Konso Bench Terrace [Ethiopia]

Kawata (Konso)

technologies_949 - Ethiopia

Completeness: 71%

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)
Book project: SLM in Practice - Guidelines and Best Practices for Sub-Saharan Africa (SLM in Practice)
Name of the institution(s) which facilitated the documentation/ evaluation of the Technology (if relevant)
FAO Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO Food and Agriculture Organization) - Italy

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:


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

Labour exchange

Labour exchange [Ethiopia]

It is an approach based on labour exchange organized on the basis of mutual assistance involving no payment for work done. However, the land user is supposed to provide people participating with food and drinks. All wanting such cooperation request the me

  • Compiler: Unknown User

2. Description of the SLM Technology

2.1 Short description of the Technology

Definition of the Technology:

It is a stone wall embankment along the contour with land leveling in between two terrace walls to control erosion.

2.2 Detailed description of the Technology


The traditional Konso Bench Terraces are established by building up stone embarkments along the contour and gradually levelling the land in between risers. Levelling is done actively and by siltation processes. Stone walls have to be enhanced periodically. The appearance of the technology evolves over time from stone empankments to bench terraces. The stone walls are supported on the downslope side by trees and / or legumes including coffee, pigeon pea, etc.

Purpose of the Technology: The purpose of the structures is to break the slope length and reduce run-off concentration thereby controlling erosion, increasing water stored in soil and harvesting eroded sediments.

Establishment / maintenance activities and inputs: Terraces have a long tradition in the area, and farmers are specialists in construction of stone walls. The first step during terrace establishment is to dig foundation up to 30 cm. Then stone walls are gradually built up to an impressive height of 1.5-2m above ground. The technology is very labour intensive: establishment takes 5 years and bi-annual maintenance is required. However, it is worth the effort, since without terracing crop production would not be thinkable in a marginal area characterised by shortage and high variability of rainfall, shallow, stony soils on steep slopes, high levels of soil erosion and (thus) frequent food shortages.

Natural / human environment: Social systems for labour-sharing and voluntary assistance have evolved to manage heavy labour inputs. Multiple cropping is practised for rist aversion. Growing leguminous crops helps to further improve soil fertility. Additional water harvesting measures are needed to further raise yields.

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:


Further specification of location:


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

Konso Bench practice started over 400 years ago (Elders interview) and it is practiced through out sloping lands in Konso Woreda.

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:
  • as part of a traditional system (> 50 years)
Comments (type of project, etc.):

Traditionally practiced since long time (Inhereted from ancestors)

3. Classification of the SLM Technology

3.1 Main purpose(s) of the Technology

  • improve production
  • reduce, prevent, restore land degradation

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



  • Annual cropping
  • Tree and shrub cropping
Annual cropping - Specify crops:
  • oilseed crops - sunflower, rapeseed, other
  • cereals - maize
  • cereals - sorghum
  • legumes and pulses - other
  • legumes and pulses - peas
  • pigeon pea
Tree and shrub cropping - Specify crops:
  • coffee, open grown
Number of growing seasons per year:
  • 2

Longest growing period in days: 70 Longest growing period from month to month: Mar - MaySecond longest growing period in days: 50Second longest growing period from month to month: Aug - Oct

Is crop rotation practiced?


If yes, specify:

Sorghum/maize, oil crops, peas


Major land use problems (compiler’s opinion): Land shortage, moisture stress, soil fertility decline, shallow soil depth, high cost of farm inputs and pest attack.

Major land use problems (land users’ perception): Low rainfall, land shortage, pest and high price of fertilizers

Type of cropping system and major crops comments: Sorghum/maize, oil crops, peas

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

  • cross-slope measure

3.6 SLM measures comprising the Technology

agronomic measures

agronomic measures

  • A1: Vegetation/ soil cover
vegetative measures

vegetative measures

  • V1: Tree and shrub cover
structural measures

structural measures

  • S1: Terraces

Main measures: structural measures

Secondary measures: vegetative measures

Type of agronomic measures: better crop cover, early planting

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
chemical soil deterioration

chemical soil deterioration

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

water degradation

  • Ha: aridification

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

Secondary types of degradation addressed: Cn: fertility decline and reduced organic matter content, Ha: aridification

Main causes of degradation: other human induced causes (specify) (Agricultural causes), other natural causes (avalanches, volcanic eruptions, mud flows, highly susceptible natural resources, extreme topography, etc.) specify, poverty / wealth (Lack of captial)

Secondary causes of degradation: labour availability (Lack of labour)

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

Main goals: mitigation / reduction of land degradation

Secondary goals: rehabilitation / reclamation of denuded land

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

4.1 Technical drawing of the Technology

Technical specifications (related to technical drawing):

Technical knowledge required for field staff / advisors: moderate

Technical knowledge required for land users: moderate

Main technical functions: increase / maintain water stored in soil

Secondary technical functions: reduction of slope angle, sediment retention / trapping, sediment harvesting

Construction material (earth): The earth used for supporting the wall on the up slope part

Construction material (stone): The stone is used to form wall of the bench

If the original slope has changed as a result of the Technology, the slope today is: 0%

Lateral gradient along the structure: 0%

Vegetation is used for stabilisation of structures.

4.2 General information regarding the calculation of inputs and costs

other/ national currency (specify):

Ethiopian 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. Survey (traditional) dry season
2. Stone collection dry season
3. Digging foundation dry season
4. Soil sealing & land leveling dry season
5. Constructions of stone wall dry season

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 1650.0 1650.0 100.0
Equipment Machine use ha 1.0 70.0 70.0 100.0
Plant material Seeds ha 1.0 40.0 40.0 100.0
Construction material Stone ha 1.0 300.0 300.0 100.0
Total costs for establishment of the Technology 2060.0
Total costs for establishment of the Technology in USD 242.35

Duration of establishment phase: 60 month(s)

4.5 Maintenance/ recurrent activities

Activity Timing/ frequency
1. Stabilizing by putting additional stones after rain/once a year
2. The stone wallsupported by soil after rain/once a year
3. Planting on the bench during the rain/once a year
4. Land preparation dry season / 2-3 times per year
5. Sawing/planting first rain / 1 per year
6. Weeding/cultivation rainy season / 1-2 times per 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 1.0 500.0 500.0 100.0
Plant material Seeds ha 1.0 40.0 40.0 100.0
Total costs for maintenance of the Technology 540.0
Total costs for maintenance of the Technology in USD 63.53

On the basis of kilometers treated per hectar
Remarks: Duration of establishment phase is 5 years. Land users maintain the terrace at least twice a year, mainly while preparing the land for crops. Labour inputs for maintainance are usually 25-30% of construction. Daily wage of hired labour is about US$ 1; material costs include collection and sizing of stones.

4.7 Most important factors affecting the costs

Describe the most determinate factors affecting the costs:

Labour, farm implements, soil workability, surface stoniness

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
Specify average annual rainfall (if known), in mm:


Agro-climatic zone
  • semi-arid

Thermal climate class: tropics

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: Also rolling (11-15%)

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%)
If available, attach full soil description or specify the available information, e.g. soil type, soil PH/ acidity, Cation Exchange Capacity, nitrogen, salinity etc.

Soil fertility is low
Soil drainage/infiltration is good
Soil water storage capacity is very 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:
  • individual/ household
Level of mechanization:
  • manual work
Indicate other relevant characteristics of the land users:

Land users applying the Technology are mainly common / average land users
Population density: 50-100 persons/km2
Annual population growth: 2% - 3%
60% of the land users are average wealthy and own 60% of the land.
25% of the land users are poor and own 35% of the land.
15% of the land users are poor and own 5% of the land.
Off-farm income specification: No considerable difference
Level of mechanization: Manual work (using hoe)

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

6. Impacts and concluding statements

6.1 On-site impacts the Technology has shown

Socio-economic impacts


crop production

Quantity before SLM:


Quantity after SLM:


Comments/ specify:

Sorghum yield raised by 50%

Income and costs

farm income


Socio-cultural impacts

cultural opportunities

Comments/ specify:

Maintenance of cultural heritage

community institutions

Comments/ specify:

Mise en place d’une organisation des communautés et renforcement des groupes

Ecological impacts

Water cycle/ runoff

surface runoff


soil moisture

Comments/ specify:

Due to increased infiltration

soil loss


soil organic matter/ below ground C

Comments/ specify:

Sediment harvesting

6.2 Off-site impacts the Technology has shown

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)

Gradual climate change

Gradual climate change
Season increase or decrease How does the Technology cope with it?
annual temperature increase well

Climate-related extremes (disasters)

Meteorological disasters
How does the Technology cope with it?
local rainstorm well
local windstorm well
Climatological disasters
How does the Technology cope with it?
drought well

Tolerant to climatic extremes (e.g. rain storms). Water conservation effect increases resilience to periods of water stress.

6.4 Cost-benefit analysis

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


Long-term returns:

slightly positive

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

slightly positive

Long-term returns:



La marge bénéficiaire est très faible, mais sans terrasses, pas de cultures possibles. Les exploitants continueront à investir dans des terrasses tant qu’ils pourront en tirer un moyen d’existence

6.5 Adoption of the Technology

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

10% of land user families have adopted the Technology with external material support

Comments on acceptance with external material support: survey results

Comments on spontaneous adoption: estimates

There is a strong trend towards spontaneous adoption of the Technology

Comments on adoption trend: The technology is over 400 years old and it is already adopted

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?
Les terrasse nécessitent un entretien très fréquent, ce qui rend cette technologie très exigeante en main-d’œuvre utiliser de plus grosses pierres lors de la construction ; éviter le pâturage libre (les animaux endommagent les structures)
Weaknesses/ disadvantages/ risks in the compiler’s or other key resource person’s view How can they be overcome?
The terraces require very frequent maintenance which makes the technology highly labour-demanding. Use bigger stones for construction; avoid free grazing (animals damage the structures).

7. References and links

7.1 Methods/ sources of information

7.2 References to available publications

Title, author, year, ISBN:

Danano, D. 2008 (unpublished). Soil and Water Conservation Practices for Sustainable Land Management in Ethiopia. Ethiocat.

Links and modules

Expand all Collapse all