The agricultural sector in developing countries is particularly vulnerable to the adverse impacts of climate change. Given Ethiopia’s dependence on agriculture and natural resources, any adverse agricultural effects will pose serious risks to economic growth and livelihoods across the country. Soil and water conservation technologies have been suggested as a key adaptation strategy for developing countries, particularly those in Sub-Saharan Africa, in light of increased water shortages, drought, desertification, and worsening soil conditions. According to a survey of 1,000 households in the Nile Basin of Ethiopia, more than 30 percent of farmers adopted soil and water conservation measures in response to perceived long-term changes in temperature and rainfall. Although soil and water conservation technologies are generally considered low-cost, they still engender risk for very low-income, risk-averse households, which are prevalent in rural Ethiopia. Thus, it is important to consider the impacts not only on crop yields, but also on risk levels.
This brief is based on a study that investigates the risk implications of various soil and water conservation technologies for crop production in Ethiopia’s Nile River Basin. The analysis identifies technologies that increase and decrease crop production risk—with risk defined as the degree of yield variability—for the purpose of isolating which technologies are best suited to particular regions and agroecological zones. These results could be used to improve the geographical targeting of soil conservation techniques as part of efforts to promote farm-level adaptation to climate change.