Conservation and production impacts of soil and water conservation practices under different socio-economic and biophysical setting: a review


  • Amsalu Tilahun Jimma University
  • Fenet Belay Jimma University



conservation, physical soil and water conservation, production, runoff, soil erosion


In Ethiopia, the increase in land degradation mainly in the form of soil erosion necessitates implementation of soil and water conservation (SWC) practices. So far impact evaluation studies are scattered and not comprehensive. In this paper detailed quantitative review of impact of SWC practices under different climate and socio-economic setting were done on runoff, soil loss, siltation, soil fertility and crop yield. Up to 1980s, expert and government considered reduction of soil loss and runoff as big achievement. This was not in line with the interest of subsistence farmers who need short term benefit. The reduction of soil loss, runoff and siltation of reservoirs are positively acknowledged by majority researchers and have several beneficial effects: increase soil moisture content, groundwater recharge, increased in situ sediment deposition, making the hill slope suitable for agriculture and reduce siltation. Regarding production objective, SWC practices have mixed impact (positive and negative) on crop yield and soil fertility. In this review it was found that 62.5% of the reviewed materials revealed that SWC measures have positive impact on soil fertility either in increasing or maintaining. In contrast, 25% showed SWC treated areas had lower soil fertility than untreated and 12.5% showed no significant change in soil fertility. In summary, the impact of SWC practices especially on soil fertility and crop yield varies depending on soil erosion degree before SWC implemented, design of SWC measures, crops, plows, socio-economic, soils types and climate mainly rainfall. The review in detail discussed why SWC practices have variation in impact on soil fertility and crop yield. Finally SWC practices are an action of no option for sustainable development and food security under current soil erosion and climate change.

Author Biography

Amsalu Tilahun, Jimma University

Lecturer and researcher at Jimma University


Abay, C., Abdu, A. and Tefera, M. 2016. Effects of graded stone bunds on selected soil properties in the central highlands of Ethiopia. International Journal of Natural Resource Ecology and Management 1(2): 42-50.

Adimassu, Z., Mekonnen, K., Yirga, C. and Kessler, A. 2012. The effect of soil bunds on runoff, losses of soil and nutrients, and crop yield in the central highlands of Ethiopia. Land Degradation & Development. DOI: 10.1002/ ldr.2182.

Ahuja, L.R., Ma, L. and Timlin, D.J. 2006. Transdisciplinary soil physics research critical to synthesis and modeling of agricultural systems. Soil Science Society of America Journal 70: 311–326.

Alemayehu, M., Yohannes, F. and Dubale, P. 2006. Effect of indigenous stone bunding (kab) on crop yield at Mesobitâ€Gedeba, North Shoa, Ethiopia. Land Degradation & Development 17(1): pp.45-54.

Amdemariam, T., Selassie, Y.G., Haile, M. and Yamoh, C. 2011. Effect of soil and water conservation practices on selected soil physical and chemical properties and barley (Hordeum spp.) yield. Journal of Environmental Science and Engineering 5:1483-1495.

Annandale, G.W. 1987. Reservoir Sedimentation. Developments in Water Science (Vol.29). Amsterdam: Elsevier.

Ayalew, A. 2011. Construction of soil conservation structures for improvement of crops and soil productivity in the Southern Ethiopia. Journal of Environment and Earth Science 1: 21-29.

Bedadi, B. 1997. Soil productivity evaluation under different soil conservation practices in the harerge highlands of Ethiopia. Thesis submitted to the Department of Soil Science, University of Nairobi, in partial fulfilment of the requirements of the degree of Master of Science in Soil Science.

Bewket, W. 2007. Soil and water conservation intervention with conventional technologies in northwestern highlands of Ethiopia: Acceptance and adoption by farmers. Land Use Policy 24:404-416.

Brady, N.C. and Weil, R.R. 2002. Phosphorus and Potassium. The Nature and Properties of Soils. Prentice-Hall of India, Delhi, 352.

Campbell, J. 1991. Land or peasants? The dilemma confronting Ethiopian resource conservation. African Affairs 9:5-21.

Dano, M. and Siapno, E. 1992. The effectiveness of soil conservation structures in steep cultivated mountain regions of the Philippines. Erosion, debris flows and environment in mountain regions. Proceedings of the Chengdu Symposium. IAHS Publ, 209, 399–405.

Dejene, A. 1990. Environment, Famine, and Politics in Ethiopia: A View from the Village. Lynne Rienner Publishers.

Dejene, A. 2003. Integrated natural resources management to enhance food security. The case for community-based approaches in Ethiopia. Environment and natural resources working paper, (16).

Desalegn, R. 2001. The Landscape of Development: A complex Reality.†Keynote Address. In Food Security through Sustainable Land Use: Population, Environment and Rural Development Issues for Sustainable Livelihoods in Ethiopia,

Desta G., Poesen, J., Nyssen, J., Deckers, J., Mitiku, H., Govers, G. and Moeyersons, J. 2005. Effectiveness of stone bunds in controlling soil erosion on cropland in the Tigray highlands, Northern Ethiopia. Soil Use & Management 21(3):287-297.

Elias, E. 2003. Environmental roles of agriculture in Ethiopia. Environment_EthiopiaNA.pdf

Emiru, W. 2009. Hydrological Responses to Land cover changes in Gilgel Abay Catchment, Ethiopia. Master of Science.

Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) (2011). Environmental Policy of Ethiopia. Web. 5 Dec. 2011.

German, L., Mansoor, H., Alemu, G., Mazengia, W., Amede, T. and Stroud, A. 2007. Participatory integrated watershed management: Evolution of concepts and methods in an ecoregional program of the eastern African highlands. Agricultural Systems 94(2): 189-204.

Getnet, M. 2014. Effect of soil conservation measures on some physico-chemical properties of soil and crop yield in simada district, south gondar zone, Ethiopia. Doctoral Dissertation, School of Natural Resource and Environmental Engineering, Haramaya University.

Gilligan, D.O. and Hoddinott, J. 2007. Is there persistence in the impact of emergency food aid? Evidence on consumption, food security, and assets in rural Ethiopia. American Journal of Agricultural Economics 89(2): 225-242.

Girmay, G., Singh, B.R., Mitiku, H., Borresen, T. and Lal, R. 2008. Carbon stocks in Ethiopian soils in relation to land use and soil management. Land Degradation & Development 19(4): 351-367.

Hadush, M. 2014. The role of watershed approach in adaption to climate variability and change: the case of mariamshewito watershed in adwa wereda, northern Ethiopia: PhD Thesis; Addis Ababa University School of graduate studies

Hailu, W., Moges, A. and Yimer, F. 2012. The effects of ‘fanyajuu’soil conservation structure on selected soil physical & chemical properties: the case of Goromti watershed, western Ethiopia. Resources and Environment 2(4): 132-140.

Haregeweyn, N., Poesen, J., Nyssen, J., De Wit, J., Haile, M., Govers, G. and Deckers, S. 2006. Reservoirs in Tigray (Northern Ethiopia): Characteristics and Sediment Deposition Problems. Land Degradation & Development 17: 211–230.

Herweg, K. and Ludi E. 1999. The performance of selected soil and water conservation practices case studies from Ethiopia and Eritrea. Catena 36: 99–114.

Hurni, H, 1993. Land Degradation, Famines and Resource Scenarios in Ethiopia. In: Pimentel (ed.) World soil erosion and conservation. Cambridge University Press, pp 27-62.

Hurni, H. 1988. Principles of soil conservation for cultivated land. Soil Technology 1(2):1001-116.

Kassie, M. and Holden, T.S. 2006. Parametric and non-parametric estimation of soil conservation adoption impact on yield. Contributed paper prepared for presentation at the International Association of Agricultural Economists Conference, Gold Coast, Australia, August 12-18, 2006.

Kassie, M., Pender, J., Yesuf, M., Kohlin, G., Bluffstone, R. and Mulugeta, E. 2007. Impact of soil conservation on crop production in the Northern Ethiopian Highlands. Intl Food Policy Res Inst.

Kruger, H.J., Berhanu, F., Gebere, M.Y. and Kejela, K. 1996. Inventory of indigenous soil and water conservation measures on selected sites in Ethiopian Highlands. Soil Conservation Research Report 34. Centre for Development and Environment (CDE), University of Bern, Switzerland

Lal, R. 2004. Soil carbon sequestration impacts on global climate change and food security. Science 304: 5677.

Masresha, B. 2014. Evaluation of Soil and Water Conservation Measures in Dejiel Watersheds, Choke Mountains, East Gojjam Zone of Amhara Region, Ethiopia. PhD Thesis; Addis Ababa University School of Graduate Studies

Mekonen, K. and Tesfahunegn, G.B. 2011. Impact assessment of soil and water conservation measures at Medego watershed in Tigray, northern Ethiopia. Maejo International Journal of Science and Technology 5(3):312-330.

Mesifin, A. 2004. The effect of different soil conservation structure on some properties of soil and crop yield Dolecha woreda Silte zone SNNPR, An M.Sc. Thesis submitted to Alemaya University.

Mihrete, G. 2014. Effect of Soil Conservation Structures on some Physico-Chemical properties of Soil and Crop Yield in Simada District, South Gonder Zone, M.Sc. Thesis. School of Graduate Studies, Haramaya University, Ethiopia.

Morris, G. L. and Fan, J. 1998. Reservoir sedimentation handbook: design and management of dams, reservoirs, and watersheds for sustainable use (Vol. 9). New York: McGraw-Hill.

MoWRE. 1999. Ethiopian water resources management policy. Ministry of Water and Energy (MoWE) of Ethiopia, Addis Ababa

Mulat, Y. 2013. Indigenous knowledge practices in soil conservation at Konso people, Southwestern Ethiopia. Journal of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences 2(2): 1-10.

Ndorimana, M.L., Nindamutsa, M.A., Saad, S.A.F., Chane, B., Eldaw, A.K., Fadul, H. and Naggar, O.M. 2005 Group III Watershed Erosion and Sediment Transport.

Negusse, T., Yazew, E. and Tadesse, N. 2013. Quantification of the impact of integrated soil and water conservation measures on groundwater availability in Mendae Catchment, Abraha We-Atsebaha, eastern Tigray, Ethiopia. Momona Ethiopian Journal of Science 5(2): 117-136.

Nyangena, W. and Köhlin, G. 2009. Estimating returns to soil and water conservation investments-an application to crop yield in Kenya.

Nyssen, J., Clymans, W., Descheemaeker, K., Poesen, J., Vandecasteele, I., Vanmaercke, M. and Walraevens, K. 2010. Impact of soil and water conservation measures on catchment hydrological response – A case in North Ethiopia. Hydrological Processes 24: 1880–1895.

Nyssen, J., Descheemaeker, K., Nigussie H., Mitiku, H., Deckers J. and Poesen J. 2007. Lessons learnt from 10 years research on soil erosion and soil and water conservation in Tigray, Tigray Livelihood Papers No. 7

Olarinde, L., Oduol, J.B., Binam, J.N., Diagne, A., Njuki, J. and Adekunle, A.A. 2011. Impact of the adoption of soil and water conservation practices on crop production: Baseline Evidence of the Sub Saharan Africa Challenge Programme. Middle-East Journal of Scientific Research 9(1): 28-40.

Shahis, M.M.A. 1993. An overview of reservoir sedimentation in some African river basins. In Sediment problems: strategies for monitoring, prediction and control. Proceedings of the Yokohama symposium, pp. 93-100.

Shiferaw, B. and Holden, S.T. 1999. Soil erosion and smallholders' conservation decisions in the highlands of Ethiopia. World Development 27(4):739-752.

Shimeles, D. 2012. Effectiveness of soil and water conservation measures for land restoration in the Wello area, northern Ethiopian highlands: Ecology and Development Series No. 89.

Slegers, M.F. 2008. If only it would rain: Farmers’ perceptions of rainfall and drought in semi-arid central Tanzania. Journal of Arid Environments 72(11): 2106-2123.

Sutcliffe J.P. 1993. Economic assessment of land degradation in the Ethiopian Highlands. A Case Study. National Conservation Strategy Secretariat, Ministry of Planning and Economic Development. Addis Ababa, Ethiopia: Transitional Government of Ethiopia.

Taye, G., Poesen, J., Vanwesemael, B., Vanmaercke, M., Teka, D., Deckers, J., Goosse, T., Maetens, W., Nyssen, J., Hallet, V. and Haregeweyn, N. 2014. Effectiveness of soil and water conservation structures in reducing runoff and soil loss for different land use and slope gradients: Case study from northern Ethiopia. In EGU General Assembly Conference Abstracts (Vol. 16).

Tugizimana, J. 2015. Effects of soil and water conservation techniques on soil productivity and bean grain yield in Nyamasheke District, Rwanda. Doctoral Dissertation, School of Agriculture and Enterprise Development, Kenyatta University.

Vancampenhout, K., Nyssen, J., Gebremichael, D., Deckers, J., Poesen, J., Haile, M. and Moeyersons, J. 2006. Stone bunds for soil conservation in the northern Ethiopian highlands: Impacts on soil fertility and crop yield. Soil and Tillage Research 90(1): 1-15.

Wagayehu, B. 2003. Economics of Soil and Water Conservation. Theory and empirical application to subsistence farming in the Eastern Ethiopia highlands: PhD Thesis; Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences.

Wogayehu. B. and Lars, D. 2003. Soil and water conservation decision of subsistence farmers in the Eastern highlands of Ethiopia: a case study of the Hunde-Lafto. Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Wolka, K., Moges, A. and Yimer, F. 2013. Farmers’ perception of the effects of soil and water conservation structures on crop production: The case of Bokole watershed, Southern Ethiopia. African Journal of Environmental Science and Technology 7(11): 990-1000.

World Bank. 2011. World development report: conflict, security and development. Cited 08 Aug 2011 Organization site








How to Cite

Tilahun, A., & Belay, F. (2019). Conservation and production impacts of soil and water conservation practices under different socio-economic and biophysical setting: a review. Journal of Degraded and Mining Lands Management, 6(2), 1653–1666.



Research Article