Sunday, August 27, 2017

When watershed management changes life : the example of Abraha Atsbeha watershed

During the last workshop in Northern Ethiopia, we also made a half day field visit to the Abraha Atsbeha watershed, a few kilometers away from Wucro, in Tigray Ethiopia.

It is one of the classical northern Ethiopia success story of watershed rehabilitation. More than 25 years ago, farmers were poor, and regularly had full crop failure or because of drought or because of flooding.

About 20 years ago the community started rehabilitate their area. They started with re-planting tree and bushed on the hills and within the delta.
infiltration pond in the forest

Today, where there used to be bare land, there is a forest. There are clear rules on who has the right to use the forest. The area where we were standing was made available for land owners, while on the other side the area was given to landless people. The forest is used in different ways : to keep bees, to feed leaves to livestock during the dry season, to collect wood and provides benefits to people.
infiltration pit

The delta is also where water used to accumulate and the lack of infiltration used to lead to devastating floods. Today, ponds and pits collected the water from the hills and let the water infiltrate slowly. No floods were experiences over the last years.
a well in the lowland of the landscape
More importantly, as a result of the water infiltration, ground water started to reappear in the lower part of the watershed. Today, farmers have shallow wells with water the whole year round. Around the shallow wells, today households have home gardens where vegetables and fruits are grown for home consumption. Home gardens have therefore a big impact on food diversity and therefore not only contribute to food security but also to improved nutrition on one of the area where people used to be malnourished.
guava orchards

Taking a second look at the landscape, one can also sees tree orchards with papaya, guava and citrus appearing that are bigger than the home gardens. Farmer have invested water and effort to grow more fruits, and some of them today make good income from selling fruits to Wurko and Mekelle.

the community leader explaining the interventions done to rehabilitate the watershed
The community leader told us that at the beginning, 25 years ago, few people thought that if was worth investing into rehabilitation, but they had nothing to loose, so they have tried, and they have won. Today, there is sufficient water the whole year round, that can insure production of high value crops such as fruits. They are proud to have made it, and are happy to show case how watershed management can change lifes.

The cropping area that used to get flooded

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