Assessing the effect of sustainable land management on improving water security in the Blue Nile Highlands: a paired catchment approach

Authors: Berihun D. Mersha, Gete Zeleke, Tena Alamirew, Zeleke A. Dejen, and Solomon G. Gebrehiwot.

The Blue Nile Highlands, Ethiopia, has been experiencing serious land degradation, menacing water security, and then human well-being. However, sustainable land management (SLM) may be the way to curb land degradation and improve water security. Therefore, in order to assess benefits after a 5-year catchment restoration effort, we conducted a paired catchment study to investigate runoff and soil moisture dynamics. First and second catchments were used as control and treated, respectively. After comparing observations gathered from four sites within each of the study catchments, we found that implementing SLM reduced runoff curve numbers by −13.9 to −21.6 units and increased soil moisture storage by 15.6 to 800%, then promoting rapid recovery of the hydrologic functionality of the natural landscapes. We conclude that SLM initiatives can greatly improve water security in the drought-prone Blue Nile Highlands.

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Kelly Ann Naylor, Associate Director, Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Section, Programme Division, UNICEF

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