Mapping the biophysical characteristics of the watershed was an important part of the first phase of the project. Based on this information, it was clear that soil, water, and land management must be improved in order to restore the watershed ecosystem.

Managing soil and water

Managing soil and water effectively is a vital for restoring an ecosystems and conserving natural resources. Rainwater harvesting is effective in managing floods and droughts. Soil and stone bunds, terraces, trenches, gabions, are examples of structures that reduce runoff.

In the first phase of the project, these sustainable land management strategies were effectively deployed to help restore land and water resources in the Gumara-Maksegnit watershed. Soil and stone bunds and terraces were effective in preventing soil and water erosion.  Vegetation strips planted with Vetiver, elephant, bana, and green-gold grasses were also used to prevent erosion.  However, the vegetation strips failed because they were damaged by termites and animals grazing freely.

As the project embarks on its second phase, the focus is on integrating sustainable land management strategies at the farm level. The goal is to boost organic matter in the soil, reduce erosion, enhance soil water holding capacity, and restore land productivity by utilizing affordable practices. The research team, together with communities, is developing, testing, and demonstrating various sustainable land management strategies to encourage application of an integrated approach.

Reducing deforestation

The land use study in the first phase of the project showed that deforestation in the watershed is alarming. Initial measures to arrest deforestation involved selecting tree species adapted to degraded land and evaluating the socio-economic feasibility of mobile tree nurseries.

A mobile nursery (1.2 m × 0.8 m) made of locally available bamboo costs 150 ETB and accommodates up to 369 seedlings. A cost-benefit analysis showed that mobile nurseries can be profitable and could eliminate the need for high-cost permanent nurseries. Farmers who used mobile nurseries gained a net benefit of 39.50 USD. Mobile nurseries are also attractive to farmers because they are low-cost and take up less space than field nurseries. The bamboo planting trays are easy to move and protect seedlings from termite damage. Additionally, the ability to be located near homesteads presents the possibility for women to be involved in the management of the nursery.

Additionally, introducing efficient stoves that burn less fuel will also slow deforestation by lessening demand on biomass energy from diminishing forests.