Agriculture and Human Values

, Volume 23, Issue 1, pp 99–108 | Cite as

Farmers’ Views of Soil Erosion Problems and their Conservation Knowledge at Beressa Watershed, Central Highlands of Ethiopia

  • Aklilu Amsalu
  • Jan de Graaff
In the Field


Farmers’ decisions to conserve natural resources generally and soil and water particularly are largely determined by their knowledge of the problems and perceived benefits of conservation. In Ethiopia, however, farmer perceptions of erosion problems and farmer conservation practices have received little analysis or use in conservation planning. This research examines farmers’ views of erosion problems and their conservation knowledge and practices in the Beressa watershed in the central highlands of Ethiopia. Data were obtained from a survey of 147 farm households managing 713 fields during the 2002/2003 cropping season. In-depth interviews and group discussions were also held with the farmers to obtain additional information. The results show that 72% of the farmers reported erosion problems, and they recognized that conservation was necessary. However, they considered erosion to be severe mostly when visible signs – rills and gullies – appeared on their fields. The majority of the farmers believe that erosion could be halted, and they use a range of practices for erosion control and fertility improvement. These include contour plowing (83%), drainage ditches (82%), and stone terraces/bunds (73%). Nevertheless, despite decades of conservation intervention in the area, it appears that most farmers have developed negative attitudes towards externally recommended measures. The research concludes that under the conditions present in the Ethiopian central highlands, soil and water conservation interventions should consider farmers’ conservation knowledge and practices to improve acceptance and adoption of the recommendations.


Drainage ditches Ethiopian highlands Farmer perceptions Indigenous knowledge Natural resource management Soil and water conservation Soil erosion Stone terraces 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Azene, B.-T. 2001“Status and dynamics of natural resources in Ethiopia”Assefa, T. eds. Food Security through Sustainable Land Use: Population, Environment and Rural Development Issues for Sustainable Livelihoods in EthiopiaNOVIB Partners Forum on Sustainable Land UseAddis Ababa, Ethiopia165184Google Scholar
  2. Belay, T. 1992“Farmers’ perceptions of erosion hazards and attitudes towards conservation in Gununo, Wolaita, southern Ethiopia”Ethiopian Journal of Development Research143158Google Scholar
  3. Bewket, W., Sterk, G. 2002“Farmers’ participation in soil and water conservation activities in the Chemoga watershed, Blue Nile basin, Ethiopia”Land Degradation and Development13189200CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Dejene, A., Shishira, E., Yanda, P., Johnsen, F. H. 1997Land Degradation in Tanzania: Perception from the VillageWorld BankWashington, DCTechnical Paper No. 370Google Scholar
  5. Elias, E., Scoones, I. 1999“Perspectives on soil fertility change: A case study from southern Ethiopia”Land Degradation and Development10195206CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. FDRE (Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia)1997Environmental Policy of EthiopiaEnvironmental Protection Authority in collaboration with the Ministry of Economic Development and CooperationAddis Ababa, EthiopiaGoogle Scholar
  7. Girma, T. 2001“Land degradation: A challenge to Ethiopia”Environmental Management27815824Google Scholar
  8. Herweg, K., Ludi, E. 1999“The performance of selected soil and water conservation measures – case studies from Ethiopia and Eritrea”Catena3699114CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Herweg, K. 1993“Problems of acceptance and adoption of soil conservation in Ethiopia”Topics in Applied Resource Management3391411Google Scholar
  10. Hurni, H. 1993“Land degradation,, famine, and land resource scenarios in Ethiopia”Pimental, D. eds. World Soil Erosion and ConservationCambridge University PressCambridge, UK2761Google Scholar
  11. Hurni, H. 1988“Degradation and conservation of soil resources in the Ethiopian highlands”Mountain Research and Development8123130Google Scholar
  12. Kiome, R. M., Stocking, M. 1995“Rationality of farmer perception of soil erosion: The effectiveness of soil conservation in semi-arid Kenya”Global Environmental Change5281295CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Kruger, H., Berhanu, F., Yohannes, G. M., Kefene, K. 1996“Creating an inventory of indigenous SWC measures in Ethiopia”Reij , C.Scoones, I.Toulmin, C. eds. Sustaining the Soil: Indigenous Soil and Water Conservation in AfricaIIEDLondon, UK170180Google Scholar
  14. Markos, E. 1997Demographic Responses to Ecological Degradation and Food Insecurity: Drought Prone Areas in Northern EthiopiaPDOD PublicationsAmsterdam, The NetherlandsGoogle Scholar
  15. Mazzucato, V., Niemeijer, D. 2000Rethinking Soil and Water Conservation in a Changing Society: A Case Study in Eastern Burkina FasoWageningen UniversityWageningenTropical Resource Management Papers 32.Google Scholar
  16. Mbaga-Semgawale, Z., Folmer, H. 2000“Household adoption behaviour of improved soil conservation: The case of the North Pare and West Usambara Mountains of Tanzania”Land Use Policy17321336Google Scholar
  17. Mesfin, W.-M. 1991Suffering Under God’s Environment: A Vertical Study of the Predicament of Peasants in North-Central EthiopiaAfrican Mountains Association Geographica BernensiaBerne, SwitzerlandGoogle Scholar
  18. Million, A. 1996“Traditional ditches in northern Shewa, Ethiopian highlands”Reij, C.Scoones, I.Toulmin, C. eds. Sustaining the Soil: Indigenous Soil and Water Conservation in AfricaIIEDLondon, UK163169Google Scholar
  19. Nyssen, J., Poesen, J., Moeyersons, J., Deckers, J., Haile, M., Lang, A. 2004“Human impact on the environment in the Ethiopian and Eritrean highlands – a state of the art”Earth-Science Reviews64273320CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Shiferaw, B., Holden, S. 2001“Farm-level benefits to investments for mitigating land degradation: Empirical evidence from Ethiopia”Environment and Development Economic6335358Google Scholar
  21. Sonneveld, B. G. J. S., Keyzer, M. A. 2002“Land under pressure: Soil conservation concerns and opportunities for Ethiopia”Land Degradation and Development14523Google Scholar
  22. Stocking, M. 1993“Soil and water conservation for resource-poor farmers: Designing acceptable technologies for rainfed conditions in Eastern India”Topics in Applied Resource Management3291305Google Scholar
  23. Visser, S., Leenders, J. K., Leeuwis, M. 2002“Farmers’ perceptions of erosion by wind and water erosion in Northern Burkina Faso”Land Degradation and Development14123132Google Scholar
  24. Westphal, E. 1975Agricultural Systems in EthiopiaCentre for Agricultural Publishing and DocumentationWageningen, The NetherlandsAgricultural Research Report #826.Google Scholar
  25. Wood, A. 1990“Natural resource management and rural evelopment in Ethiopia”Pausewang, S.Cheru, F.Bruene, S.Chole, E. eds. Ethiopia: Rural Development OptionsZed BooksLondon, UK187195Google Scholar
  26. Yeraswork, A. 2000Twenty Years to Nowhere: Property Rights, Land Management and Conservation in EthiopiaRed Sea PressLawrenceville, New JerseyGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Geography and Environmental StudiesAddis Ababa UniversityAddis AbabaEthiopia
  2. 2.Department of Environmental SciencesWageningen UniversityWageningenThe Netherlands

Personalised recommendations