Project site description

i) Geographical settings: Meta district is located in East Hararghe zone of Oromia region. Meta is bordered in the southwest by Deder district, in the northwest by Goro Gutu district, in the north by the Somali regional state, in the northeast by Kersa district and in the southeast by Badano district (Figure 2.2). The administrative capital of the district is Chalanko. It is situated between geographic coordinates of 9° 32' 00'' N and 41° 45' 25'' E with altitude that spans between 1200-2140 meters above sea level.


Figure 2.2 Map of Meta district and its administrative kebeles.

Although the district as a whole forms part of the eastern plateau, locally dominant landforms differ from place to place. Accordingly, the topography of the district ranges from nearly flat land to moderately steep land with the latter occupying the larger proportion of the total area. The major landforms vary from valley floors around river courses, plain, and plateaus to extremely undulating and dissected medium gradient hills and mountains. In most parts of the district, a saucer-shaped landscape, with the hills and slopes surrounding the low-lying areas, is very common. The major proportion of the district is sloping land. Because of this, the land that is naturally suitable for agriculture does not exceed a maximum of 20-30percent of the total area in the district. However, due to high population pressure, even the very steep slopes (>30 percent) and some marshy areas are being cultivated. Still, agriculture is expanding to the top most parts of some isolated hills. The plate below shows the typical landforms in the district.

The total population of the district is estimated at 252,269, of whom 127,371 were men and 124,898 were women (CSA, 2007). About 94 percent of the population lives in the rural areas. The district contains 52 kebeles and has a total area of 75332 ha with average coverage of 1449 ha. The largest kebel covers 4902 ha and the smallest kebel has 169 ha. Similar to most other districts in Hararghe region, the agriculturally suitable areas of the district are densely populated.

ii) Climate: The district is characterized by low, mid, and highland agro-ecological zones. Data obtained from Kulubi Meteorological station, located some 10 kilometers from the district town (Chalanko), indicates that the long-term (1980-2014) mean annual rainfall was 988 mm and ranged from 534 to 1322 mm, suggesting the existence of high variability of rainfall in the area. The rainfall pattern in the district is bimodal. The small rainy season starts around February/March and extends to May, whereas the main rainy season stretches from end of June to September (Figure 3). The mean annual minimum and maximum temperatures of the same period are about 11 and 22°C, respectively, with the monthly values varying from 9-11°C and 20-24°C, respectively (Figure 2.4). As it can be seen from Figure 3, it is only during the months of April, July, and August that the rainfall exceeded the reference crop evapotranspiration. Due to this uneven distribution, terminal moisture stress is a critical problem in the district. This requires harvesting excess water during the rainy season and using it (in the form of supplementary irrigation) during the latter stages when the rain ceases.

Figure 2.4 Long term mean monthly rainfall, maximum, and minimum temperatures (1980-2014) of Kulubi, Meta district.

Based on criteria used for Kombolcha district, Bakalcha Oromia (representing the highland agro-ecology) and Dursitu Bilisuma (representing the mid-land agro-ecology) are selected for the proposed interventions in Meta district.

iii) Vegetation: Owing to the variation in agro-ecology, different types of vegetation, both trees, and bushes and shrubs, are common. The hills being rehabilitated are covered by replanted and natural vegetation, which are mainly composed of Juniperus procera, Olea oleaster, Podocarpus totara, Ficus sur, and Accacia abyssinica. Cactus (e.g., Opuntia ficus-indica and Ceres jamacaru) and Lanthana camara are the dominant species on the degraded lands of the district. Common trees around homesteads include eucalyptus trees such as Eucalyptus globules and Eucalyptus camaldulensis. Some agro-forestry tree species such as Acacia abyssinica and Croton macrostachyus are found on individual farmers’ fields.

Meta district is densely populated, 366 persons/km2. As a result, per capita landholding is very small. This has compelled the farmers to cultivate steep slopes. On steep slopes, food crops such as sorghum and maize, often intercropped with khat, are commonly grown. Farmers actually use some soil and water conservation practices, such as stone bunds and terraces, to cultivate steep slopes. Some land, which is covered by rock outcrops and vestigial vegetation, have been recently undergoing rehabilitation through the participatory community-based watershed management program being implemented across the country for almost the last ten years.

iv) Farming systems: The major agricultural lands are concentrated at the middle, lower, and foot of hills. On these slopes, almost every piece of land is cultivated. Although the agricultural activity is mainly rain-fed, small-scale irrigation is also widely practiced. Mixed crop production and livestock rearing characterize the farming system of the district. The dominant field crops grown include sorghum, maize, teff, wheat, barley, faba bean, field pea, common bean, and some oil crops (e.g., linseed). Commonly grown horticultural crops include potato, onion, tomato, garlic, pepper, cabbage, and others. The vegetable crops are grown using both rain-fed agriculture and irrigation during the off-seasons. As a result, they are grown as cash crops. Khat is grown almost everywhere both under rain-fed and irrigated conditions as the main cash crop. Coffee is also cultivated as a cash crop to a certain extent in the district.

Fertilizer application in the district is based on blanket recommendation of only about 100 kg Urea and 100 kg DAP ha-1. This would amount only to 64 kg N and 20 kg P ha-1, which is very low given the low availability of nitrogen and phosphorus in the soil and continuous removal of crop residues from farmlands for competing ends such as animal feed, fuelwood, and construction. The continuous removal of crop residues would result in little chance of replenishing nutrients removed by grains and plant biomass as well as poor status of soil organic matter. What is more, only nitrogen and phosphorus are applied to the soil in such small quantities whereas there could be other nutrients that are limiting in the soil. Application of organic matter in the form of compost or manure is common in the district. However, the rate of application of the organic fertilizers is very low due to low availability of the material (cow dung and composting material). This means that the rate of nutrient mining from the soil is very high in the district. Intercropping is widely practised, with double cropping being used by some farmers. Some farmers also use quality seeds of improved sorghum, wheat, and potato varieties.

v) Water resources: There are some permanent rivers in the district. Notable among these is the river that supplies water to the town of Chalanko. Besides, there are many perennial springs originating from below the mountains and crossing the valleys. There is also a lake in the district. Groundwater resources also exist. Decline in yield has been observed in response to fertilizer application perhaps due to the osmotic effects of the applied fertilizer under the moisture stress.

vi) Markets and extension services: Access to market is a key factor for increasing agricultural productivity and income. The district town, Chalanko, is located on the main highway to Harar and Dire Dawa cities. As a result, kebeles that are closer to the high way have better access to market. Although there is fair all weather rural road network linking the kebeles, farmers leaving in the remote areas of the district still have limited access to market and market information.

Farmers Training Centers (FTCs) are instrumental in promoting agricultural knowledge and technologies. Each kebele in the district has an FTC with the aim of providing practical trainings for farmers and demonstrating technologies. Three DAs are assigned to each kebele. Microfinance services, cooperatives, a hospital, and other health centers are also available in the district.