Vegetated graded soil bund [Ethiopia]

Yeafer Erken (Amharic)

technologies_1601 - Ethiopia

Completeness: 82%

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 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)

Community Organizations and Mobilization for Soil and Water Conservation Work (COM-SWC)

Community Organizations and Mobilization for Soil and Water … [Ethiopia]

Community mobilization for soil and water conservation work in a watershed planning unit is an approach for collective action by organizing all active labor forces living in the kebele/peasant association into development group of 20-30 members and further divide into 1:5 work force to implement construction of soil and water …

  • Compiler: Gizaw Desta Gessesse
'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:

Vegetated graded soil bund is a soil conservation practice meant for cultivated lands and constructed by excavating graded channel on upper side and develop embankment on lower side which is planted with grass or shrub species in order to control soil erosion and drain excess runoff implemented through community mobilization.

2.2 Detailed description of the Technology


Vegetated graded soil bund is a practice or soil conservation technology for cultivated lands and constructed by excavating graded channel and form embankment. It is practiced in areas where there is excess runoff to be disposed and where there is no stones available for construction. The design specifications (ditch gradient, width and height) and layout (spacing/vertical interval) vary on the amount of excess runoff and slope of the land. Soil bund construction begins from top of the catchment. Cut off drains are constructed on top of the catchment and where needed to drain excess runoff to well stabilized natural or man-made waterways. this helps to reduce runoff impact on gullies. The bund ditch/channel should be sufficient enough to drain excess runoff safely without causing channel erosion and creating downstream damages. At same time the embankment should be stable to withstand overflows and damage due to free grazing. One technique to stabilize bunds is to plant the embankment with grass and shrub species of multiple economic value in order to compensate production area lost by bund construction. Often, the species are preferably used for livestock feed. Thus, free grazing has to be controlled. To protect damage of channels and embankments by extreme runoff and floods, frequent supervision and maintenance is required.

The purposes are:
1) Reduce nutrient loss and soil erosion by shortening the slope length,
2) Safely drain excess runoff from upstream of gully into protected waterways,
4) Produce biomass of fodder and cash values.

Vegetated graded bunds are established by doing surveying using hand level to determine the layout of the technology along the slope. During the surveying, the position of bunds (spacing) and cutoff drains and connection to waterways are determined. Bunds are laid following 0.05% gradient and up to 80 m maximum length. The specifications of the structure are: height of bund is a minimum of 60 cm after compaction; depending on the soil, base width range between 1.0 and 1.5m; top width is between 30 and 50 cm. The construction is made across different parcels owned by different land users. If there is no natural waterways and where it is appropriate, paved waterways are constructed at every 80 m or less bund length to dispose drainage water. At the beginning of the rainy season, the embankments are covered with grass and/or shrubs either by direct sowing of seeds or planting the seedlings raised in the nurseries. Monitoring of damages due to flooding and animals, maintenance of the structure as well as replanting of dead seedlings on bunds is required to sustain the soil conservation technology.

The technology is appropriately applied in high rainfall and sub-humid areas of the sub-tropics, particularly where the soil is moderately deep and poorly drained. It is constructed on cultivated lands having slopes in the range of 3-15%. The practice can be constructed by land users. It also requires collective decision and actions to drain excess runoff through waterways. 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 (ANRS)

Further specification of location:

Mecha, Bahirdar Zuria and Yilmana Densa


Total area covered by the SLM Technology is 20 km2.
The technology is applied on specific conditions within the watersheds or area of adoption

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.):

The soil bunds are introduced before 30-40 years, however the integration of structural and combination of vegetative measures are applied in three years period in the WLRC learning watersheds.

3. Classification of the SLM Technology

3.1 Main purpose(s) of the Technology

  • reduce, prevent, restore land degradation

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



  • Annual cropping
  • Perennial (non-woody) cropping
  • Tree and shrub cropping
  • Rhamnus, Napier grass
  • Cordia Africana, Polycantha, Sesbania Susban, Pigeon pea, Treelucer
Number of growing seasons per year:
  • 1

Longest growing period in days: 210, Longest growing period from month to month: June-December; Second longest growing period in days: 180, Second longest growing period from month to month: June-November

Grazing land

Grazing land

  • free grazing

Major land use problems (compiler’s opinion): Land degradation due to sheet erosion, rills and gullies, soil nutrient depletion, overgrazing, shortage of fuel wood, excessive removal of crop residuals, loss of vegetation and deforestation
Major land use problems (land users’ perception): Soil erosion, soil nutrient depletion, shortage of pasture

3.4 Water supply

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

3.5 SLM group to which the Technology belongs

  • cross-slope measure

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

Type of vegetative measures: aligned: -graded strips

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
water degradation

water degradation

  • Hs: change in quantity of surface water

Main causes of degradation: soil management (High tillage frequency on annual basis and steep slope cultivation), crop management (annual, perennial, tree/shrub) (The cropping system is cereal based that induce erosion), overgrazing (Livestock graze on crop residues after harvesting of crops), Heavy / extreme rainfall (intensity/amounts) (Extreme rainfall cause for high erosion), other natural causes (avalanches, volcanic eruptions, mud flows, highly susceptible natural resources, extreme topography, etc.) specify (Steep slopes or rugged topography), population pressure (Result in expansion of crop lands to steeper slopes)
Secondary causes of degradation: deforestation / removal of natural vegetation (incl. forest fires) (Deforestation of scattered trees in the farm and forests upstream of crop lands), land tenure (Insecure tenure play role not to invest on long term), poverty / wealth (Poor can not afford to invest on soil conservation on his parcel), education, access to knowledge and support services, governance / institutional

3.8 Prevention, reduction, or restoration of land degradation

Specify the goal of the Technology with regard to land degradation:
  • reduce land degradation

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

4.1 Technical drawing of the Technology

Technical specifications (related to technical drawing):

Vegetated graded soil bund showing the excavated ditch or channel and the embankment planted with grass and shrubs
Location: Amhara Region. Mecha, Yilmana Densa, Bahir Dar Zuria and Dessie Z

Technical knowledge required for field staff / advisors: high (Layout and design specification of soil bunds and cutoff drains vary on soil types, slopes, and rainfall conditions. Experts thus should acquire knowledge on specific hydrologic conditions)
Technical knowledge required for land users: moderate (Land users need skill to layout and construct bunds, monitor structures before the occurrence of excessive damage, and do regular maintenance)

Main technical functions: control of dispersed runoff: impede / retard, reduction of slope length, sediment retention / trapping, sediment harvesting, increase of biomass (quantity)
Secondary technical functions: control of dispersed runoff: retain / trap, reduction of slope angle, increase / maintain water stored in soil, increase of groundwater level / recharge of groundwater

Aligned: -graded strips
Vegetative material: T : trees / shrubs, C : perennial crops, G : grass
Number of plants per (ha): T=5333, C=160, G=1600
Vertical interval between rows / strips / blocks (m): 1-1.5
Spacing between rows / strips / blocks (m): 10-20
Vertical interval within rows / strips / blocks (m): T=0.3, C=5, G=0.5
Width within rows / strips / blocks (m): 0.3
Trees/ shrubs species: Cordia Africana, Polycantha, Sesbania Susban, Pigeon pea, Treelucer
Perennial crops species: Rhamnus
Grass species: Napier grass
Slope (which determines the spacing indicated above): 3-15%
Gradient along the rows / strips: 0.05%
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: graded
Vertical interval between structures (m): 1-1.5
Spacing between structures (m): 10-20
Depth of ditches/pits/dams (m): 0.5
Width of ditches/pits/dams (m): 0.3
Height of bunds/banks/others (m): 0.6
Width of bunds/banks/others (m): 1-1.5
Length of bunds/banks/others (m): 50-80

Construction material (earth): in-situ excavated soil
Slope (which determines the spacing indicated above): 3-15%
Lateral gradient along the structure: 0.05%
Vegetation is used for stabilisation of structures.


Bekure Melesse, WLRC, P.O.Box 8707, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

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. Preparing planting materials January-May
2. Preparation of planting materials January-May
3. Transportation of grass splits/cuttings Start of rainy season/July
4. Transporting tree seedlings Start of rain season/July
5. Planting grass splits/cuttings Start of rainy season/July
6. Sowing seeds on bunds Start of rainy season/July
7. Planting tree seedlings on bunds Starting of rainy season/July
8. Surveying (layout of structures) After crop harvest and before first tillage operation
9. Construction of cutoff drains January-April
10. Construction of bunds (ditch and embankment) January-April
11. Construction of waterways January - April

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 1107.0 1107.0 79.0
Equipment animal traction ha 1.0 4.0 4.0 100.0
Equipment tools ha 1.0 300.6 300.6 50.0
Plant material seedlings ha 1.0 32.0 32.0 100.0
Plant material seeds ha 1.0 9.0 9.0 100.0
Plant material compost manure ha 1.0 2.0 2.0 100.0
Construction material stone ha 1.0 1300.0 1300.0 100.0
Construction material wood ha 1.0 110.0 110.0 100.0
Construction material earth ha 1.0 25.2 25.2 100.0
Total costs for establishment of the Technology 2889.8
Total costs for establishment of the Technology in USD 144.49

Duration of establishment phase: 15 month(s)

4.5 Maintenance/ recurrent activities

Activity Timing/ frequency
1. Preparation of planting materials January - May
2. Transportation of seedlings July
3. Re-plantation of seedlings and grass splits July
4. Maintenance of bunds, cutoff drain and waterways January-April

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 1.0 279.0 279.0 100.0
Plant material seedlings ha 1.0 20.0 20.0 100.0
Total costs for maintenance of the Technology 299.0
Total costs for maintenance of the Technology in USD 14.95

Machinery/ tools: Cart, plastic tubes, spade, pickaxe, hand level, graduated ranging pole, spade, pickaxe, crowbar, hammer
The costs are calculated based on the labour, seedling/seed, grass splits required per hectare

4.7 Most important factors affecting the costs

Describe the most determinate factors affecting the costs:

The cost variation in implementing vegetated soil bund is dependent upon availability of stones, workability of the soil, cost of seeds or seedlings for plantation, and distance for transporting seedlings.

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:

Monsoon, 5-6 months rain and 6-7 dry months

Agro-climatic zone
  • sub-humid

Thermal climate class: subtropics. he lowest temperature is above 5oc but below 18oc etween November to January

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:
  • medium (1-3%)
  • low (<1%)

5.4 Water availability and quality

Ground water table:

5-50 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)
  • mixed (subsistence/ commercial)
Off-farm income:
  • less than 10% of all income
Relative level of wealth:
  • poor
  • average
Individuals or groups:
  • individual/ household
Level of mechanization:
  • manual work
  • animal traction
  • 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 are involved in the construction of bunds with role of collecting stones, stabilize/compact the embankments and sometimes help men in excavating the earth
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.
Off-farm income specification: Land users often do not have access to off-farm income unless those who are young and own small size of land go for seasonal labor to towns during the slack period

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
Land use rights:
  • individual
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


crop production

Comments/ specify:

Crop yield increase on sedimentation area of bunds

fodder production

Comments/ specify:

Introduction of fodder crops on bunds

fodder quality

Comments/ specify:

Introduction of high value forage crops

production area

Comments/ specify:

The area used for ditch construction can be taken as a loss of land

land management

Comments/ specify:

In slope classes where spacing is narrow farm operation will be hindered

Income and costs

farm income

Comments/ specify:

Increase in income due to yield increase and fodder production

Socio-cultural impacts

community institutions

Comments/ specify:

Watershed users committee established to regulate the development

SLM/ land degradation knowledge

Comments/ specify:

Field staffs and land users aware of erosion and soil conservation

conflict mitigation


contribution to human well-being

Comments/ specify:

The technology aim to reduce the soil loss and improving the soil moisture to produce crops. On the other hand, the fodder production on bunds increase livestock productivity. Through improving crop and livestock productivity the livelihood of the watershed people is improved in long terms.

Ecological impacts

Water cycle/ runoff

water quantity

Comments/ specify:

Overall effect of bunds show increase in surface water downstreams

surface runoff

Comments/ specify:

reduction of concentrated runoff


soil moisture

Comments/ specify:

Increase the rate of infiltration

soil loss

Comments/ specify:

Soil loss is reduced by breaking the slope length

6.2 Off-site impacts the Technology has shown

reliable and stable stream flows in dry season

Comments/ specify:

In good drainage soils it increases infiltrated water and interflows

downstream flooding

Comments/ specify:

Since it helps to reduce concentration of runoff it contributes to reduce flooding

downstream siltation

Comments/ specify:

The main function of bunds is to reduce soil loss

damage on neighbours' fields

Comments/ specify:

All fields are treated with integrated bund, cutoff drain and waterways

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
Hydrological disasters
How does the Technology cope with it?
general (river) flood not well

The technology has sufficient drainage ditch to tolerate excess runoff occurred during heavy rainfall events. However, it is sensitive to floods unless flood management measures such as strong cutoff drains and waterways are implemented

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


The short term economic benefits of the technology includes increase in fodder production and slightly crop productivity due to improved soil moisture. Whereas the long term benefit can be obtained as a result of increased yield on areas where sediment accumulation occurs as well as production of fodder on soil bunds for livestock feed

6.5 Adoption of the Technology


The technology is implemented using community mobilization approach which involves all land users. All land users, who cultivate land in areas where bunds are suitable, implemented the technology. All parcels are covered with the technology/bunds except homesteads and degraded hillsides and gullies which are treated with different SLM technologies
Since the approach encourages collective action (through community organizations) to integrate different SLM technologies in the watershed level, there is no attempt by individual land users. However, there are motivations and implementation of land users on adjacent watersheds to implement the technology.
There is a moderate trend towards spontaneous adoption of the Technology
The trend is at increasing rate although land users need material support such as multipurpose seedlings to stabilize bunds. There is shortage of supply of fodder seeds. Community nurseries are inadequate and not well supported to raise seedlings to meet community demands.

6.7 Strengths/ advantages/ opportunities of the Technology

Strengths/ advantages/ opportunities in the land user’s view
Increase in fodder production for livestock feed
Reduce conflict among adjacent land users (i.e., upstream and downstream land users) that arise due to concentrated runoff
Reduce soil erosion
Strengths/ advantages/ opportunities in the compiler’s or other key resource person’s view
The technology reduces soil loss and associated nutrient loss significantly in the first 3 to 4 years and further reduce siltation of reservoirs and land degradation
Increase the soil moisture in the landscape/watershed
Improves the greenness, soil carbon and micro-climate
Increase level of awareness of land users to produce fodder and diversify production and income
Reduce the concentration of runoff and safely drain without causing damage

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?
Hinder farm operations like turning oxen become difficult while ploughing It can be sustained through proper layout and allow space for human and animal paths
Plantation on bunds harbor birds This can be avoided by harvesting the mature branches of the shrubs for livestock feed on seasonal basis.
Appearance of new weeds species along the drainage ditches Regular weed monitoring and manual control
Hinders livestock to graze on crop residues Try to use cut and carry grazing system (both crop residues and fodders) and develop forage development strategies in every possible niches
Weaknesses/ disadvantages/ risks in the compiler’s or other key resource person’s view How can they be overcome?
High labor requirement to establish and maintain the technology Increase the awareness level of land users and strength collective actions and local organizational setups
Small land loss for construction Introduce production options (like fodder production) on bunds to compensate the lost land
It requires some years to accumulate sediment on bund area and form bench It can be improved by modifying the design of drainage ditchs

7. References and links

7.1 Methods/ sources of information

  • field visits, field surveys
  • interviews with land users
When were the data compiled (in the field)?


7.2 References to available publications

Title, author, year, ISBN:

Vegetated Graded Soil Bund: A Technique to Reduce Runoff Impact and Increase Soil Moisture Storage and Fodder Biomass, WLRC Brief No. 4

Available from where? Costs?

Links and modules

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