Degradation of Farmers' Plots and Indigenous Soil and Water Conservation in Western Ethiopian Agro-Ecosystems: Evidence and Lessons Learned from the Field.
Nega Emiru, Oromia Agricultural Research Institute, BARC, Bako, Ethiopia
Degradation from plots of small-scale farmers in western Ethiopian agro-ecosystems, where agriculture forms the major means of livelihood, has been a concern for many years. There exist a growing awareness that declining productivity in the past few decades induced by soil erosion and nutrient depletion, mainly from cultivated and grazing plots, due to inappropriate land uses retarded the drive towards achieving food security and eradicating poverty. Lack of alternative than agriculture worsened the situation and sustaining life has come an uphill struggle for those farmers. In response to this prevailing condition farmers, government and non-governmental organizations have been striving to address the problem. However the existing scenario the problem continues to prevail and persist in the area. Contrary to this farmers in the study area have a wealth and wide range of indigenous soil and water conservation Information and Technologies (ITs). These embrace aggregate of ITs including measures from agronomic, structural, vegetative and management categories, and/or combinations of two or more of these. However, various socio-economic, institutional, policy and environmental factors hampered the widespread use and impactfullness of these wealth of technologies. Unless vigorous attempt is made to arrest existing degradation process it will remain big challenge to achieve food security, and makes the life support system of these farmers more fragile and at the margin. In concrete terms, it deserves the commitment of farmers, politicians, technocrats and stakeholders for which their synergy could serve as inspiration to other problematic regions. Key words: indigenous knowledge, degradation, farmers' plots, land use, productivity loss.