Soil is one of the most precious natural resource in the world and the key component of the earth system, which has a lot of uses for all organisms including human beings. It maintains the balance of natural environment, control bio-geo-chemical and hydrological cycle and also offers human society with many resources and agricultural goods and services (Keesstra et al., 2012; Berendese et al., 2015).
Soil is the main component of the land on earth that supports human population economically through agriculture and any other economic sectors in the global context.
Hence, the world population is dependent on soil in deriving its food stuff; more than 97% of the total food is derived from cultivation of soil (land) while the remaining percentage is from aquatic system (Melkie, 2016). Globally, without cultivation of soil, agriculture is impossible; which is an essential component of societal well being that occupies 40% of land surface and consumes 70% of global water resource. But now agricultural productivity is highly affected by soil erosion (Steffen et al.
Soil erosion has been seriously threat to global agricultural sustainability (Mulugeta and Karl, 2010); this is because soil erosion has direct effect on agricultural productivity and food security (Mulugeta and Karl, 2010). Globally, in the last a few decades of 21th century about nine million hectares of land has severely degraded with a reduction of tremendous original biotic function; but 1.2 billion hectares of the earth is moderately degraded; for this reason the inappropriate agricultural practices accounts 28% of total cause of soil degradation(Addisu,2011). Researchers like Sposito, (2013) and Steffen et al., (2015) stated the man’s use of soil and other natural resources in their requesting to face the food demand of the world population approaches is limited by three constraints: land use, water use and the ability of agriculture to produce crops. The first constraint the expansion of crop land and unwise land management has suffered for an enormous depletion of soil fertility and soil erosion.
Now a day, like any other parts in the world, African countries especially east and Sub Saharan countries have faced a problem of soil erosion in an extreme level of land degradation; of course, land degradation is a broad sense manifest through soil erosion, nutrient depletion, and loss of organic matter, acidification and salinity (Haile and fetene, 2012). Moreover, the adverse agricultural production reduction in these countries was due to tremendous soil loss, especially in Sub Saharan and East African countries where Ethiopia is a mountainous country that degraded in highest degree (De Muelenacre et al, 2014; Gessesse et al, 2014). Soil erosion is significantly affects various part of Ethiopia.
In Ethiopia, both wind and water have threatened to the sustainable existence of subsistence agriculture and they have selectively removed the fine organic nutrients from the top soil particle (Haile et al., 2006; Yirga, 2007). According to Tesfaye et al (2014), in Ethiopia soil loss rate by water ranges from 16 to over 300 tons per hectare per year though there is spatial and temporal variation of annual soil loss in the country. The soil loss in Ethiopia is mainly depend on the degree of slope (gradient), condition of land cover by plants, nature and intensity of rainfall (Tesfaye et al, 2014). As a result of soil erosion, Ethiopian agricultural activity and its production is highly affected. Agriculture the back bone of Ethiopian economy accounting for almost two fifths of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), three quarters of total employment in the years 2012/2013 (CSA, 2015); that has faced great reduction of production due to the risk of soil erosion reduced (Tesfaye et al, 2014).The farmland is usually over cultivated and vulnerable to erosion during the rainy season (Hailesilassie et al, 2005). Recently Ethiopian agricultural production loss due to soil erosion estimated 2% to 5% of agricultural GDP per year (World Bank, 2013).
Soil erosion in the northern part of Ethiopia is as old as history of agriculture. But the problem attracted policy attentions only after the devastating famine problems in the second half of twenty century (Yesuf et al, 2005). The severity of soil erosion in Ethiopia including Tigray is the result of mountainous and rugged topography, low degree of vegetation cover, overgrazing (free grazing), improper land use and over cultivation of agricultural farm,(Tefera, 2007). The over cultivation of agricultural lands without fallowing forced farmers to cultivate on steep slope areas constantly and expanding their farm plots to a new forest and grazing lands which were uncultivable ever. The over exploitation and improper utilization of agricultural lands lead to depleting soil fertility and sever soil erosion (Tefera, 2007). The highlands and steep slope cultivation areas have faced continuous removal of organic soil particle that has direct effect of food in security to the small holding farmers. Overall, the serious problem of soil erosion in Ethiopia has required proper soil conservation practices especially on the subsistence agriculture dominantly small-scale farm plots and improve the farmers’ lively-hoods and their food security (Kassu, 2011).
The conservation of agricultural land in Ethiopia particularly in Tigray has neglected for several years till the few decades of the 20th century. This problem has coincided with government program and policy that gave less attention towards maintains of natural resources in general and soil conservation in particular. Thus, the problem has contributed a lot of socio-economic disorders in the country and/or in the region and finally resulted in the starvation and famine (World Bank, 2013). Now the government of Ethiopia has made fruitful interventions of resource conservation in the country including Tigray. However, still the country losses tremendous amount of fertile soil (Teklu and Gezahegn, 2008).
According to FAO (2011), to increase the capacity of agricultural production and stability of small holder crop production, there need be to maintain soil fertility and proper practice of soil conservation by integrated job of farmers and other stock holders. Implementing soil conservation practices uses not only increasing crop productivity but also enabling to restore the ecology of the physical environment (FAO, 2011). Soil conservation measures increase food production, restore soil fertility and increase the resilience of farming systems to climatic risk (FAO, 2009). Thus many of parts of Ethiopia including Tigray have made efforts in taking soil conservation measures practicing in many parties of the region (Betru et al, 2005). Like any other part of Tigray, some efforts in the soil conservation practices have also made in Tabia Hizbatekelehaimanot. However, there is uncertainty about the challenges of conservation measures. Therefore, the study was investigated challenges of farmers’ facing for soil conservation practices.