Ethiopia: Managing watershed for sustainable usage of natural resources

November 16, 2018 Africa , Environment , Opinion , OPINION/NEWS , OTHER

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Abebe Wolde Giorgis



A rain-fed and subsistence agriculture is the main stay of Ethiopia’s economy, which heavily relies on the inclement weather and unpredictable climates. Hence, to sustain the sector preserving water resources through watershed management, soil and water conservation and terracing are the priority agendas of the Ethiopian government. To that end, it mobilizes financial resources from partners and donor countries.


Conserving water resources not only serves for boosting farming productivity but also for generating hydroelectric power, which supports the nation’s ambition to transfer the agricultural led economy into the industrial base with the expansion of the manufacturing industry.


Currently the Ministry of Water, Irrigation and Energy is working on the watershed management in various parts of the country. The Melka Wakena watershed management site found in the Arsi Bali massive is one of them.


Ato Dejene Legesse is working in the Meleka Wakena project as coordinator. According to him the project has been implemented for the last three years and encouraging results have been scored.


The practices have enabled the country to reduce the amount of salt which goes to the Melka Wakena hydro power dam and for this the role of the surrounding farmers’ soil and water conservation work is immense.


It should be noticed that the provision of lesson to farmers regarding how to keep the area from land degradation and erosion through water and soil conservation works could bring attitudinal changes necessary to protect the dam.


It is obvious that in many developing countries the uneconomical usage on natural resources underpinned by over-farming and overgrazing cause a disastrous impact on the livelihood of farmers. Erosion washes top soil away as a result, land becomes degraded, productivity of land also declines, consequently farmers’ income is reduced; this way poverty aggravates.


It is true that the project would not only be confined to the depletion of natural resources and dependency on the vagaries of nature but also farmers’ uncertainty.


The project comprises the areas around western Arsi state in seven zones and creates employment opportunities for about 800 youths.


The participation of other stakeholders including non-governmental organizations could strengthen the efforts. Following up and inspection also can be taken as an asset for spurring the execution of the project.


In general watershed management is one aspect of preservation of natural resources. However, as mentioned above the rural population earns its living from primary economic activities such as subsistence farming. The population boom from time to time causes land fragmentation.


Farmers share parts of their farmland to their school dropout children. This is because dropouts do not opt to go to urban centers as opportunity in search of jobs due to high uncertainty there. Hence, the only chance left to them is to stay in their parents’ home to follow their parents’ economic engagement. Therefore, ploughing small plots of land further aggravates soil erosion and land degradation which in turn further worsens their livelihood.


The other thing which causes land degradation and destabilizes the ecosystem is the utilization of bio mass energy for household purposes. The supply of modern electricity in rural parts is very minimal. As a result, they are used to clear forest lands to meet their energy needs.


In addition to these, the shortage of farmland due to population pressure forces people to aggrandize forest territories, all these aggravating the situation.


The government aspires to build a climate-resilient economy and to let the country join the level of middle income countries by 2025. It has been taking various measures.


Rural electrification through supplying energy from off the grid is part of the endeavor. Currently, various government and non-governmental organizations are engaged in this scheme, farmers having become familiar with this technology. The provision of an energy-saving stove has also taken place. According to the Ministry of Environment, such practice could play a crucial role in reducing the amount of carbon emitted to the atmosphere. It is also reported that infants’ mortality rate due to respiratory problems due to home pollution is on the decline.


On the other hand, in order to reduce excess labor engaged in subsistence farming, establishing new manufacturing industries in urban vicinities is going on. In years to come the rural labor could be absorbed by such industries.


Attaining middle income status, without changing the demographic landscape is impossible.


To summarise, the current watershed management and the preservation of natural resources end result should go in line with building an environment-friendly climate resilient green economy.





Abebe Wolde Giorgis

Abebe Wolde Giorgis was born in Harar, Ethiopia. He has a S.A from Addis Ababa University in English Language and Literature, Minor History.

For 17 years he has been a Journalist in local and International Media, Amharic and also an English Newspaper.He wrote several articles on environment and economics.

Member of Environment journalist association, he was deputy editor in chief of an Amharic Newspaper and Senior Editor of the Ethiopian Herald.

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