Over the last four decades, the government of Ethiopia and various a consortium of donors have been promoting different land management (LM) practices in the highlands of Ethiopia to halt land degradation. However, the adoption rate of these practices has been low. This is because investments in LM practices are influenced by various institutional, socio-economic and bio-physical factors. The main objective of this research is to investigate the impact of these different factors on investments in LM in the north-western Ethiopian highlands. It focuses on the drivers of the different stages of adoption, on profitability of LM practices, and on land quality, land fragmentation, tenure arrangements and social capital.
We examined the drivers of the different stages of adoption of soil and water conservation (SWC) practices using an ordered probit model. The results indicate that adoption of soil and water conservation (SWC) passes through four major phases: non-adoption/dis-adoption, initial adoption, actual adoption and final adoption. Some socio-economic and institutional factors have a different effect on the respective SWC adoption phases. Final adoption depends mostly on profitability, land-related factors, social capital and perception of erosion problems.
We also investigated the effectiveness and profitability of three SWC practices (stone bunds, soil bunds and Fanya juu bunds) using the Universal Soil Loss Equation (USLE) and Cost Benefit Analysis (CBA). The results show that SWC practices are effective in controlling soil erosion, though the profitability of these SWC methods is dependent on the site where they are used. Fanya juu and stone bunds are generally profitable under standard conditions (e.g. medium slope and average soil quality and labour costs). However, the study also shows that different underlying assumptions change the CBA results considerably and consequently also change the conclusions regarding circumstances under which SWC measures are or are not profitable.
Besides, we assessed farmers’ perceptions about land quality, land fragmentation and tenure systems and their influence on interrelated LM (Bunds, Compost/Manure and Fertilizer) investments using a multivariate probit (MPV) model. The study shows that investments in LM practices are interdependent. For example, compost/manure and fertiliser substitute each other to a certain extent (often not used together, or used interchangeably by farmers) in the farming system of the study areas. Land quality (e.g. slope and soil fertility status), land fragmentation (parcel size and distance of parcel from homestead) and tenure arrangements influence farmers’ investments in LM practices.
In addition, the relationship between the different dimensions of social capital and investments in LM practices was explored. The results show that the different dimensions of social capital affect LM practices differently. In particular, the cooperation and trust dimensions of social capital are associated with the intensity of investment in SWC bunds and fertiliser use. The extent of participation in formal institutions has a positive effect on the use of fertiliser and compost.
Furthermore, we evaluated different SWC practices using Multi-Criteria Analysis (MCA) to assess their ecological, economic and social impacts. The study reveals that MCA is an effective evaluation tool that can take into account non- monetary and less quantifiable effects of SWC measures, which is not possible with Cost Benefit Analysis. The results of the analysis indicate that farmers have a range of criteria to evaluate the performance of SWC measures. The relative importance of each criterion in the selection of SWC alternatives depends to a large extent on slope categories.
For enhancing the adoption and impacts of land management, there is a need to increase knowledge about location specific viable LM practices, to promote collective action at watershed level, to pay more attention to farmers’ preferences and to improve the capacity and capability of farmers.