Field and river

20th International Conference of Ethiopian Studies (ICES20)
Mekelle University, Ethiopia

"Regional and Global Ethiopia - Interconnections and Identities"
1-5 October, 2018

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HAILEMARIAM Meaza, Geography and Environmental Studies, Mekelle University, Ethiopia
BELETE Fentaye, Raya Qobo Woreda Agricultural Office
Jan NYSSEN, Department of Geography, Gent University
BIADGILGN Demissie, Department of Geography and Environmental Studies, Mekelle University
TESFAALEM G. Asfaha, Department of Geography and Environmental Studies, Mekelle University

Geomorphological processes such as the movement of rocks, sediments and water, form debris cones at the edge of marginal grabens. A number of debris cones are concentrated at the edge of marginal grabens in northern Ethiopia. However, there is scanty knowledge about the nature of debris cones in these marginal grabens. The study therefore investigated the effects of debris cones on the livelihoods of the graben farmers at the edges of Raya and Aba’ala grabens. High-resolution Google Earth imageries were used to characterize 38 debris cones. Questionnaires (44), group discussions (4), key informant interviews (8) and participatory transects (15) complemented the data. Descriptive statistics, t-test and multiple regression models were applied to analyse the quantitative data. The study shows that the size of debris cones lies between 0.19 and 92.8 ha, where the area of the debris cones in Raya graben was higher than Aba’ala graben (P=0.01). Moreover, the area of the upper catchment, slope and vegetation facilitated the formation of debris cones at the graben bottoms (P=0.049). However, natural hazards of debris flow posed a significant threat to the livelihoods of the marginal farmers. In this case, debris cones have damaged productive agricultural lands in the graben bottoms. Consequently, crop yield decreased by 4.5 quintals per ha in these areas. Moreover, 106 ha of fertile croplands became wasteland due to summer debris flow intrusions. Private houses, waterways and road infrastructure were also devastated over time. With their traditional livelihoods destroyed, indigenous households (35) moved away because of the debris flows, and these migrants were desperate at the destination sites. However, summer debris flows deliver dimensional stones, which are a good source of income for local farmers. Overall, debris flow-driven geo-hazards have damaged physical and social assets in the Aba’ala and Raya marginal grabens. We therefore suggest planned resettlement for the most vulnerable farmers, the creation of alternative livelihood strategies and the promotion of land integrated rehabilitation efforts to minimize the negative repercussions of debris cones in northern Ethiopia.