Land Degradation and Farmers' Acceptance and Adoption of Conservation Technologies in the Digil Watershed, Northwestern Highlands of Ethiopia

W. Bewket

Research output: Book/ReportReportProfessional


Land degradation has become a critical problem in many parts of highland Ethiopia. There is great need for rehabilitation and conservation works in such areas. The aim of this study is to empirically determine the magnitude and rate of land degradation and identify factors affecting farmers¿ acceptance and adoption of newly introduced land management technologies, with emphasis on SWC measures, in a typical microwatershed in the northwestern highlands of Ethiopia. Changes in land cover/use and magnitudes and rate of soil loss due to rills were used as measures of the land degradation process. The analysis of land cover/use changes involved interpretation of available aerial photographs of the area (taken in 1957 and 1982). For the assessment of soil loss due to erosion by water, rill erosion surveying was undertaken at the scale of cultivated fields. Multiple methods of social research were employed to generate the data required for the investigation of the farmers¿ acceptance and adoption of the introduced conservation technologies. The results of investigation of land cover/use changes indicate that over the twenty-five years considered, the main type of land use remained agriculture. The major changes observed were the increase in cropland and shrubland areas at the expense of the open grazing and woodland areas. This has implications on runoff generation, erosion, flooding and sedimentation problems. The results of the rill erosion survey indicate that, assuming a 30% contribution from inter-rill erosion, the rate of soil loss was around 37 t/ha/year, exceeding the rate with which soils could be formed in the area. The people of the study area are, therefore, facing problems of poverty and resource degradation, which require prudently composed solutions that integrate development and conservation measures. The newly introduced SWC measures have generally obtained acceptance by the local farmers. They were widely acknowledged as being effective measures in arresting soil erosion and as having the potential to improve land productivity. Still, their sustainable adoption and widespread replication by the farmers seem less likely. The major factors discouraging the farmers from adopting the introduced SWC technologies on their farms were found to be labour shortage, land tenure uncertainty and problem of fitness of the technologies to the farmers¿ requirements and the farming system circumstances. The last was partly a reflection of the problem in the approach followed in the planning and implementation of the technologies. Though it was claimed that participatory procedures were followed, facts on the ground did not seem to support this. The study concludes by suggesting some measures that should be taken to enhance adoption and widespread replication of the conservation technologies by the farmers and ensure sustainable land use in the area.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationAddis Ababa
Number of pages65
Publication statusPublished - 2003

Publication series

NameSocial Science Research Report Series

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