Hillside Terracing [Ethiopia]

Yegara irken (Amharic), Kenetawi metrebawi zala (Tigrigna)

technologies_1388 - Ethiopia

Completeness: 63%

1. General information

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

Key resource person(s)

SLM specialist:
Name of the institution(s) which facilitated the documentation/ evaluation of the Technology (if relevant)
CDE Centre for Development and Environment (CDE Centre for Development and Environment) - Switzerland

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:


2. Description of the SLM Technology

2.1 Short description of the Technology

Definition of the Technology:

A hillside terrace is a structure along the contour, where a strip of land is levelled for tree planting.

2.2 Detailed description of the Technology


Hillside terraces are up to 1 metre wide and constructed at about 2-5 m vertical inteals. Hillside terraces should only be applied if there is a strong necessity of erosion control and/or water conservation justifying their construction. In Ethiopia and Eritrea, they have been mainly applied in the highlands, although the area of their applicability would be rather in the drier and lower lying agroclimatic zones. Slope range is 50-100%, soil range particularly on eavily degraded land. Hillside terraces are mainly used to prevent damage of flooding the area below steep slopes.

Hillside terraces help retain runoff and sediment on steep sloping land and to accommodate tree seedlings to be planted on them. They are also effective on badlands and in areas with low rainfall to conserve water. Hillside terraces are usually combined with area closure (against grazing). Little materials are needed for their construction: Line levels, digging instruments, stones, and other materials as needed for combined measures. Little management is needed for their maintenance, except for taking care of the tees planted, and for correcting damage that may be caused by livestock grazing.

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:

Harerge, Shewa, Wello, Tigray, Gonder, Sidamo, and Hamasien (Eritrea)

Specify the spread of the Technology:
  • evenly spread over an area
If precise area is not known, indicate approximate area covered:
  • 1,000-10,000 km2

Total area covered by the SLM Technology is 1800 km2.

2.6 Date of implementation

If precise year is not known, indicate approximate date:
  • more than 50 years ago (traditional)

2.7 Introduction of the Technology

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

Originated from engineering handbooks and Indian experience. Has been applied in Eritrea & Ethiopia since ~1978

3. Classification of the SLM Technology

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



  • Tree and shrub cropping
  • Eucalyptus, Cupressus, Juniperus
Grazing land

Grazing land

Forest/ woodlands

Forest/ woodlands

Products and services:
  • Fuelwood
  • Other forest products
  • Grazing/ browsing
  • Nature conservation/ protection

Major land use problems (compiler’s opinion): High run-on from steep slopes onto cultivated land. Sheet and rill erosion from slopes, and subsequent gullying on cultivated land along footslopes. Lack of grass and woody biomass.
Major land use problems (land users’ perception): Lack of grazing for livestock. Lack of cultivation land. General food deficiency.
Grazingland comments: Insuffient land at curent population density and low productive farming systems.
Problems / comments regarding forest use: Almost the natural forest is not exist. Low growing condition.
Type of grazing system comments: Insuffient land at curent population density and low productive farming systems.
Constraints of wilderness: these are mainly badlands which are totally degraded

3.3 Has land use changed due to the implementation of the Technology?

Has land use changed due to the implementation of the Technology?
  • Yes (Please fill out the questions below with regard to the land use before implementation of the Technology)
Grazing land

Grazing land

Intensive grazing/ fodder production:
  • Cut-and-carry/ zero grazing

3.4 Water supply

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

Water supply: Also full irrigation

3.5 SLM group to which the Technology belongs

  • cross-slope measure

3.6 SLM measures comprising the Technology

structural measures

structural measures

  • S1: Terraces

Main measures: structural measures

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
  • Wg: gully erosion/ gullying

Main type of degradation addressed: Wt: loss of topsoil / surface erosion

Secondary types of degradation addressed: Wg: gully erosion / gullying

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

4.1 Technical drawing of the Technology

Technical specifications (related to technical drawing):

Hillside terrace cross-section. Linied out along the contour, vertical interval between two terraces 2-5 m. (In: Soil Conservation in Ethiopia. CFSCDD, 1986)

Technical knowledge required for field staff / advisors: moderate

Technical knowledge required for land users: low

Main technical functions: reduction of slope angle, increase of infiltration, water harvesting / increase water supply

Secondary technical functions: reduction of slope length, improvement of ground cover, increase of surface roughness, increase / maintain water stored in soil

Trees/ shrubs species: Eucalyptus, Cupressus, Juniperus

Construction material (stone): Cut and fill with stone wall in front

Lateral gradient along the structure: 0%

For water harvesting: the ratio between the area where the harvested water is applied and the total area from which water is collected is: 1:10

Change of land use type: closed area

Other type of management: livestock management - prevention of grazing, cut and ary system


Joerg Wetzel, SCRP

4.2 General information regarding the calculation of inputs and costs

other/ national currency (specify):

Ethiopan Birr

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. Transplanting beginning of rainy season
2. Seeding nurseries
3. Construction dry season
4. Planting beginning of rainy season
5. Community guarding of closed areas annual

4.4 Costs and inputs needed for establishment


Duration of establishment phase: 12 month(s)

4.5 Maintenance/ recurrent activities

Activity Timing/ frequency
1. Weeding rainy season /each cropping season
2. Control of grazing always/annual
3. Care taking of seedlings rainy season/each cropping season
4. communty guarding of closed areas continuos / annual

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


Length of structure on an average slope

4.7 Most important factors affecting the costs

Describe the most determinate factors affecting the costs:

Slope, soil condition, length of terrace per hectare.

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
Specifications/ comments on rainfall:

Annual rainfall: Also 1000-1500 mm

Agro-climatic zone
  • humid
  • sub-humid
  • semi-arid
  • arid

Semi arid: Too little rainfall

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.
Comments and further specifications on topography:

Slopes on average: Everything below 16 % is to genly sloping to be useful

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):
  • coarse/ light (sandy)
  • medium (loamy, silty)
Topsoil organic matter:
  • medium (1-3%)
  • low (<1%)

5.6 Characteristics of land users applying the Technology

Off-farm income:
  • less than 10% of all income
Relative level of wealth:
  • very poor
  • poor
Level of mechanization:
  • manual work
  • animal traction
Indicate other relevant characteristics of the land users:

Population density: 50-100 persons/km2

Annual population growth: 2% - 3%

5% of the land users are very rich and own 10% of the land.
5% of the land users are rich and own 40% of the land.
20% of the land users are average wealthy and own 30% of the land.
60% of the land users are poor and own 10% of the land.
10% of the land users are poor and own 10% of the land.

Off-farm income specification: Labour offered to projects.

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

Land ownership:
  • state
Land use rights:
  • communal (organized)
  • individual

6. Impacts and concluding statements

6.1 On-site impacts the Technology has shown

Ecological impacts

Water cycle/ runoff

surface runoff

Quantity before SLM:


Quantity after SLM:



soil loss

Quantity before SLM:


Quantity after SLM:


6.4 Cost-benefit analysis

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


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

6.5 Adoption of the Technology

If available, quantify (no. of households and/ or area covered):


Of all those who have adopted the Technology, how many did so spontaneously, i.e. without receiving any material incentives/ payments?
  • 0-10%

80% of land user families have adopted the Technology with external material support

30000 land user families have adopted the Technology with external material support

Comments on acceptance with external material support: estimates

2% of land user families have adopted the Technology without any external material support

600 land user families have adopted the Technology without any external material support

Comments on spontaneous adoption: estimates

There is a little trend towards spontaneous adoption of the Technology

Comments on adoption trend: Very recently, some villages have begun to see the value of hillside terracing, afforestations and area closure if they are given full responsibility to manage the area by a group of land users.

7. References and links

7.1 Methods/ sources of information

7.2 References to available publications

Title, author, year, ISBN:

Hurni H. : Soil Conservation in Ethiopia. Guidelines for Development Agents.. 1986.

Available from where? Costs?

SCRP Addis Abeba

Links and modules

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