Terracing: Steps Forward
Planting along the Blue Nile Gorge to improve Food Security
By Amanda Troy, Intern, CPAR-Ethiopia
Much of the agricultural activity that goes on in the Gohatsion Zone of Jarso Woreda, Ethiopia (where CPAR maintains a satellite base camp) can be described as semi-pastoralist. The vast majority of farmers in this district maintain small plots of land (approximately 5 hectares per family) on which they cultivate a variety of small-scale crops and often also herd cattle, and raise sheep or goats. This region is more commonly referred to simply as The Blue Nile Gorge – Jarso Woreda is situated at the very top of the road which connects northern Oromia to the south.
For nearly the entire population of this area (over 161,000 people), food security is a very real concern. Not only do the dramatic contours of the terrain pose an extreme challenge, but persistent traditional agricultural practices (such as clearing land via slashing and burning, or turning soil by means of manual hoeing) often result in exhaustion of the soil and low overall productivity.
During the famine of the late 1980s and early 1990s, the CPAR team based in the neighboring town of Selale demonstrated an incredible ability to reach far beyond the borders of one town all the way into the lowlands of the Gorge where the team extended training on terracing. Terracing is an agricultural technique of strategically leveling arable hillside land and dividing the wide-set ridges by planting rows of shrubs or lying stone for the purpose of cultivation. It is an effective tool, utilized worldwide for improving soil conservation. Resultantly, terracing is promoted and implemented by CPAR and our program participants to this day as a means to prevent, deter, or halt erosion entirely – particularly now in the highland communities along the remote Blue Nile Gorge.
In addition to these benefits, terracing also reduces the wasting of surface runoff waters which play a crucial part in the irrigation of crops – particularly in the Blue Nile Gorge area of Ethiopia, which is prone to severe droughts.
Terracing is a prime example of how careful management of environmental resources can positively impact the capacity of rural communities to prevent and cope with natural disasters from – ranging from landslides, to droughts, to the resulting devastation of food insecurity crises and famines.
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[Blog entry originally posted on CPAR-Ethiopia blog.]