Eastern Africa Social Science Research Review

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The Need for a Participatory Approach to Soil andWater Conservation (SWC) in the Ethiopian Highlands:A Case Study in Chemoga Watershed, East Gojjam

Woldeamlak Bewket


Soil erosion by water constitutes a threat even to maintain the subsistence livelihood of the rural population of Ethiopia. Past efforts of SWC, and environmental rehabilitation in general, did not bring about significant results, mainly because of the top-down approach pursued. Currently, replacing this approach with a participatory approach is strongly recommended. The latter approach is also endorsed in the environmental policy document of the country. Nevertheless, it is not seen being put into practice. This paper analyses farmers' participation in SWC works that were underway in 1999/2000 in Chemoga watershed, East Gojjam Zone, Amhara Regional State. Formal household survey, informal and focus group discussions and field observations were used to generate the data. The results indicate that the majority of the farmers participated in the SWC against their will. The most important factor discouraging them from participation was a perceived ineffectiveness of the structures under construction. Awareness of soil erosion as a problem, labour shortage, and land tenure insecurity were found to be less important to provide explanation to the disinterest shown by most of the farmers towards the SWC activities. Therefore, the important factors that need immediate consideration for SWC endeavours in the study watershed or the Region at large are: SWC structures which have to be carefully designed and constructed taking into account the realities on the ground; ground participation of the farmers has to be out of their own conviction through a demonstrated effectiveness and efficiency of the technologies. Alternative SWC technologies will have to be considered in this regard.

Eastern Africa Social Science Research Review (EASSRR) Vol. XVII No. 2 June 2001, pp. 43-68

AJOL African Journals Online