, Volume 43, Issue 7, pp 932–942 | Cite as

Long-Term Indigenous Soil Conservation Technology in the Chencha Area, Southern Ethiopia: Origin, Characteristics, and Sustainability

  • Assefa Engdawork
  • Hans-Rudolf Bork


The purpose of this study is to examine the origin, development, and characteristics of terraces (kella), plus their potentials and determinants for sustainable use in the Chencha–Dorze Belle area of southern Ethiopia. Field surveys were conducted to determine the various parameters of the indigenous terraces and in order to collect samples for radiocarbon dating. To identify farmers’ views of the terrace systems, semi-structured interviews and group discussions were also carried out. Terraces were built and used—as radiocarbon dating proves—at least over the last 800 years. The long-term continued usage of the indigenous terraces is the result of social commitments, the structural features of the terraces, and the farmers’ responses to the dynamics of social and cultural circumstances. We dubbed that the terraces are a success story of fruitful environmental management over generations. Thus, a strong need is to preserve and develop this important cultural heritage and example of sustainable land use.


Indigenous terrace Soil and water conservation Sustainable land use Traditional knowledge Chencha Ethiopia 



We are very grateful to all farmers and the enumerators who took part in the research. We are also gratefully indebted to the staff of the Leibniz Laboratory, especially Dr. Marie-Josée Nadeau for the radiocarbon dating. We would also like to thank the German Research Foundation (DFG) and the Graduate School “Human Development in Landscapes” for their financial support of the study. Thanks are also due to Eileen Kuecuekkaraca and Nicole Taylor for language editing of the manuscript. The insightful comments made by two anonymous reviewers are also gratefully acknowledged.


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Copyright information

© Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for Environment and Development, College of Development StudiesAddis Ababa UniversityAddis AbabaEthiopia
  2. 2.Institute for Ecosystem ResearchKiel UniversityKielGermany
  3. 3.Graduate School ‘Human Development in Landscapes’Kiel UniversityKielGermany

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