Organic materials flow and nutrient balance analyses at different landscapes of a watershed in Tigray, Northern Ethiopian highlands

Dr Gebreyohannes Girmay1, Mr Tesfay Berihu1, Mr Henok Shiferaw1, Mr Mulugeta Sebhatleab1

1Mekelle University, Mekelle, Ethiopia

Soil fertility depletion is the major cause for declining per capita food production in Ethiopia. We evaluated a material and associated nutrient flows at different landscapes (lower, middle and upper) and household wealth groups (poor, medium and rich) at Maileba watershed in Tigray, northern Ethiopia. Comparison of the domestic organic material inputs and processed outputs indicated an annual total organic material balance of about -12.09 t/ha for upper, -8.04 t/ha for middle, and -5.41 t/ha for lower landscapes. The associated annual total organic C, N and K depletion for the rich household groups was about 598kg C/ha, 38 kg N/ha and 16kg K/ha in the upper, 621kg C/ha, 42kg N/ha and 22kg K/ha in the middle and 603kg C/ha, 44kg N/ha and 14kg K/ha/yr in the lower landscapes. The poor household group extract about 438kg C/ha, 36kg N/ha and 11kg K/ha in the upper; 293kg C/ha/yr, 22kg N/ha and 9kg K/ha in the middle, and 368kg C/ha/yr, 30kg N/ha and 12kg K/ha in the lower landscapes. Product harvest, crop residue removal and run-off associated material outflows were the major causes for nutrient depletion in the watershed. The organic material and soil nutrient stocks of the various landscapes are rapidly declining particularly in the upper landscape position of catchments. The rich (better of) households are the potential target groups to contribute more to conservation of watersheds than the poor. A properly planned nutritional management and integrated upland organic farming should receive due attention on the mountainous areas of Ethiopia and east Africa.

Biography: Gebreyohannes Girmay has his expertise in soil fertility management systems focusing on exploring techniques for improving soil quality and health. He teaches and advices post graduate students in the soil science, dryland ecology and resource management, dryland agronomy, sustainable watershed management, and dryland agroforestry and land restoration programmes in Mekelle University, Ethiopia. His current research activities focus on integrated soil fertility management, carbon sequestration in soils, reservoir conservation and sediment use, and land evaluation for irrigation.

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