Effectiveness of terracing techniques for controlling soil erosion by water in Rwanda. uri icon

abstract

  • Despite long-standing efforts in terracing, limited field-based evidence of its effectiveness as implemented within rural farming systems of humid tropical regions, such as Rwanda, is available. This study aimed to reveal regional differences in effectiveness of two widely used terracing techniques. Traditional slope farming (NP) was compared to bench (BT) and farmers' based progressive terraces (PT) in terms of runoff, soil losses, and topsoil fertility in two contrasting agro-ecological zones, the Eastern Plateau (Murehe) and Buberuka Highlands (Tangata). During four consecutive rainy seasons, event-based data were collected using erosion plots (5 m width x 22.2 m length). Effectiveness indices of both terracing systems, as well as (R)USLE P-factor values, were calculated. The annual average soil losses under NP ranged from 4.71 +/- 5.02 ton ha(-1) to 46.01 +/- 7.28 ton ha(-1) in Murehe (14% slope gradient) and Tangata (43% slope gradient), respectively. Bench terracing clearly outperformed the farmer-based progressive terrace at both locations, leading to negligible soil losses. In terms of runoff reduction, an effectiveness of 70 and 85% respectively, was observed at Murehe and Tangata. The effectiveness of PT reached 52% for runoff control and 93% for soil loss control at Tangata, thereby confirming its huge potential as erosion control measure, even in mountainous areas. In the hilly landscape of Murehe, the runoff generated by PT - in some years can exceed that under traditional farming, while the measure reduced soil losses by half on average. Associated USLE P-factors varied between seasons with an annual average values of 0.001-0.02 for BT, and 0.07 to 0.55 for PT at Tangata and Murehe, respectively. These variations in performance by site and terracing system also resulted in differences in topsoil chemical fertility, with BT generally outperforming both PT and NP at Tangata. At Murehe, PT showed a significantly lower chemical fertility compared to BT and NP. Poor quality risers explained the overall lower performance of PT at Murehe. The study thus confirmed the huge potential of (bench) terraces to sustainably reduce soil erosion rates when established within an integrated approach, paying attention to correct installation and fertility-supporting agronomic practices. More attention should be given to riser installation (e.g. distance) and maintenance of PT. Adoption of these erosion control measures can be recommended to similar agro-ecological zones for sustainably protecting the lands while mitigating or adapting the effects of climate change.

publication date

  • 2021
  • 2021