Participatory assessment of soil erosion severity and performance of mitigation measures using stakeholder workshops in Koga catchment, Ethiopia

Jemberu, Walle; Baartman, Jantiene E.M.; Fleskens, Luuk; Ritsema, Coen J.


Farmers possess a wealth of knowledge regarding soil erosion and soil and water conservation (SWC), and there is a great demand to access it. However, there has been little effort to systematically document farmers' experiences and perceptions of SWC measures. Sustainable Land Management (SLM) has largely evolved through local traditional practices rather than adoption based on scientific evidence. This research aimed to assess soil erosion and performance of different SWC measures from the farmers' perspective by documenting their perceptions and experiences in Koga catchment, Ethiopia. To this aim, workshops were organised in three sub-catchments differing in slopes and SWC measures. Workshops included group discussions and field monitoring of erosion indicators and systematically describing the status of soil erosion, soil fertility and yield to assess the performance of SWC measures. Results show that farmers are aware of the harmful effects of ongoing soil erosion and of the impacts of mitigation measures on their farms. Sheet erosion was found to be the most widespread form of erosion while rill damage was critical on plots cultivated to cereals on steep slopes. The average rill erosion rates were 24.2 and 47.3 t/ha/y in treated and untreated farmlands, respectively. SWC reduced rill erosion on average by more than 48%. However, the impacts of SWC measures varied significantly between sub-watersheds, and farmers believed that SWC measures did not prevent erosion completely. Comparatively, graded stone-faced soil bunds revealed maximum desired impacts and were most appreciated by farmers, whereas level bunds caused water logging. Most traditional ditches were highly graded and begun incising and affected production of cereals. Despite the semi-quantitative nature of the methodology, using farmers' perceptions and experiences to document land degradation and the impacts of SWC measures is crucial as they are the daily users of the land and therefore directly affecting the success or failure of SWC measures.