The empirical work carried out in this study is in two parts. First, it estimates the financial and economic returns of soil conservation, particularly stone and soil bunds, in the Afdeyu Catchment, Hamasien, Eritrea. Second, it examines the personal, economic and institutional factors that affect farmer's conservation efforts in the highlands of Eritrea.
In undertaking the economic analysis of soil conservation measures in the ...4fdeyu Catchment, soil loss, run-off and harvest sample data from the Afdeyu Research Station (ARS) are used The rate of soil loss and run-off from different slope categories are estimated based on the data from the ARS and a Universal Soil Loss Equation (USLE) adaptedfor the Ethiopian highlands. As well, crop and fodder yields are estimated as a function of soil depth and rainfall. These estimates are then used to estimate the effects of soil conservation measures on crop and fodder yields, particularly in regard to their soil and moisture conservation effects.
The average annual soil loss from the croplands in the catchment is estimated to be 18.8 tonnes per hectare. The average annual decline in crop yields due to soil loss is 0.38 percent per year while fodder yields decline at a rate of 0.43 percent per year. The average crop and fodder yields in the catchment are projected to be 38.4 percent and 20.8 percent higher if soil conservation measures could perfectly prevent water loss due to run-off. The rates of soil loss, run-off and crop and fodder yield decline due to soil erosion. However, they are found to differ considerably for various slope groups. While the financial returns from soil conservation measures are negative for all but one slope category, the economic returns for all slopes are positive. Both the financial and economic returns for the different slopes vary considerably. Soil and stone bunds are less profitable on the two extreme slopes. Further research would be necessary to assess the effects of alternative conservation measures for each slope category. The negative financial returns to investments in soil conservation also indicate that farmers are unlikely to undertake soil conservation activities on their own initiative. Farmers need encouragement via financial support to undertake soil conservation measures.
Soil conservation effort was measured in two ways: as total number of days farmers spent on soil conservation and the number of days spent per hectare of cropland on soil conservation activities. Family size, farm size, the slope of cropland, farmer's perception of yield effects of soil erosion, and farmers J perception of profitability of soil conservation measures are all positively related to conservation effort. The total number of days spent on off-farm jobs is inversely related to conservation effort. Farmers who cultivate in Bahri undertake significantly less conservation effort than those who do not. Farmers who operate communallys owned farms spend less time on soil conservation compared to those who cultivate their own farms. However, the number of days spent on soil conservation per hectare of cropland by farmers who cultivate their own farms does not differ significantly from that of farmers who cultivate communally owned farms.
The results of the analysis show that farmers are more concerned about the economic impacts of soil conservation measures (eg. impact on yield or their profitability) than their physical impacts (eg. their effectiveness in controlling erosion). Thus, it is necessary to look for and disseminate conservation measures which provide some short-term economic benefits to the farmers.
Labour is the most important input for the construction of stone and soil conservation measures in the highlands of Eritrea. Factors that affect the availability of labour (eg. family size, off-farm employment) are significantly related to conservation efforts. On that basis it is concluded that programs that increase land productivity and alleviate rural poverty could have a beneficial effect because they allow farmers to concentrate on their farming activities and enhance long-term productivity of their croplands.