Title: Socioeconomic constraints affecting the implementation of land rehabilitation programs in the highlands of Ethiopia. A case study of Abba Gerima and Debre Yakob Learning Watersheds

Final project
Year of publication:
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Supervisors: Björn H. Barkarson
socioeconomic constraints, watershed, land degradation, government program, learning watersheds


Subsistence agriculture is the main stay of Ethiopian smallholder farmers and the country’s economy at large. Land degradation and frequent drought are posing a big threat on this sector. To reverse this phenomenon, different land rehabilitation programs have been designed and implemented in the last three decades. This study evaluated the effectiveness of the interventions from the government mobilization program and the Water and Land Resource Centre (WLRC) by using the Driver-Pressure-State-Impact-Response (DPSIR) framework in two learning watersheds in the highlands of Ethiopia. The literature review and a survey undertaken among farmers and officials in the study areas indicated that the WLRC project watersheds development approach was effective in sustaining watershed development efforts through addressing the root causes of land degradation. Even though the project had limited community participation and inadequate involvement of women in decision making of benefit sharing, its activities were integrated in addressing the drivers and pressures of land degradation. Apart from soil and water conservation measures, the project introduced home garden development, technologies that increase land and labour productivity, fodder development, and the cut and carry system. This ultimately reduced the pressure on natural resources and provided an incentive for the local communities. As a result, development now better fits with the DPSIR framework.On the other hand, the government program was highly focused on addressing the symptoms of land degradation and the lack of in-depth understanding of socioeconomic constraints that are affecting the effectiveness of land rehabilitation program. The program fails to address the main drivers and pressures of land degradation. As a result, rehabilitated lands are frequently destructed by free grazing, ploughing and intensification of agriculture and forest clearing. This study identified several socioeconomic issues that should be included in the national policy of land rehabilitation. The first is the consideration of alternative livelihoods to reduce poverty and pressure on natural resources. The second is genuine participation of the communities in all processes of watershed development. The third is provision of an equal chance for both genders in the decision making of sharing benefits from the rehabilitated watersheds.


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