Bench Terracing [Uganda]


technologies_616 - Uganda

Completeness: 90%

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:
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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?



So far, where this technology has been applied, the water runoff has been reduced and the soils have been stabilised

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

Catchment Based Integrated Water Resources Management

Catchment Based Integrated Water Resources Management [Uganda]

Catchment based integrated water resources management is a process which promotes the coordinated development and management of water, land and related resources in order to maximise economic and social welfare in an equitable manner without compromising the sustainability of vital eco systems

  • Compiler: Philip Tibenderana

2. Description of the SLM Technology

2.1 Short description of the Technology

Definition of the Technology:

A bench terrace is an artificial horizontal strip dug across a steep landscape, with a riser ranging between 30 and 45 degrees. Bench terraces are constructed in series and help to minimize land degradation by rainwater runoff

2.2 Detailed description of the Technology


A typical bench terrace takes the shape of a bench with a width of 3 to 5 meters and the height ranging from 1 to 2 meters, depending on the steepness of the slope, and the length is determined by the size of the plot, but typically 20 to 25 meters.
The top of the terrace riser is planted with a grass strip (referred to as a hedge row) commonly elephant grass or starria grass at a spacing of 200mm. The lower part of the riser is stabilized by planting creeping plant like couch grass to avoid erosion.
The technology is applied in already existing degraded farmlands, which are individually owned. An average farm size is less than half an acre.
This technology reduces the speed of water running down the slope during a downpour thereby reducing soil erosion and increasing water retention.
Areas which are prone to degradation by erosion are identified and later, the farmers are trained on benefits of this technology, how to construct and how to maintain the terraces by planting hegde rows.
This technology helps maintain the good top soil, which would have otherwise been washed down the slope into the valley, increases water retention, provides a flat ground for farm practices. All these ultimately increase crop yields.
What the land users dislike about this technology is that it is labour intensive. These labour intensive activities are done individually, on individual pieces of land using simple hand tools (hoes, spades and pick axes).

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:

South Western Region

Specify the spread of the Technology:
  • evenly spread over an area

This technology is implemented among farmers in a given area but is adopted by more farmers

2.6 Date of implementation

Indicate year of implementation:


2.7 Introduction of the Technology

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

The technology was introduced under the Integrated Water Resources Management Project to support farmers to mazimise land productivity

3. Classification of the SLM Technology

3.1 Main purpose(s) of the Technology

  • improve production
  • reduce, prevent, restore land degradation
  • conserve ecosystem
  • protect a watershed/ downstream areas – in combination with other Technologies
  • reduce risk of disasters
  • adapt to climate change/ extremes and its impacts
  • mitigate climate change and its impacts
  • create beneficial economic impact
  • create beneficial social impact

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):
  • Agroforestry



  • Annual cropping
  • Perennial (non-woody) cropping
Annual cropping - Specify crops:
  • cereals - barley
  • cereals - maize
  • cereals - sorghum
  • cereals - wheat (spring)
  • legumes and pulses - beans
  • legumes and pulses - peas
  • root/tuber crops - potatoes
  • tobacco
  • vegetables - leafy vegetables (salads, cabbage, spinach, other)
Number of growing seasons per year:
  • 2

September to January and March to June

Grazing land

Grazing land

Forest/ woodlands

Forest/ woodlands

  • Trees, poles, fooder, firewood

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

  • improved ground/ vegetation cover
  • integrated soil fertility management
  • 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

  • S1: Terraces

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
  • Wm: mass movements/ landslides

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

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Kigezi Diocese Water and Sanitation Programme



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Technical specifications (related to technical drawing):

Dimensions are shown on the drawings


Kigezi Diocese Water and Sanitation Programme



4.2 General information regarding the calculation of inputs and costs

Specify how costs and inputs were calculated:
  • per Technology area
Indicate size and area unit:


other/ national currency (specify):

Ugandan Shilling

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:

USD 2.1

4.3 Establishment activities

Activity Timing (season)
1. Mark out the plot of land to be terraced After harvest of crops
2. Delineation of contours using the A-frame After harvest of crops
3. Excavation (cut) and build up bench terrace by filling After harvest of crops
4. Stabilising the riser by planting creeping grass and hedge rows Onset of rains

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 Construction of bench terraces in an area of 1 acre person days 324.0 2.1 680.4 30.0
Equipment Forked hoes pieces 1.0 5.0 5.0
Equipment Pick axes pieces 1.0 5.0 5.0
Equipment Spades pieces 1.0 5.0 5.0
Plant material Starria grass cuttings sack 80.0 7.0 560.0
Total costs for establishment of the Technology 1255.4
Total costs for establishment of the Technology in USD 0.38
If land user bore less than 100% of costs, indicate who covered the remaining costs:

Kigezi Diocese Water and Sanitation Programme


The cost of this technology is beyond the financial capacity of the land user hence the need for a subsidy

4.5 Maintenance/ recurrent activities

Activity Timing/ frequency
1. Repair of damaged parts after heavy downpours After rainy season
2. Maintenance of the hedge rows by triming and replanting empty spaces Continuous

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 Repair of broken parts of the terrace days 4.0 2.1 8.4 100.0
Labour Trimming of hedge rows days 8.0 2.1 16.8 100.0
Total costs for maintenance of the Technology 25.2
Total costs for maintenance of the Technology in USD 0.01

The initial investment of the equipment is adequate for maintenance at least for some years

4.7 Most important factors affecting the costs

Describe the most determinate factors affecting the costs:

Establishment costs depend on the steepness of the slope, structure and deepness of the subsoil.

The maintenance costs depend of the degree of damage. Damages vary depending on the severity of rainfall. Soils that are more sandy are more likely to be swept than those that are clayey. The location of the terrace (whether up hill or down hill) will determine how badly the terrace will be damaged and hence the costs of repair. The steepness of the slope will also affect the extent to which the terraces are damaged

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:

Bi-modal rainfall pattern with long rainy season from Spetember to December then March to May

Indicate the name of the reference meteorological station considered:

Kabale District Meterological Department

Agro-climatic zone
  • sub-humid

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.
Indicate if the Technology is specifically applied in:
  • not relevant

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)
Soil texture (> 20 cm below surface):
  • medium (loamy, silty)
Topsoil organic matter:
  • medium (1-3%)

5.4 Water availability and quality

Ground water table:

> 50 m

Availability of surface water:


Water quality (untreated):

poor drinking water (treatment required)

Is water salinity a problem?


Is flooding of the area occurring?




Comments and further specifications on water quality and quantity:

Water quantity and quality is dependent on human activities and rainfall patterns

5.5 Biodiversity

Species diversity:
  • medium
Habitat diversity:
  • medium

5.6 Characteristics of land users applying the Technology

Sedentary or nomadic:
  • Sedentary
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
Individuals or groups:
  • individual/ household
Level of mechanization:
  • manual work
  • women
Age of land users:
  • youth
  • middle-aged

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:
  • individual, not titled
Land use rights:
  • individual
Water use rights:
  • 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:

The impact has come immediately with the first crop

crop quality


fodder production

Comments/ specify:

Hedge rows are used as fodder

fodder quality


risk of production failure


product diversity

Comments/ specify:

With terracing more variety of crops are being grown

production area


land management

Income and costs

expenses on agricultural inputs


farm income


diversity of income sources




Socio-cultural impacts

food security/ self-sufficiency

Comments/ specify:

It is expected to improve in the long term

health situation


community institutions


SLM/ land degradation knowledge


conflict mitigation


Ecological impacts

Water cycle/ runoff

surface runoff


groundwater table/ aquifer

Comments/ specify:

Recharge is hoped to increase in the long term as more farmers adopt the technology


soil moisture


soil cover


soil loss


soil accumulation

Comments/ specify:

Soil which is trapped by the hedge rows

soil organic matter/ below ground C

Comments/ specify:

By use of manure

Climate and disaster risk reduction

flood impacts

Comments/ specify:

Flooding in the valley bottoms due to runoff

6.2 Off-site impacts the Technology has shown

water availability

Comments/ specify:

As more people adopt the technology, this is expected to increase

downstream flooding

Comments/ specify:

Trend in downstream flooding is negative

downstream siltation

Comments/ specify:

Trend in downstream siltation is negative

damage on neighbours' fields

Comments/ specify:

Soil which is washed down the slope

damage on public/ private infrastructure

Comments/ specify:

Especially on roads and water supply systems

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

Gradual climate change

Gradual climate change
Season increase or decrease How does the Technology cope with it?
annual temperature increase not known
seasonal temperature dry season increase not known
seasonal temperature wet/ rainy season increase not known
annual rainfall decrease not known
seasonal rainfall wet/ rainy season decrease not known

Climate-related extremes (disasters)

Meteorological disasters
How does the Technology cope with it?
local rainstorm well
local thunderstorm well
local hailstorm well
Climatological disasters
How does the Technology cope with it?
land fire well
Hydrological disasters
How does the Technology cope with it?
general (river) flood very well
flash flood very well
landslide very well
Biological disasters
How does the Technology cope with it?
epidemic diseases moderately
insect/ worm infestation not known

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


The adoption rate of this technology is gradual as people keep appreciating the benefits

6.5 Adoption of the Technology

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

24 households (15 households were experimental and 9 have adopted)

Of all those who have adopted the Technology, how many did so spontaneously, i.e. without receiving any material incentives/ payments?
  • 91-100%

6.6 Adaptation

Has the Technology been modified recently to adapt to changing conditions?


6.7 Strengths/ advantages/ opportunities of the Technology

Strengths/ advantages/ opportunities in the land user’s view
Reduction of erosion damage by capturing or slowing down surface runoff
Trap and retain sediments from the slope above and accelerates re-vegetation process on the bare slopes
Creates a flat leveled ground for easier cultivation
The planted hedgerows provide fodder for the animals
Strengths/ advantages/ opportunities in the compiler’s or other key resource person’s view
Increases soil moisture since the trapped water is retained as surface runoff is minimized

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?
Bench terraces cannot be constructed on slopes with sandy or rocky soils because they can collapse N/A
Weaknesses/ disadvantages/ risks in the compiler’s or other key resource person’s view How can they be overcome?
Bench terraces may cause sloughing if too much water infiltrates the soil Suitable runoff outlets are created to carry away the excess runoff

7. References and links

7.1 Methods/ sources of information

  • field visits, field surveys

Observation field visits to the constructed bench terraces

  • interviews with land users

Focus group discussion with 18 land users (5 females and 13 males)

  • interviews with SLM specialists/ experts

Project implement staff

  • compilation from reports and other existing documentation

Integrated Water Resources Management project reports

When were the data compiled (in the field)?


7.2 References to available publications

Title, author, year, ISBN:

Kigezi Diocese Water and Sanitation Programme, IWRM Annual Report (April 2015 - March 2016)

Available from where? Costs?

Title, author, year, ISBN:

Empowering communities through Water SMART agricultural practices

Available from where? Costs?

Title, author, year, ISBN:

IWRM Pilot Report

Available from where? Costs?

7.3 Links to relevant online information

Title/ description:

Bench terraces


Links and modules

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