Soil erosion by water is a major threat to food security, environmental sustainability and prospects for rural development in Ethiopia. Successive governments have promoted various soil and water conservation (SWC) measures in order to reduce the effects of land degradation, but adoption rates vary considerably. The profitability of SWC measures is an essential condition for their adoption. The objective of this research was to determine the economic efficiency of three different types of SWC technologies (soil bunds, stone bunds and fanya juu) in the watersheds of Debre Mewi and Anjeni in the northwestern Ethiopian highlands. A farm household survey was carried out among 60 farmers in both watersheds and the Universal Soil Loss Equation (USLE) was used to assess erosion risk on farmers' fields. A cost-benefit analysis (CBA) was then carried out to determine the profitability of the measures under different conditions. Erosion estimates for the fields suggest that adapted SWC structures were successful in reducing soil erosion. The cost-benefit analysis indicates that all SWC measures are profitable under ‘standard’ conditions, except soil bunds in Anjeni without grass cover. However, the study shows that different underlying assumptions change the CBA results considerably and consequently also change the conclusions regarding circumstances under which SWC measures are or are not profitable. This illustrates the volatility of the profitability of SWC measures.
- land degradation
- bench terraces