16. Next-generation Sustainable Land Management Framework that integrates soil-erosion prevention work, land productivity and local communities’ livelihoods

1. Approach’s Outline and Features

This approach aims to develop a new Sustainable Land Management (SLM) framework that integrates and promotes efforts to prevent soil erosion, improve land productivity and boost the quality of life of local communities by linking research and development.

The new SLM framework comprises (i) SLM technologies to prevent soil erosion and increase land productivity and (ii) Approaches to disseminate those SLM technologies; synthesizing both for end users in the form of a policy brief or guidelines.

Creation of novel scientific value in SLM technologies: Although SLM has been widely implemented worldwide to deal with desertification, it has yet to be scientifically verified as sustainable and effective in an integrated manner. This approach has helped consolidate the scientific value of SLM technologies such as techniques to prevent soil erosion, improved feeding systems and foraging species on grazing land, income-generating activity and an innovative approach to increase farmers’ participation in SLM activities.

Development of an integrated SLM framework and upscaling through widespread extension: This approach integrated individual research results to create the Next-Generation SLM Guidelines and policy brief. It also fostered momentum for discussions on upscaling through widespread extension among stakeholders, dialog with government officials and other relevant development partners. As part of these efforts, a partnership agreement among key stakeholders with clear roles and responsibilities is being discussed and prepared for implementation.

Sustainable Land Management (SLM), Soil erosion, Land productivity, Livelihood, Evidence-based development

2. Description of the project underpinning this approach

2-1. Introduction

The degradation of natural resources (land, water and vegetation) is the biggest environmental problem in Ethiopia, with land degradation caused by water erosion the most alarming element.

Within sub-Saharan Africa, Ethiopia is considered one of the countries worst affected by land degradation, which is mainly attributable to soil erosion. Currently, around 300,000 hectares are thought to be affected each year, as well as an average 1.5 billion tons or so of soil eroded nationwide. If such huge soil losses continue unabated, the Ethiopian Highlands could lose nearly all its topsoil within a century.

Soil erosion  Blue Nile upriver region (Source: JST)

The causes are multifaceted: traditional cultivation methods, limited choice of Sustainable Land Management (SLM) technologies, historical and changing patterns of land ownership and limited investment in agriculture and animal husbandry. The degrading impact of these human-induced causes is further exacerbated by natural factors such as steep topography and erosive rainfall.

Against this backdrop, the project named “Development of a Next-Generation SLM Framework to Combat Desertification” emerged; targeting an Ethiopian SLM model expected to improve the acceptance rate and sustainability of interventions by integrating economic, social and environmental aspects.

3-2. Details of measures taken

The purpose of the research project is to propose a next-generation SLM framework comprising (i) SLM technologies to reduce soil erosion and improve land productivity, while simultaneously initiating the socioeconomic empowerment of women and youth and (ii) SLM Approaches to spread those SLM technologies with four specific outputs:

  1. A reduction in soil erosion by improving soil-erosion assessment and control methods
    • Development of (1) an affordable and accurate soil-erosion monitoring system (2) soil-erosion assessment framework and (3) soil-erosion prevention techniques
      • Experimentation on optimal bund spacing
  2. Boosting land productivity by harmonizing crop cultivation and livestock farming
    • Development of (1) comprehensive soil fertility management and retaining of reduced tillage methods on arable land, (2) improved feeding system and forage species in the grazing land and (3) land-restoration techniques for degraded hills
      • Experimentation to determine the effectiveness of soil amendments using polyacrylamide (PAM), lime; gypsum, biochar and manure
  3. Enhancement of farmers’ livelihoods by economic and social empowerment
    • Elucidation of the socioeconomic structure and the causes of poverty
    • Development of (1) income-generating activity and (2) an innovative approach to increase farmers’ participation in SLM activities
  4. Development of integrated watershed management technologies and approach
    • Development of (1) multiple future watershed development scenarios, (2) an SLM approach through establishing an Innovation Platform and (3) next-generation SLM guidelines and policy brief.
      • Modelling of the impact of watershed management practices on flow and soil erosion
      • Dissemination of effective soil amendment practice (i.e. PAM plus lime) at farmers’ field day
      • Research institutions such as Bahir Dar University and Amhara Regional Agricultural Research Institute and agricultural administration agencies like the Amhara Bureau of Agriculture have mutually agreed on the “Regional Research Based Sustainable Land Management (SLM) Partnership” to ensure the approach remains sustainable and attain the following objectives:
        1. To exchange progress and the results of research and activities to build a common understanding of key issues.
        2. To plan, review and monitor joint activities or ongoing projects/programs.
Experiment on optimal bund spacing
Runoff plots in croplands
Experiment on the effectiveness of soil amendments
C: Control; PAM: Polyacrylamide, G: Gypsum
Community-initiated Gully Management
Modelling: The impact of watershed management practices on flow and soil erosion
On-site demonstration of the effects of polyacrylamide during the farmers’ field day
(Source: Research team)

(Perspectives on sustainability)

  • Economic incentives for the community: Numerous SLM programs in Ethiopia have been implemented on the premise of free assistance from the local community, which has hampered sustainability. Conversely, the approach of this project emphasizes efforts to incentivize local communities by improving agricultural productivity and economic issues affecting the vulnerable.
  • Extension of the new SLM framework: Aiming to ensure the sustainability of diverse activities under the new SLM framework, this approach tried to mainstream the new SLM framework in Ethiopia by developing guidelines and a policy brief and coordinating with national stakeholders such as the Ministry of Agriculture and SLM national program coordinator.
  • A framework for the partnership was established between the research institution and the agricultural administration body.

3. Analysis of the approach

3-1. Impact

  • Creation of novel scientific value in SLM methodologies: Although SLM is widely implemented worldwide as a means of mitigating desertification, its effectiveness and sustainability have not been sufficiently scientifically verified. This approach has helped underpin their scientific evaluation and improvement. In particular, it has helped create novel scientific value in SLM methodologies, including improvement of the cultivation and agronomic practices of Teff crop – the main staple in Ethiopia – and improving the livelihood of inhabitants.
  • Optimal Bund spacing
    Taking the entire set of economic, environmental and social factors into consideration, a set-up of two bunds spaced 12.7-m apart within each 30-m study plot was considered optimal.
Efficiency of different soil bund-spacing treatments in terms of the percentage reduction of runoff and soil loss (Simeneh et al., 2022).
  • Effectiveness of soil amendments
    PAM plus lime improved the soil pH and aggregate stability that led to reduced runoff and soil loss and increased biomass and crop yield.
    • Amendments reduced the soil loss by 13–53%, compared to the control (Kebede et al., 2021) and improved crop yield by 19–37% (Mulualem et al., 2021).
Dairy farming in Avagarima
  • Income-generation activities
    The number of beneficiaries of dairy cows increased from eight in the previous year to 18 in Avagarima.
  • Development of an integrated SLM framework and momentum for its extension fostered: This approach integrated individual research results to create the Next-Generation SLM Guidelines and policy brief, while also fostering momentum for discussions on upscaling through widespread extension among stakeholders, through dialog with government officials and others.
    • Regional innovation platforms were developed, including on a local level, through which research results and information were shared, demonstrated and exchanged with local institutes and farmers.

3-2. Lessons learned

  • Clarifying the responsibilities of the relevant institutions and the path to social implementation (i.e. effective measures with specific conditions and measures) was crucial to develop and extend the next-generation SLM framework.
  • Regarding the existing national SLM program, it was valuable, not only to promote cooperation for the social implementation of the new SLM framework, but also to mutually consolidate such cooperation so that the results and funds of said program could be utilized in the target areas of this research project.
  • Scope to apply scientific findings to actual farming practices depends on the regional SLM-related institutes collaborating. A supportive structure of continuous cycles is needed, enhancing scientific knowledge and actual practice on the farm, with multi-level collaboration (even after the project).
  • Evidence-based SLM development and planning are essential and its framework should be developed.
  • Considerable funding is required to widely disseminate economic incentives for farmers (e.g. dairy cow/farming cooperation, etc.). Accordingly, it was important to build a mechanism to secure funds after the project is completed by reflecting research results such as economic incentives in policies based on academic values.

4. Relevant information

NbS Approach Category3-2. 16
Title of the project from which the approach is derivedDevelopment of Next-generation Sustainable Land Management (SLM) Framework to Combat Desertification
CountryFederal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia
BiomeDryland (the Upper Blue Nile River Basin)
Implementing term2016/6 – 2023/3
Implementing organizationsBahir Dar University, Tottori University, Shimane University, University of Tokyo
Supporting organizationsJapan Science and Technology Agency (JST),
Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA)
Report/Tool/GuidelineList of publications  (55 papers published as of July 2022). Project Website
Contributors to this articleTakuya Shiraishi, TEJIMA, Shigeharu/Oriental Consultants Global Co., Ltd.