Transforming land degradation into sources of feed and water through cut-and-carry systems.
Photo: ILRI

11.06.2013

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Improving watershed conservation and household food security has been one of the major development challenges in the semi-arid areas of northern Ethiopia. The initial survey by ILRI’s Improving Productivity and Marketing Success project has revealed that physical conservation measures alone do not result in higher farmers’ income. However, the introduction of market-oriented commodity development such as beekeeping, sheep-fattening, and high value crops resulted in farmers’ income rising fivefold from 2005 to 2009.

Rainfed dependent crop-livestock mixed farming has been a common practice in the drylands of Atsbi-Womberta district of northern Ethiopia, where rainfall is extremely variable. With increasing population pressure, the cultivation of crops and farming expanded to hilly sites unsuitable for cultivation of crops. The cutting and use of trees for wood, fuel and other purposes reduces the vegetation cover substantially. The reduced vegetation cover resulted in severe erosion in the hilly sites and the burial of fertile bottomlands by infertile gravels from the upper hilly sites. In aggregate, these developments ultimately led to land degradation and many food insecure households in the Barka-Birki watersheds, Atsbi-Womberta district of northern Ethiopia.

Reversing watershed degradation and food insecurity has been one of the major development challenges in the semi-arid areas of northern Ethiopia. As an entry point, the government of Ethiopia launched and mobilised community based physical soil and water conservation at village and watershed levels.

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