|‘Watershed management’ initiatives undertaken by Self Help’s staff in Ethiopia to rehabilitate land, are beginning to transform the local landscape and have a positive impact on the lives of nearby communities.|
The sites, which had become degraded as a result of woodland clearance, overgrazing and other pressures were the target of a broad programme of activities effected by local villagers, following consultation, sensitisation and training provided by programme staff.
In the Fendisha area of Self Help’s Alemaya II project a severely eroded gulley and more than 60 hectares of land was rehabilitated – with a range of soil conservation measures being put into place including the construction of check dams, soil bunds, and an extensive planting programme undertaken.
A total of 50,000 seedlings were provided by the project for the work, which saw acacia saligna, saspania saspan, pigeon pea, gravilia, elephant grass, Rhodes grass and vetiver all being planted in the eroded area, while fruit trees including guava and papaya seedlings were also distributed.
The gulley area, which the run off of torrential seasonal rains had cut through the landscape were also the subject of other direct rehabilitative measures, with two large dam walls and associated constructions being built by villagers with materials and technical support from Self Help staff.
These have had the result of trapping water within the gulley area, and at the same time retaining silt and soil, and reinstating soil within a ravine that in many areas had reached bed-rock.
‘In a situation like this you must first get the water to slow down – from a run to a walk, and then try to get it to stand-still, so that the soil can be replenished, and the water can seep into the ground and thus bring up the water-table in the area’, explains Kebede Gudissa, Self Help’s natural resource officer in Alemaya II.
‘Land and soil are the base for development for the people in this region. If it becomes barren and degraded they have little chance’, he added.
A community based management committee has been elected to oversee the area being rehabilitated.
Water from the dammed area has become available to local farmers to irrigate their adjoining fields, while tests carried out in the water table show that ground water is now being found at a level of 10-15 metres below ground – as compared to a depth of over 30 metres, which it had fallen to prior to the watershed management project.
The project organises farmers into irrigation co-ops, so that water pumps can be provided to different groups, and a farmers association can be developed for the purpose of marketing and distribution of surplus produce.
Meanwhile, in an associated activity over 40 families in the Fendisha area have been supported with loans and with training to begin new income generating activities. Under this scheme six local women have used loans to purchase goats for fattening, while others have become involved in vegetable production and other activities.
As well as having two goats, widowed mother of eight Amena Aimar has become involved in sorghum and vegetable production, after receiving training and seed stock from the Self Help project.