Linking Indigenous with the ‘Conventional’ Measures for Sustainable Land Management in the Highlands of Ethiopia: A case study of Digil Watershed, East Gojjam

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Addis Ababa University


This paper attempts to explore the ways of linking indigenous with ‘conventional’ measures for achieving sustainable land management in the highlands of Ethiopia in general and the northwestern highlands in particular. A representative highland watershed, the Digil Watershed of East Gijjam, was selected for the study. The watershed is typical of the highpotential, intensively cultivated, mixed farming, ox-plough cereal belt in the northwestern Ethiopian highlands. The socio-economic as well as the demographic data that have relevance to the study were collected and both the indigenous and the ‘conventional’ land management practices were explored using questionnaire surveys, focus group discussions, and key informant interview. About 60 farmers were interviewed in the selected watershed. Topsoil depth and slope data were collected from 60 randomly selected farm plots using auger and clinometer, receptively, to classify the observed plots into erosion risk classes based on a revised Treatment-Oriented Land Capability Classification Scheme. Pool of indigenous land management practices were/are practiced by farmers of the study watershed. The mesures are well adapted to local conditions and widely practiced by farmers. Two types of indigenous land management practices have been observed. The household-level land management practices such as traditional ditches (feses), cropping, weed heaping, etc, which are practiced and/or managed by single household, and both protection as well as production oriented. Other indigenous land management practices such as traditional waterways, traditional cutoff drain, etc. are supra-household level (neighborhood-level and community-level) and more of protection oriented. Multi-functionality, flexibility, low external input requirement, complimentarity, compatibility to the prevailing farming system etc., are found to be the strengths of these land management practices. On the other hand, the ‘conventional’ measures that are currently introduced into the study watershed are the fanya juu bunds, checkdams, and artificial waterways among the soil conservation measures, and artificial fertilizers among the fertility enhancing measures. The soil conservation measures are found to be less flexible, space taking, and incompatible to the farming system, labour intensive and high external input dependent. Regarding, the artificial fertilizers high price, lack of credit, and untimely supply are found tobe the major constraints. Generally, in order to link these measures the factors that affect farmers’ decision to invest on land management activities as well as their decision on the choice of land management measures should be explored. From the study it has been found that farmers decision to invest on land management activities and their choice of land management mesures are affected [positively or negatively] by several factors. These include land related factors: land holding size, land fragmentation, land ownership security; size of livestock; labour availability; production assets availability etc. In addition, the merits and demerits of both [indigenous and ‘conventional’] measures should be assessed. And then, by taking a lesson from their merits, the measures can be purposefully complimented in order to meet the desired objective



Geography and Environmental Studies