serious challenge to agricultural productivity and economic growth (Lemenih 2004).

Ethiopia is the country is suffering land degradation in the form of soil erosion, resulting in gully formation, loss of soil fertility and severe soil erosion (Hurni, 1987). The severity of the soil erosion in the country attributed by intense rainfall and also dissected nature of the topography which is nearly 70% of the highland having sloppy landscape. The sloppy topography intern fosters erosion in addition to this reduced in the vegetation cover also plays its role for degradation of soil. To overcome the existing problem of soil and water erosion, massive reforestation and soil and water conservation schemes were launched in Ethiopia. Including many NGOs and GOs various conservation strategies have been introduced to enhance soil moisture, crop yield and overall rural livelihood. Annually around US $ 20 billion was allocated for the successful conservation process in different part of the country during 1980s and 1990s (Shiferaw, 2005).

Even if the results exhibited were very much promising the outcome was not as expected, that the problem can’t be resolved once and for all in the country different parts (Tamai and Tsuji, 2000). For the failure different reasons were mentioned by Ethiopian soil and water conservation researchers (Tesfamariam et al., 1999). Among the problems the firsts was communities Involvement in the planning and implementation is very low. The second was failure to incorporate the local knowledge on conservation and farming practice and in many cases did not. The activities w were not coast effective such as hillside reforestation, terrace, and construction etc. which generally characterized by high cost which create discomfort in low income household as farmers could not afford to invest much money time and energy. The main problem was lack of integration and taking all agro ecology zones as one and designing similar conservation techniques with high coast. In addition the concept of conservation goes with resource renewability and non-renewability and its impact for sustainable agriculture (Geremaw, 2005).The benefit from the conservation was not clearly awarded by the society.

Soil and water conservation practice is a mechanism of reducing the soil loss and risk of production that has been adopted by the farmers (Kato et al. 2011). Accordingly, the adopted soil and water conservation was capable of improving soil physicochemical properties and enhances soil productive capacity (Bekele et al. 2016; Adimassu et al. 2017; Fisseha and Alemayehu 2018). Therefore, soil and water conservation interventions were undertaken in different parts of the country and reviewing its effects on selected soil physicochemical properties and its implication on soil productivity is essential.

This seminar review was carried out to review the role of soil and water conservation practices on soil properties improvement. Specifically, the review focuses on different soil and water conservation measures on soil nutrient improving, reducing erosion and enhances crop yield of the country. Finally, it recommends proper installation of soil conservation practices to encourage for sustainable agriculture productivity.

1.2. Methods of Review

The methodological approach of this review was search and synthesis of relevant peer reviewed articles and related literature. The selection of literature was mainly based on search engines and platforms from Google Scholar, Web of Science, Research Gate, Science Direct, and many other scientific journal publishing websites. Besides, citations in key documents were followed to identify additional relevant publications. This review did not cover every aspect of the role of soil and water conservation on soil properties improvement and agricultural productivity literature but focused on publications of most relevant ones. As source material, peer-reviewed papers, institutional publications, and very few unpublished sources (related Ph.D. dissertations and MSc theses) were included.


2.1. Over View of Soil Erosion and Soil and Water Conservation in Ethiopia

Soil erosion is a destructive process altering and changing the topsoil layer and soil carbon stocks through selective removal of fertile top soil along the slope (Olson et al., 2016). In Ethiopia, soil erosion is one of a serious problem challenging the agricultural sector and economic development (Hurni et al., 2016). It is severe in general and particularly in the highland areas where land highly degraded and exacerbates the prevailing of food insecurity in the country (Belayneh et al., 2017).

The various studies conducted in the country point out that the loss of soil due soil erosion is at large rate. For instance the study conducted in May Zegzeg catchment in Tigray highlands showed that the average rate of soil loss was about 14·8 t ha−1 yr−1 (Nyssen et al., 2008). Likewise, in Koga River the average annual soil loss rate was 30.2 t ha−1 yr−1which ranges from 12.1 t ha−1 yr−1 to 456.2 t ha−1 yr−1 for the outlet and the steep slope area of the watershed, respectively (Molla and Sisheber 2017). Similarly, in the north western highlands of Ethiopia, in the Geleda watershed of the Blue Nile basin, the soil loss in the steep areas of the watershed extends up to 237 t ha−1 year−1 (Gashaw et al., 2017). This indicates that erosion rates exceeds tolerable levels and affects the productive capacity of the soil system (Guerra et al., 2017). Besides, the loss of soil also results in loss of water, nutrients, soil organic matter, and soil biota (Pimentel and Burgess 2013). These all indicate soil erosion exceed the generation of new topsoil which leads to decline in soil productivity, low agricultural yield; that need adoption of integrated soil and water conservation to reverse the problem. Thus, soil erosion control is being important under every type of land use (Morgan 2005; Kumar and Pani 2013).

Soil and water conservation is a key method in reversing land degradation in the country. To reduce soil erosion and land degradation, various soil and water conservation measures have been adopted throughout the country (Wolka et al., 2013). The indigenous agricultural system in Konso zone is characterized by stone-based terraces and well integrated Agroforestry practices. It has existed for at least four hundred years. The strength of the system is expressing culture and its institutions that contribute to this kind of agriculture (Beshah 2003)

2.2. Type of Soil and Water Conservation Measures

Some researcher studied soil and water conservation measures by classifying them into indigenous and introduced measures whereas others classified as agronomic, physical and biological measures. Birhan (2009) identified indigenous SWC measures (traditional dithes (boyi), traditional waterway ("Gorf Mekided"), mixed cropping, contour ploughing, crop rotation and dib) and newly introduced SWC practices (soil bunds, stone bunds, stonefaced soil bunds, hillside terrace, check dams, sediment storage dams, micro basin and cut off drain) at Gidan Wereda of North Wollo.

A study in Bale Eco-Region by Tadele (2016) identified different soil conservation practices: indigenous agronomic (fallowing, crop rotation and intercropping), physical practices (traditional terrace, modern terrace, soil bund and counter ploughing) and biological practices (Agroforestry, grass strips, cutting and carrying, traditional rotational grazing and haymaking). In the same way, Belay and Eyasu (2017) assessed and classified the major SWC measures being employed in Guba-Lafto Woreda of North Wollo as physical SWC measures (stone bund, hillside terrace, micro water ponds, stone faced soil bund, check dam, and fanya-juu terrace); agronomic conservation measures (contour farming, agroforestry, mixed cropping, and crop rotation); and biological conservation measures (afforestation, area enclosure, and grass strip).

2.2.1. Agronomic soil and water conservation measures

Agronomic measures include mulching and crop management, which use the effect of surface covers to reduce erosion by water and wind (Morgan, 2005). Some possible agronomic measures are strip cropping, mixed cropping, intercropping, fallowing, mulching, contour plugging, grazing management and agro-forestry. Agronomic conservation measures help in reducing the impact of rain drops through interception and thus increasing infiltration rates and improve soil moisture content and thereby reducing surface runoff (Amsalu, 2007). These agronomic conservation measures can be applied together with physical soil conservation measure in Watershed. In some systems they may be more effective than structural measures (Heathcoat and Isobel, 2008). Furthermore, it is the cheapest way of soil and water conservation (Wolka et al., 2013). However, agronomic measures are often more difficult to implement compared with structural ones as they require a change in familiar practices (Heathcote and Isobel, 2008).

Different types of material such as residues from the previous crop, brought‐in mulch including grass, perennial shrubs, farmyard manure, compost, byproducts of agro‐based industries, or inorganic materials and synthetic products can be used for mulching (Lal, 2004). It is effective against wind as well as water erosion. Some such plants as maize stalks, cotton stalks, tobacco stalks, potato tops etc. are used as mulch (a protective layer formed by the stubble, i.e., the basal parts of herbaceous plants, especially cereals attached to the soil after harvest). Crop residues also reduce the soil temperature by some degrees in the upper centimeters of the topsoil and provide better moisture conservation by reducing the intensity of radiation, wind velocity, and evaporation (Agele et al., 2000). Contour tillage

Contour tillage refers to all the tillage practices, mechanical treatments like planting, tillage and intercultural performed nearly on the contour of the area applied across the land slope (Meine and Bruno, 2000) (Figure 1). It involves ploughing, planting and weeding along the contour, i.e., across the slope rather than up and down (Morgan, 2005). It also conserves soil, and due to increased time of concentration, more rainwater seeps through the soil profile to recharge groundwater. When the land is ploughed horizontally, the contour furrows are important to minimize surface run off and hold rainwater until it infiltrates (Deborah, 2003). During land preparation the land is ploughed several times depending on the type of crop.

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Figure 1. Contour tillage Mixed/Intercropping

Intercropping is the cultivation of two or more crops at the same time in the same field (Meine and Bruno, 2000; Andersen, 2005) (Figure 2). A wide range of crops can be used for intercropping. Mixed cropping of different crops along with the main crops, such as Mixing of safflower with tef is a widely applied traditional technique in the low land area of Ethiopia. This method increases crop density, diversity and ground cover and hence protects the soil from erosion and it also minimize risk of crop failure due to limited rain and pests. Moreover, mixing cropping provides small quantities of a grain of different kinds of home consumption at different times (Morgan, 2005).


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The Role of Soil and Water Conservation Practices on Soil Properties Improvement in Ethiopia
Soil and water conservation
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role, soil, water, conservation, practices, properties, improvement, ethiopia
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Anteneh Asfaw (Author), 2021, The Role of Soil and Water Conservation Practices on Soil Properties Improvement in Ethiopia, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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