Estimating soil erosion risk and evaluating erosion control measures for soil conservation planning at Koga watershed in the highlands of Ethiopia
Abstract. Soil erosion is one of the major factors affecting sustainability of agricultural production in Ethiopia. The objective of this paper is to estimate soil erosion using the universal soil loss equation (RUSLE) model and to evaluate soil conservation practices in a data-scarce watershed region. For this purpose, soil data, rainfall, erosion control practices, satellite images and topographic maps were collected to determine the RUSLE factors. In addition, measurements of randomly selected soil and water conservation structures were done at three sub-watersheds (Asanat, Debreyakob and Rim). This study was conducted in Koga watershed at upper part of the Blue Nile basin which is affected by high soil erosion rates. The area is characterized by undulating topography caused by intensive agricultural practices with poor soil conservation practices. The soil loss rates were determined and conservation strategies have been evaluated under different slope classes and land uses. The results showed that the watershed is affected by high soil erosion rates (on average 42 t ha−1 yr−1), greater than the maximum tolerable soil loss (18 t ha−1 yr−1). The highest soil loss (456 t ha−1 yr−1) estimated from the upper watershed occurred on cultivated lands of steep slopes. As a result, soil erosion is mainly aggravated by land-use conflicts and topographic factors and the rugged topographic land forms of the area. The study also demonstrated that the contribution of existing soil conservation structures to erosion control is very small due to incorrect design and poor management. About 35 % out of the existing structures can reduce soil loss significantly since they were constructed correctly. Most of the existing structures were demolished due to the sediment overload, vulnerability to livestock damage and intense rainfall. Therefore, appropriate and standardized soil and water conservation measures for different erosion-prone land uses and land forms need to be implemented in Koga watershed.