Assessment of the headwaters of the Blue Nile in Ethiopia

Assessment of the headwaters of the Blue Nile in Ethiopia

The  study  site  of  Fogera  Woreda  is  one  of  106  woredas of  the  Amhara National  Regional  State  and  is  located  in  the  South  Gondar  Zone,  about  65  km  north of the  Regional  capital  Bahir  Dar  town,  on  the  main  highway  towards Gondar.  It  is  situated to  the  east  of  Lake  Tana  and  is  625  km  northwest  of  Addis  Ababa.  The  floodplains  of Fogera  make  up  one  of  the  largest  wetlands  in  Ethiopia that  form  part of  the  larger Gumera  Catchment,  which  is  part  of  the  greater headwaters  of  the  Blue  Nile. The  majority  of  land  in  Fogera  is  dedicated  to  crop  production however, food  insecurity  and  poverty  remain  high  and  have  been  exacerbated  by  poor  land management  practices which  has  led  to  rapid  soil  degradation. State  ownership  of  all  Ethiopian  land  has  resulted  in insecurity  of  tenure  and  limited  land  improvements  by  farmers. Water  conflicts  are  also  on  the  rise  due  to  crop  species  diversification within  the  landscape with  certain  crops  (rice)  requiring  more  water  than  others  (legumes).  Integrated  natural  resource  management  can be  achieved  in  the  site  through  a  development based  approach. The primary  goal  is  to  overcome  the  vicious  cycle  of  poverty  and  food insecurity,  which  affects the  state  of  natural  resources.

The  high  poverty  levels  mean  that  natural  resource  management is  not  a  priority to  the  smallholder  farmers; ensuring  improvements  in  their  economic  condition  could  lead  to  a change  in  attitude  and  promote  the  conservation  of  natural  resources  in  the  site.  A  development based  approach  would  call  for  the  regional government,  Woreda  Agricultural  Office,  Development  Agents  and  relevant  development  and  environmental-­based  NGOs  to  work  together  on  improving  environmental  conditions,  while  reducing  the  risks  of  food  insecurity.  A direct link between natural resource management  and market oriented  commodity  development  (so  as to increase  income),that  has  profitable market  opportunities, can  enhance  sustainable  land  management.  Payment  for Environmental  Services in  the  region  is  not a viable  option since buyer to seller  relations  are  not  clear, especially  considering  that  the  State  owns  most  of  the  resources, and  Fogera  lacks the  required  markets  for  environmental  services  and  other  “open  access”  public goods.

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