Journal of Arid Land

Article Title

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


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 low-rainfall 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.


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

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