Contour furrows for in situ soil and water conservation, Tigray, Northern Ethiopia uri icon

abstract

  • In Tigray (Northern Ethiopia), soil moisture has been identified as the most limiting factor in agricultural production; on the other hand, loss of rain water through runoff as well as the induced soil loss has been determined as a critical problem in the region in the last two to three decades. To alleviate the above paradox, the government has mobilized communities and resources for the construction of physical soil and water conservation structures (stone bunds, terraces) in almost all land uses. However, yield improvement was mainly concentrated within the vicinity of the structures and runoff continued to overtop the structures, as no measures for in situ soil conservation were taken. The terwah system, consisting of traditional ploughing followed by making every 1.5-2 m contour furrows, and permanent raised beds with contour furrows at 60-70 cm interval treatments, were considered and evaluated as practices that could increase the efficiency of in situ water utilization and soil conservation. An experiment was started in Gum Selasa, which is one of the drought prone areas in Tigray, whereby runoff volume and sediment load were measured after every rain event. Permanent raised beds with contour furrows at 60-70 cm interval significantly (P < 0.05) reduced runoff volume, runoff coefficient and soil loss as compared to traditional ploughing: 255, 381 and 653 m(3) ha(-1) runoff was recorded from permanent bed, terwah and traditional ploughing, respectively during the whole cropping season. The above runoff induced 4.7 t ha(-1) soil loss from permanent bed, 7.6 t ha(-1) from terwah and 19.5 t ha(-1) from traditional ploughing. Overall, contour furrows and permanent raised beds can be part of the ongoing intensification process which includes physical soil and water conservation, slope reforestation, irrigation development and agro forestry in crop lands. Moreover, the use of permanent raised beds if combined with crop mulching and crop diversification is an important component for the development of sustainable conservation agriculture practices in the region. (C) 2008 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

publication date

  • 2009
  • 2009