Skip to main content

Efficiency of soil and water conservation practices in different agro-ecological environments in the Upper Blue Nile Basin of Ethiopia

Abstract

In developing countries such as Ethiopia, research to develop and promote soil and water conservation practices rarely addressed regional diversity. Using a water-balance approach in this study, we used runoff plots from three sites, each representing a different agro-ecological environment, e.g., high, mid and low in both elevation and rainfall, in the Upper Blue Nile Basin of Ethiopia to examine the runoff response and runoff conservation efficiency of a range of different soil and water conservation measures and their impacts on soil moisture. The plots at each site represented common land use types (cultivated vs. non-agricultural land use types) and slopes (gentle and steep). Seasonal runoff from control plots in the highlands ranged 214–560 versus 253–475 mm at midlands and 119–200 mm at lowlands. The three soil and water conservation techniques applied in cultivated land increased runoff conservation efficiency by 32% to 51%, depending on the site. At the moist subtropical site in a highland region, soil and water conservation increased soil moisture enough to potentially cause waterlogging, which was absent at the lowrainfall sites. Soil bunds combined with Vetiveria zizanioides grass in cultivated land and short trenches in grassland conserved the most runoff (51% and 55%, respectively). Runoff responses showed high spatial variation within and between land use types, causing high variation in soil and water conservation efficiency. Our results highlight the need to understand the role of the agro-ecological environment in the success of soil and water conservation measures to control runoff and hydrological dynamics. This understanding will support policy development to promote the adoption of suitable techniques that can be tested at other locations with similar soil, climatic, and topographic conditions.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

References

  • Adgo E, Teshome A, Mati B. 2013. Impacts of long-term soil and water conservation on agricultural productivity: The case of Anjenie watershed, Ethiopia. Agricultural Water Management, 117: 55–61.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Adimassu Z, Haile N. 2011. Runoff, soil loss and their relationships under different land uses in the central highlands of Ethiopia. Ethiopian Journal of Applied Sciences & Technology, 2(1): 39–49.

    Google Scholar 

  • Adimassu Z, Mekonnen K, Yirga C, et al. 2014. Effect of soil bunds on runoff, soil and nutrient losses, and crop yield in the central highlands of Ethiopia. Land Degradation & Development, 25(6): 554–564.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Allen R G, Pereira L S, Raes D, et al. 1998. Crop Evapotranspiration-Guidelines for Computing Crop Water Requirements-FAO Irrigation and Drainage Paper 56. Rome: FAO, 1–15.

    Google Scholar 

  • Amare T, Zegeye A D, Yitaferu B, et al. 2014. Combined effect of soil bund with biological soil and water conservation measures in the northwestern Ethiopian highlands. Ecohydrology & Hydrobiology, 14(3): 192–199.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Bayabil H K, Tilahun S A, Collick A S, et al. 2010. Are runoff processes ecologically or topographically driven in the (sub) humid Ethiopian highlands? The case of the Maybar watershed. Ecohydrology, 3(4): 457–466.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Bekele-Tesemma A, Sjohom H, Bekalo I, et al. 2005. Managing Land: A Practical Guidebook for Development Agents in Ethiopia. Nairobi: Regional Land Management Unit, World Agroforestry Centre, Eastern and Central Africa Regional Programme, Addis Ababa: Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, 282.

    Google Scholar 

  • Bergkamp G. 1998. A hierarchical view of the interactions of runoff and infiltration with vegetation and microtopography in semiarid shrublands. CATENA, 33(3–4): 201–220.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Castillo V M, Martinez-Mena M, Albaladejo J. 1997. Runoff and soil loss response to vegetation removal in a semiarid environment. Soil Science Society of America Journal, 61(4): 1116–1121.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Dagnew D C, Guzman C D, Zegeye A D, et al. 2015. Impact of conservation practices on runoff and soil loss in the sub-humid Ethiopian Highlands: The Debre Mawi watershed. Journal of Hydrology and Hydromechanics, 63(3): 210–219.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Descheemaeker K, Nyssen J, Poesen J, et al. 2006. Runoff on slopes with restoring vegetation: a case study from the Tigray highlands, Ethiopia. Journal of Hydrology, 331(1–2): 219–241.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Descroix L, Viramontes D, Vauclin M, et al. 2001. Influence of soil surface features and vegetation on runoff and erosion in the Western Sierra Madre (Durango, Northwest Mexico). CATENA, 43(2): 115–135.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Dingman S L. 2015. Physical Hydrology (3rd ed.). USA: Waveland Press, 17–39.

    Google Scholar 

  • Ebabu K. 2016. Effects of land management practices on soil and nutrient losses: A case study in paired watersheds of Guder, in the Upper Blue Nile Basin, Ethiopia. MSc Thesis. Tottori, Japan: Tottori University, 108.

    Google Scholar 

  • Fenta A A, Yasuda H, Shimizu K et al., 2017a. Spatial distribution and temporal trends of rainfall and erosivity in the Eastern Africa region. Hydrological Processes, 31(15): 4555–4567.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Fenta A A, Yasuda H, Shimizu K et al., 2017b. Response of streamflow to climate variability and changes in human activities in the semiarid highlands of northern Ethiopia. Regional Environmental Change, 17(4): 1229–1240.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Girmay G, Singh B R, Nyssen J, et al. 2009. Runoff and sediment-associated nutrient losses under different land uses in Tigray, Northern Ethiopia. Journal of Hydrology, 376(1–2): 70–80.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Haregeweyn N, Tsunekawa A, Nyssen J, et al. 2015. Soil erosion and conservation in Ethiopia: A review. Progress in Physical Geography, 39(6): 750–774.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Haregeweyn N, Tsunekawa A, Tsubo M, et al. 2016. Analyzing the hydrologic effects of region-wide land and water development interventions: a case study of the Upper Blue Nile basin. Regional Environmental Change, 16(4): 951–966.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Haregeweyn N, Tsunekawa A, Poesen J, et al. 2017. Comprehensive assessment of soil erosion risk for better land use planning in river basins: Case study of the Upper Blue Nile River. Science of the Total Environment, 574: 95–108.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hargreaves G H, Samani Z A. 1985. Reference crop evapotranspiration from temperature. Applied Engineering in Agriculture, 1(2): 96–99.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Herweg K, Ludi E. 1999. The performance of selected soil and water conservation measures—case studies from Ethiopia and Eritrea. CATENA, 36(1–2): 99–114.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hurni H, Zeleke G, Kassie M, et al. 2015. Economics of Land Degradation (ELD) Ethiopia case study. Soil degradation and sustainable land management in the Rainfed agricultural areas of Ethiopia: An assessment of the economic implications. In: Report for the Economics of Land Degradation Initiative. Bonn, Deutschland: Water and Land Resource Centre (WLRC); Centre for Development and Environment (CDE); Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), 99.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hurni H, Berhe W A, Chadhokar P, et al. 2016. Soil and Water Conservation in Ethiopia: Guidelines for Development Agents. Bern, Switzerland: Centre for Development and Environment (CDE), Bern Open Publishing (BOP), 1–50.

    Google Scholar 

  • Kassie M, Zikhali P, Pender J, et al. 2009. Sustainable agricultural practices and agricultural productivity in Ethiopia: does agroecology matter? In: Working Papers in Economics No. 406. Göteborg: University of Gothenburg.

    Google Scholar 

  • Lampkin N H, Pearce B D, Leake A R, et al. 2015. The role of agroecology in sustainable intensification. In: Report for the Land Use Policy Group. Organic Research Centre, Elm Farm and Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust, Scottish.

    Google Scholar 

  • Lee J J, Phillips D L, Dodson R F. 1996. Sensitivity of the US corn belt to climate change and elevated CO2: II. Soil erosion and organic carbon. Agricultural Systems, 52(4): 503–521.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Matouš P, Todo Y, Mojo D. 2013. Roles of extension and ethno-religious networks in acceptance of resource-conserving agriculture among Ethiopian farmers. International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability, 11(4): 301–316.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Melesse A M, Abtew W. 2016. Landscape Dynamics, Soils and Hydrological Processes in Varied Climates. Cham: Springer International Publishing, 1–93.

    Google Scholar 

  • Morgan R P C, Finney H J, Lavee H, et al. 1986. Plant cover effects on hillslope runoff and erosion: evidence from two laboratory experiments. In: Abrahams A D. Hillslope Processes. Winchester, Mass: Allen and Urwin, 16: 77–90.

    Google Scholar 

  • Nigussie Z, Tsunekawa A, Haregeweyn N, et al. 2017. Farmers' perception about soil erosion in Ethiopia. Land Degradation & Development, 28(2): 401–411.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Nyssen J, Haile M, Moeyersons J, et al. 2000. Soil and water conservation in Tigray (Northern Ethiopia): the traditional dagat technique and its integration with introduced techniques. Land Degradation & Development, 11(3): 199–208.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Nyssen J, Poesen J, Moeyersons J, et al. 2004. Human impact on the environment in the Ethiopian and Eritrean highlands—a state of the art. Earth-Science Reviews, 64(3–4): 273–320.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Pathak P, Mishra P K, Rao K V, et al. 2009. Best-bet options on soil and water conservation. In: Best-bet Options for Integrated Watershed Management Proceedings of the Comprehensive Assessment of Watershed Programs in India, 25–27 July 2007. Andhra Pradesh, India: ICRISAT Patancheru, 75–94.

    Google Scholar 

  • Pilgrim D H, Chapman T G, Doran D G. 1988. Problems of rainfall-runoff modelling in arid and semiarid regions. Hydrological Sciences Journal, 33(4): 379–400.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Rientjes T, Haile A T, Fenta A A. 2013. Diurnal rainfall variability over the Upper Blue Nile Basin: A remote sensing based approach. International Journal of Applied Earth Observation and Geoinformation, 21: 311–325.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Sahoo D C, Madhu M G, Bosu S S, et al. 2016. Farming methods impact on soil and water conservation efficiency under tea [Camellia sinensis (L.)] plantation in Nilgiris of South India. International Soil and Water Conservation Research, 4(3): 195–198.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Schmidt E, Zemadim B. 2013. Hydrological modelling of sustainable land management interventions in the Mizewa watershed of the Blue Nile basin. In: Rainwater Management for Resilient Livelihoods in Ethiopia: Proceedings of the Nile Basin Development Challenge Science Meeting, Addis Ababa, 9–10 July 2013. NBDC Technical Report 5. Nairobi, Kenya: ILRI, 30.

    Google Scholar 

  • Sheldrick B, Wang C. 1993. Particle size distribution. In: Carter M R. Soil Sampling and Methods of Analysis. Boca Raton, Florida, USA: Canadian Society of Soil Science, Lewis Publishers, 499–513.

    Google Scholar 

  • Sultan D, Tsunekawa A, Haregeweyn N, et al. 2017. Analyzing the runoff response to soil and water conservation measures in a tropical humid Ethiopian highland. Physical Geography, 38(5): 423–447.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Tadesse M, Belay K. 2004. Factors influencing adoption of soil conservation measures in Southern Ethiopia: the case of Gununo area. Journal of Agriculture and Rural Development in the Tropics and Subtropics, 105(1): 49–62.

    Google Scholar 

  • Taye G, Poesen J, Van Wesemael B, et al. 2013. Effects of land use, slope gradient, and soil and water conservation structures on runoff and soil loss in semi-arid Northern Ethiopia. Physical Geography, 34(3): 236–259.

    Google Scholar 

  • Tebebu T Y, Steenhuis T S, Dagnew D C, et al. 2015. Improving efficacy of landscape interventions in the (sub) humid Ethiopian highlands by improved understanding of runoff processes. Frontiers in Earth Science, 3: 49.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgements

This research was supported by Grants-in-Aid for Scientific Research (25257417) from Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, Japan.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Dagnenet Sultan.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Sultan, D., Tsunekawa, A., Haregeweyn, N. et al. Efficiency of soil and water conservation practices in different agro-ecological environments in the Upper Blue Nile Basin of Ethiopia. J. Arid Land 10, 249–263 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40333-018-0097-8

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Revised:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s40333-018-0097-8

Keywords

  • agro-ecology
  • drought-prone
  • runoff coefficient
  • runoff conservation efficiency
  • Ethiopia