Area closure on degraded lands [Ethiopia]

Yetrakot Meret mekelel (Amharic)

technologies_1598 - Ethiopia

Completeness: 82%

1. معلومات عامة

1.2 Contact details of resource persons and institutions involved in the assessment and documentation of the Technology

Key resource person(s)

SLM specialist:
SLM specialist:

Bekure Melese



Name of project which facilitated the documentation/ evaluation of the Technology (if relevant)
Water and Land Resource Centre Project (WLRC)

1.3 Conditions regarding the use of data documented through WOCAT

The compiler and key resource person(s) accept the conditions regarding the use of data documented through WOCAT:


1.4 Declaration on sustainability of the described Technology

Is the Technology described here problematic with regard to land degradation, so that it cannot be declared a sustainable land management technology?


1.5 Reference to Questionnaire(s) on SLM Approaches (documented using WOCAT)

'Cut and Carry' Grazing system or 'Zero Grazing' (CCG)

'Cut and Carry' Grazing system or 'Zero Grazing' … [Ethiopia]

Cut and carry grazing system (alternatively called zero grazing) is an approach where the community is consulted to identify and agree on areas to be closed and protected from free grazing; establish user groups are established to share the fodder biomass harvested from communal closed areas equitably; they utilize tree/shrub …

  • Compiler: Gizaw Desta Gessesse

2. Description of the SLM Technology

2.1 Short description of the Technology

Definition of the Technology:

Area closure on degraded lands is a land management practice used to rehabilitate and conserve the natural resource bases, and enhance its natural regeneration and restoring capacity and productive functions by excluding animal and human interferences through community consultation and collective actions.

2.2 Detailed description of the Technology


Area closure is a land management practice that helps to rehabilitate degraded lands, restore the biophysical conditions like soil, vegetation and hydrology by avoiding the interference of animals and human. Because of over grazing and erosion impact, areas delineated for closure are usually degraded shrub or pasture lands that served for grazing. First of all, implementing area closure requires continuous dialogue and discussion with community to reach consensus to close. The community wants to make sure they have benefited from the technology as the land was serving for grazing. They should take the responsibility and create sense of ownership to implement conservation measures, protect and maintain closure areas, and regulate utilization of benefits gained out of it. Questions raised from the community must be discussed thoroughly ahead of the implementation. What part of the degraded land? For what purpose the area is closed? Who are the users? Who are responsible to protect and manage the developed resourcess? How is the benefit sharing among identified users? Commonly, the shared benefits from area closures are hay for livestock through cut-and-carry system, timbers from plantations, and honey production.
Depending on the soil, rainfall and slope conditions different structural and vegetative measures are integrated to enhance the fast regeneration of plant species, restore the soil and increase water availability. It includes enrichment used to rehabilitate and increase the vegetation cover, vegetative and structural measures to retain the soil and water on its place. Structures such as hillside terrace often integrated with grass or shrub hedgerows is used to control soil erosion. In-situ water harvesting structures such as trenches or half moon or eye brow are used to harvest and infiltrate rain or runoff water to increase regeneration and survival of planted trees. Trees and/or shrub species that have high rehabilitation and multipurpose values are used as enrichment plantations. Closed areas need collective action to protect, maintain and manage the common resources. Collective user rights have to be entitled to bring equity on resource sharing and minimize social conflicts.

The purposes of area closure are: 1) rehabilitate degraded lands, 2) protect and restore the natural resource base, and 3) change into productive land and enhance economic and environmental functions of rehabilitated lands.

Implementation of area closure begins with the selection and demarcation of area through genuine participation of land users. After identifying the area to be closed, at establishment stage construction of ditches and terraces is made using stones combined with grasses or shrubs of multipurpose value such as Vetiver grass, Dinsho grass, Bana grass, susbania, etc. Depending on site conditions, enrichment tree species which have rehabilitation and soil restoration purposes are planted in the form of wood lot or scattered tree plantation. Among the common species, A. albida, A. saligna, A. decurrense, Gravilia robusta, etc. are used to rehabilitate and serve as fuel wood and timber. In moisture stress areas structures like trench, level bunds, and half moon should be constructed to increase survival rate of planted tree/shrub species whereas in areas having sufficient moisture these structures, depending on the landforms and soil drainage conditions, help to increase infiltration and recharging of ground water in downstream areas. Therefore, site selection and demarcation, construction of soil conservation and moisture conservation structures, and seedling management and plantation of multipurpose trees, shrubs and grasses are the activities accomplished at establishment stage of area closure. The required inputs are stones, seeds/seedlings, grass cuttings/splits, hand tools, and collective labor. For recurrent maintenance activities, seedlings and cuttings for re-plantation purpose or replace dead seedlings, stones to repair damage stone terraces and moisture conservation structures. Harvesting and transporting of area closure products such as grass and timber become a recurrent activity. Person days per hectare per year required for plantation (preparation of holes and planting) is 11.5, for harvesting and transporting harvested grass is 30, and for terrace construction is 26.5.

Area closure management is commonly practiced on degraded hills where soil is highly depleted, its water holding capacity is low, and vegetation is denuded. Usually degraded lands are used to serve for communal grazing system. The degree of land degradation becomes severe where there are high livestock and human population pressure. Management of closure area and the benefit sharing has to be regulated using agreed bylaws.

The living condition depends on subsistence crop-livestock mixed farming. On average households have 5-6 family size. Crop production is meant for home consumption with small surplus for local market. The services related to water supply, energy supply, and infrastructure are low. Besides it is an asset, animals often used to cope shocks during drought periods.

2.3 Photos of the Technology

2.5 Country/ region/ locations where the Technology has been applied and which are covered by this assessment



Region/ State/ Province:

Amhara National Regional State

Further specification of location:

Mecha / Yilmana Densa / Bahir Dar Zuria

Specify the spread of the Technology:
  • evenly spread over an area
If precise area is not known, indicate approximate area covered:
  • 1-10 km2

2.6 Date of implementation

If precise year is not known, indicate approximate date:
  • less than 10 years ago (recently)

2.7 Introduction of the Technology

Specify how the Technology was introduced:
  • through projects/ external interventions
Comments (type of project, etc.):

Area closure as an integrated SLM technology is practiced in recent years. However, the land users have their own traditional practice by closing grass lands or shrub lands during the rainy season.

3. Classification of the SLM Technology

3.1 Main purpose(s) of the Technology

  • conserve ecosystem

3.2 Current land use type(s) where the Technology is applied

Land use mixed within the same land unit:


Specify mixed land use (crops/ grazing/ trees):
  • Agro-pastoralism (incl. integrated crop-livestock)

الأراضي الزراعية

الأراضي الزراعية

  • Perennial (non-woody) cropping
  • Tree and shrub cropping
  • Vetiver grass, Dinsho grass, Bana grass, susbania
  • A. albida, A. saligna, A. decurrense, Gravilia robusta, napier
Number of growing seasons per year:
  • 1

Longest growing period in days: 220, Longest growing period from month to month: May to December; Second longest growing period in days: 180, Second longest growing period from month to month: June to November

أراضي الرعي

أراضي الرعي

Extensive grazing:
  • Semi-nomadic pastoralism
Intensive grazing/ fodder production:
  • Cut-and-carry/ zero grazing
Forest/ woodlands

Forest/ woodlands

Products and services:
  • Timber
  • Fuelwood
  • Grazing/ browsing

Livestock density (if relevant):
> 100 LU /km2

Major land use problems (compiler’s opinion): Land degradation due to different forms of soil erosion and nutrient depletion, excess removal of crop residues, excessive overgrazing, shortage of pasture lands and its low productivity, excessive and inappropriate construction of traditional ditches, and increased demand of trees for the purpose of fuel wood and timber.
Major land use problems (land users’ perception): Soil erosion and soil nutrient depletion, shortage of cultivated land, shortage of grazing land and wood for fuel wood

3.4 Water supply

Water supply for the land on which the Technology is applied:
  • rainfed

3.5 SLM group to which the Technology belongs

  • area closure (stop use, support restoration)

3.6 SLM measures comprising the Technology

vegetative measures

vegetative measures

  • V1: Tree and shrub cover
  • V2: Grasses and perennial herbaceous plants
structural measures

structural measures

  • S2: Bunds, banks
  • S3: Graded ditches, channels, waterways
  • S4: Level ditches, pits
management measures

management measures

  • M1: Change of land use type
  • M2: Change of management/ intensity level

Type of vegetative measures: aligned: -contour, scattered / dispersed, in blocks

3.7 Main types of land degradation addressed by the Technology

soil erosion by water

soil erosion by water

  • Wt: loss of topsoil/ surface erosion
  • Wo: offsite degradation effects
chemical soil deterioration

chemical soil deterioration

  • Cn: fertility decline and reduced organic matter content (not caused by erosion)
biological degradation

biological degradation

  • Bc: reduction of vegetation cover
  • Bh: loss of habitats

Main causes of degradation: deforestation / removal of natural vegetation (incl. forest fires), overgrazing, population pressure, governance / institutional
Secondary causes of degradation: soil management, over-exploitation of vegetation for domestic use, Heavy / extreme rainfall (intensity/amounts), land tenure, education, access to knowledge and support services

3.8 Prevention, reduction, or restoration of land degradation

Specify the goal of the Technology with regard to land degradation:
  • reduce land degradation
  • restore/ rehabilitate severely degraded land

4. Technical specifications, implementation activities, inputs, and costs

4.1 Technical drawing of the Technology

Technical specifications (related to technical drawing):

Integrated practices of area closure including hillside bunds, trenches, micro-basins, and trees/shrubs
Location: Debre Yacob Learning Watershed. Mecha/West Gojam/Amhara
Date: 2014-5-23

Technical knowledge required for field staff / advisors: moderate (Field staffs need to acquire technical knowledge on how to integrate different practices and strategies depending on the conditions and degree of degradation.)
Technical knowledge required for land users: low (Land users require low knowledge. Once they implement practices in the closure area, they are able to coordinate and respect the bylaws and equitable distribution of benefits.)

Main technical functions: control of raindrop splash, control of dispersed runoff: retain / trap, control of concentrated runoff: impede / retard, improvement of ground cover, increase of biomass (quantity)
Secondary technical functions: control of concentrated runoff: drain / divert, improvement of topsoil structure (compaction), increase in organic matter, increase / maintain water stored in soil

Aligned: -contour
Vegetative material: T : trees / shrubs, G : grass
Number of plants per (ha): 4000-6000
Spacing between rows / strips / blocks (m): 5
Vertical interval within rows / strips / blocks (m): 0.5-1.0
Width within rows / strips / blocks (m): 0.5

Scattered / dispersed
Vegetative material: T : trees / shrubs
Number of plants per (ha): 160

In blocks
Vegetative material: T : trees / shrubs
Spacing between rows / strips / blocks (m): 2
Vertical interval within rows / strips / blocks (m): 2

Trees/ shrubs species: Gravilia, Susbania, Acacia decurrence
Grass species: Napier
Slope (which determines the spacing indicated above): 20-30%
Gradient along the rows / strips: 0.5%

Diversion ditch/ drainage
Depth of ditches/pits/dams (m): 0.3-0.7
Width of ditches/pits/dams (m): 1.2-2.8
Length of ditches/pits/dams (m): 100-250

Depth of ditches/pits/dams (m): 0.3
Width of ditches/pits/dams (m): 1.5-2.0

Bund/ bank: level
Spacing between structures (m): 5
Height of bunds/banks/others (m): 0.5
Width of bunds/banks/others (m): 1-1.5

Slope (which determines the spacing indicated above): 15-35%
Vegetation is used for stabilisation of structures.

Change of land use type: Initially, the land is highly degraded and waste land. After an increase in vegetation cover and biomass, its use is thus changed from waste/shrub land/open grazing to cut-and-carry grazing system
Change of land use practices / intensity level: The land use management is changed from open access /communal grazing or shrub land to regulated or organized form of land use management


Bekure Melese, WLRC

4.2 General information regarding the calculation of inputs and costs

other/ national currency (specify):


If relevant, indicate exchange rate from USD to local currency (e.g. 1 USD = 79.9 Brazilian Real): 1 USD =:


Indicate average wage cost of hired labour per day:


4.3 Establishment activities

Activity Timing (season)
1. Preparation of seedlings March-May
2. Transporting seedlings July
3. Transporting grass splits July
4. Sowing seeds on bunds July
5. Planting of trees and shrubs July
6. Planting of grass splits or cuttings July
7. Construction of bunds or terraces February-April
8. Construction of cutoff drains and ditches Fegruary-April
9. Construction of waterways February-April
10. Surveying or layout of structures January-March
11. Consultation of the community
12. Establish bylaws to control free grazing
13. Establish user groups and arrange equitable benefit sharing

4.4 Costs and inputs needed for establishment

Specify input Unit Quantity Costs per Unit Total costs per input % of costs borne by land users
Labour labour ha 1,0 1766,0 1766,0 80,0
Equipment tools ha 1,0 300,6 300,6 50,0
Plant material seedlings ha 1,0 405,6 405,6 100,0
Plant material seeds ha 1,0 20,0 20,0 100,0
Construction material stone ha 1,0 1300,0 1300,0 100,0
Total costs for establishment of the Technology 3792,2
Total costs for establishment of the Technology in USD 189,61

Duration of establishment phase: 15 month(s)

4.5 Maintenance/ recurrent activities

Activity Timing/ frequency
1. Preparation of seedlings March-May
2. Seedling transportation July
3. Grass split transportation July
4. Planting seedlings July
5. Planting grass splits July
6. Maintenance of bunds / cutoff drains
7. Enforcing bylaws Throught the year
8. Benefit sharing among user groups Throughout the year

4.6 Costs and inputs needed for maintenance/ recurrent activities (per year)

Specify input Unit Quantity Costs per Unit Total costs per input % of costs borne by land users
Labour labour ha 1,0 624,0 624,0 29,0
Plant material seedlings ha 1,0 250,0 250,0 100,0
Total costs for maintenance of the Technology 874,0
Total costs for maintenance of the Technology in USD 43,7

Machinery/ tools: Spade, pickaxe, crowbar,

4.7 Most important factors affecting the costs

Describe the most determinate factors affecting the costs:

The costs of area closure affected by the labour availability, regeneration capacity of trees on the degraded lands

5. Natural and human environment

5.1 Climate

Annual rainfall
  • < 250 mm
  • 251-500 mm
  • 501-750 mm
  • 751-1,000 mm
  • 1,001-1,500 mm
  • 1,501-2,000 mm
  • 2,001-3,000 mm
  • 3,001-4,000 mm
  • > 4,000 mm
Agro-climatic zone
  • sub-humid

Thermal climate class: subtropics

5.2 Topography

Slopes on average:
  • flat (0-2%)
  • gentle (3-5%)
  • moderate (6-10%)
  • rolling (11-15%)
  • hilly (16-30%)
  • steep (31-60%)
  • very steep (>60%)
  • plateau/plains
  • ridges
  • mountain slopes
  • hill slopes
  • footslopes
  • valley floors
Altitudinal zone:
  • 0-100 m a.s.l.
  • 101-500 m a.s.l.
  • 501-1,000 m a.s.l.
  • 1,001-1,500 m a.s.l.
  • 1,501-2,000 m a.s.l.
  • 2,001-2,500 m a.s.l.
  • 2,501-3,000 m a.s.l.
  • 3,001-4,000 m a.s.l.
  • > 4,000 m a.s.l.

5.3 Soils

Soil depth on average:
  • very shallow (0-20 cm)
  • shallow (21-50 cm)
  • moderately deep (51-80 cm)
  • deep (81-120 cm)
  • very deep (> 120 cm)
Soil texture (topsoil):
  • medium (loamy, silty)
  • fine/ heavy (clay)
Topsoil organic matter:
  • low (<1%)

5.4 Water availability and quality

Ground water table:

> 50 m

Availability of surface water:


Water quality (untreated):

poor drinking water (treatment required)

5.5 Biodiversity

Species diversity:
  • low

5.6 Characteristics of land users applying the Technology

Market orientation of production system:
  • subsistence (self-supply)
Off-farm income:
  • less than 10% of all income
Relative level of wealth:
  • poor
  • average
Individuals or groups:
  • groups/ community
  • women
  • men
Indicate other relevant characteristics of the land users:

Land users applying the Technology are mainly common / average land users
Difference in the involvement of women and men: Women has their own role in the establishment of the rea closure by collecting stones, support construction and planting activities. In addition they will harvest and transport fodder for livestock
Population density: 200-500 persons/km2
Annual population growth: 2% - 3%
80% of the land users are average wealthy.
20% of the land users are poor.

5.7 Average area of land used by land users applying the Technology

  • < 0.5 ha
  • 0.5-1 ha
  • 1-2 ha
  • 2-5 ha
  • 5-15 ha
  • 15-50 ha
  • 50-100 ha
  • 100-500 ha
  • 500-1,000 ha
  • 1,000-10,000 ha
  • > 10,000 ha
Is this considered small-, medium- or large-scale (referring to local context)?
  • small-scale

5.8 Land ownership, land use rights, and water use rights

Land ownership:
  • state
Water use rights:
  • open access (unorganized)
  • communal (organized)

5.9 Access to services and infrastructure

  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
technical assistance:
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
employment (e.g. off-farm):
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
roads and transport:
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
drinking water and sanitation:
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
financial services:
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good

6. Impacts and concluding statements

6.1 On-site impacts the Technology has shown

Socio-economic impacts


fodder production

Comments/ specify:

Mainly serve for grass harvest

animal production

Comments/ specify:

Cut and carry improve the production

production area

Comments/ specify:

By improving the land use management, production area for pasture increased

Income and costs

diversity of income sources

Comments/ specify:

People try to diverse apiculture production in closed areas


Comments/ specify:

Labor requirement to harvest and transport fodder and pasture increase

Socio-cultural impacts

community institutions

Comments/ specify:

Establishment of user groups and watershed users association

SLM/ land degradation knowledge

Comments/ specify:

Increase the level of awareness that area closure can shortly reverse land degradation

conflict mitigation

Comments/ specify:

Reduce conflict arise due to pasture shortage

situation of socially and economically disadvantaged groups

Comments/ specify:

Some rural unemployed youths get employed in apiculture production and fruit production

contribution to human well-being

Comments/ specify:

The livestock production is moderately improved due to increase in biomass/ pasture harvest

Ecological impacts

Water cycle/ runoff

water quantity


surface runoff


groundwater table/ aquifer


soil moisture


soil cover


soil loss

Biodiversity: vegetation, animals

biomass/ above ground C


plant diversity


habitat diversity

Climate and disaster risk reduction

fire risk


6.2 Off-site impacts the Technology has shown

reliable and stable stream flows in dry season

Quantity before SLM:

End of Nov

Quantity after SLM:


Comments/ specify:

Because of high vegetation cover, the recharrging capacity improved resulting in prolonging the stream flow/baseflow

downstream flooding


downstream siltation


6.3 Exposure and sensitivity of the Technology to gradual climate change and climate-related extremes/ disasters (as perceived by land users)

Climate-related extremes (disasters)

Meteorological disasters
How does the Technology cope with it?
local rainstorm well
Climatological disasters
How does the Technology cope with it?
drought well
Hydrological disasters
How does the Technology cope with it?
general (river) flood not well

6.4 Cost-benefit analysis

How do the benefits compare with the establishment costs (from land users’ perspective)?
Short-term returns:

slightly positive

Long-term returns:


How do the benefits compare with the maintenance/ recurrent costs (from land users' perspective)?
Short-term returns:


Long-term returns:

very positive


Short term economic benefits can be attained by harvesting forage biomass for livestock while in the long term downstream agricultural productivity can be improved as they witnessed the change in stream flows to be used for irrigation. This is very much pronounced in Aba Gerima watershed where farmers in the downstream get to access more water.

6.5 Adoption of the Technology


The technology is implemented in group or at community level.
The spontaneous adoption of this technology is possible without integrating plantations of improved trees/shrubs and grasses
There is a moderate trend towards spontaneous adoption of the Technology
Adoption to area closure is increasing as it provides better pasture for livestock and benefit those who do not have power or for poor community groups

6.7 Strengths/ advantages/ opportunities of the Technology

Strengths/ advantages/ opportunities in the land user’s view
Increase in vegetation cover and biomass production for livestock feed
Increase the duration and flow of streams
Decrease erosion
Decrease transmission of animal disease often a problem during open grazing system
Strengths/ advantages/ opportunities in the compiler’s or other key resource person’s view
Increase the fodder and grass biomass production for livestock feed
Increase the regeneration of lost plant diversities
Create alternative livelihood options (off farm activities like honey production, timber, tree or fodder seed production)
Enhance the micro-climatic conditions and on-site vegetation cover, organic matter, and soil water holding capacity. In addition it improves off-site surface and subsurface water flows

6.8 Weaknesses/ disadvantages/ risks of the Technology and ways of overcoming them

Weaknesses/ disadvantages/ risks in the land user’s view How can they be overcome?
Land users' perceived that implementation of the technology decreases open access to communal pasture lands to maximize their benefit Awareness creation activities has to be provided
Shortage of labor to harvest and transport forages to feed animals Cost effective technologies to prepare feed, handle and transport forage has to be introduced and adopted. It can be overcomed by organizing service provider groups.
The amount of pasture/fodder produced and shared among users is much less than the feed requirement of all animals hold by a household Introduce fodder species producing high biomass and high quality fodder; decrease livestock number per household.
Weaknesses/ disadvantages/ risks in the compiler’s or other key resource person’s view How can they be overcome?
Labor constraint for cut-and -carry for stall feeding It can be sustained through organizing service providers groups
Stall feeding restricted the cross breeding of animals in the village easily accessible during open grazing Artificial insemination and bull services and synchronization breeding system has to be promoted

7. References and links

7.1 Methods/ sources of information

  • field visits, field surveys
  • interviews with land users

7.2 References to available publications

Title, author, year, ISBN:

Sustaining the win-win benefits of improved grazing land management in EthiopiaPost written by Wolde Mekuria, WLE. March 30, 2015

Available from where? Costs?

WLE post

Title, author, year, ISBN:

Title, author, year, ISBN:

Vegetation Improvement in Communal Closed Areas in Tigray, Ethiopia.Sarah Tewolde-Berhan 1,4, Ralph Mitlöhner 2, Bart Muys3 , and Mitiku Haile 4

Title, author, year, ISBN:

Natural Regeneration Practice in Degraded High Lands of Ethiopia Through Area Enclosure Wondie Mebrat, Department of Biology, Adigrat University, Adigrat, Tigray, Ethiopia, 2015

Title, author, year, ISBN:

Area Closure: Rehabilitation of Degraded Lands and Grasslands and its Multiple Benefits. WLRC Brief No. 2. June 2015

Available from where? Costs?

Links and modules

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