Integrated Watershed Management for Rehabilitation of a Severely Degraded Watershed in the Drought-Prone Ethiopian Highlands

EPA Grant Number: U916147
Title: Integrated Watershed Management for Rehabilitation of a Severely Degraded Watershed in the Drought-Prone Ethiopian Highlands
Investigators: McHugh, Oloro V.
Institution: Cornell University
EPA Project Officer: Packard, Benjamin H
Project Period: January 1, 2003 through January 1, 2006
Project Amount: $145,344
RFA: STAR Graduate Fellowships (2003) Recipients Lists
Research Category: Academic Fellowships , Engineering and Environmental Chemistry , Fellowship - Agricultural Engineering


Better land and water management are critical to improvement of human well being in the drought-prone Ethiopian highlands. High-population pressure, highly variable and unreliable rainfall, and steep topography have accelerated the process of land degradation in the largely unprotected watersheds of northern Ethiopia. Rapid deterioration in land quality has reduced the already insufficient food production of the region. As a pilot project, an integrated watershed management (IWM) approach is tested to rehabilitate the Lenche Dima watershed in Amhara State, Ethiopia. The major characteristics of the IWM approach are involvement of those most affected by the decisions (i.e., the stakeholders) in all phases of the development of their watershed, holistic planning, which addresses issues that extend across subject disciplines (biophysical, social, and economic), institutional divisions, and political boundaries. As part of the IWM process, the community in Lenche Dima has decided, among other things, to close parts of the hillsides from grazing, to implement physical and biological soil and water conservation measures on the crop and grazing lands, and to plant trees on the hillsides and hill crests. The objective of this research project is to monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of the IWM approach in rehabilitating the Lenche Dima watershed and in improving human food and water security.


Effectiveness of the approach is assessed in terms of hydrologic impacts; changes in soil erosion rates, land and water productivity, and land cover/land use; and the level of community participation and local sustainability of the process. The hydrologic assessment applies a water-accounting approach to determine total utilized water for each sector (ecological, agricultural, industrial, domestic) and total available uncommitted water resources in the watershed. Baseline hydrologic conditions before implementation of the IWM activities are compared to postproject conditions. Water balance models such as Soil Moisture Routing and the Soil Water Assessment Tool will be adapted to predict hydrologic response under different scenarios for future land management planning. The land degradation study assesses past, current, and postproject land condition. Satellite images from current and past years are analyzed to determine changes in land cover/land use and to assess erosion rates. Ground data are compared with the remotely sensed images to improve accuracy in image interpretation. Measured sediment yields for the watershed and plot-based measurement of erosion rates for crop and grazing land provide additional information on changes in erosion rates in the watershed. Community participation in the IWM process is monitored throughout the project. A survey of stakeholders is used to gather information on individual level of involvement in the process, perspectives of the results, plans for future participation, and recommendations of changes to the process. The results of the survey give a first indication of the sustainability of the process and level of community participation. The results of the separate assessments are combined to evaluate the integrated watershed management approach and to make recommendations to local, national, and international environmental and development agencies on future use of the approach in Ethiopia and the semiarid tropics.

Supplemental Keywords:

fellowship, watershed, watershed management, integrated watershed management, Ethiopian highlands, land management, water management, land use, land cover, land degradation., RFA, Scientific Discipline, Water, Hydrology, Water & Watershed, Ecology and Ecosystems, Watersheds, urbanization, valuation of watersheds, draughts, decision making, sediment transport, agricultural watershed, arid watersheds, Ethiopia, integrated assessment, aquatic ecosystems, water quality, design criteria, ecology assessment models, public policy, water management options, land use, stakeholder feedback

Relevant Websites:

2004 STAR Graduate Fellowship Conference Poster (PDF, 1p., 261KB, about PDF)

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2003
  • 2004
  • Final