chapter  2
33 Pages

Creating Gardens: The Dynamics of Soil-fertility Management in Wolayta, Southern Ethiopia

Questions of soil management feature prominently in the policy debates on the future of Ethiopian agriculture and environment. Very often, a pessimistic picture is painted, with dramatic prognoses of environmental catastrophe. In particular, soil erosion has been highlighted as a major problem in the highland areas and major initiatives have been launched to tackle the issue. For example, the Ethiopian Highland Reclamation Study concluded that around 1900 million tonnes of soil are lost from the highlands each year, amounting to around 35t/ha/year (FAO, 1986). Similar pronouncements emerged from the early phases of the National Conservation Strategy process which emphasized the widespread nature of environmental degradation (Wood and Ståhl, 1989). The concern generated by such studies resulted in major campaigns from the mid-1980s to build soil bunds and terraces across the country, supported by massive food-for-work programmes (Hoben, 1995; Keeley and Scoones, 2000a). Similarly, soil-fertility decline has been highlighted as a significant constraint to agricultural production and food self-sufficiency (Wales and Le Breton, 1998), and major efforts have been made to encourage the wider use of inorganic fertilizers (Takele, 1996).