Understanding the spontaneous spreading of stone bunds in Ethiopia: Implications for sustainable land management

Meskerem Abi*, Aad Kessler, Peter Oosterveer, Degefa Tolossa

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


This study deals with the spontaneous spreading of stone bunds in the central Ethiopian highlands, i.e., the adoption and implementation of stone bunds by farmers on their own initiative. The study tests the hypothesis that spontaneously implemented stone bunds, as compared to stone bunds implemented by mass mobilization campaigns, are more integrated with other land management practices and lead to higher yields. Data are collected in the Girar Jarso woreda through field observations and household surveys. Descriptive statistics are used to analyze and test the data at 1% and 5% probability levels. Results show that stone bunds are spontaneously implemented mainly on farmlands located nearby the homesteads where farmers perceive severe erosion, poor soil fertility and steep slope gradients. Compared to stone bunds implemented by mass mobilization, spontaneously implemented stone bunds are perceived as better maintained, more frequently modified to fit the farming system and better integrated with soil fertility management practices, such as applying fertilizer, compost and manure. Particularly, this better integration with other practices is very important, because it makes stone bunds more effective in reducing erosion, leading to beneficial effects on soil moisture and soil productivity, as perceived by farmers. The study, therefore, suggests that the mass mobilization campaign should use a more participatory and integrated approach, in which there is ample space for awareness raising and learning concerning the benefits of integrated farm management, and in which farmers themselves have a leading role in the decision on where to construct stone bunds. Such a strategy will lead to more sustainable impact on soil fertility and food security than the current top-down intervention approach.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2666
JournalSustainability (Switzerland)
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 29 Jul 2018


  • Ethiopia
  • Integrated farm management
  • Mass mobilization
  • Spontaneous spreading and adoption
  • Stone bunds
  • Sustainable land management

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