Integrating Socioeconomic Biophysical and Institutional Factors for Evaluating Small-Scale Irrigation Schemes in Northern Ethiopia

Amina Abdelkadir Mohammedshum*, Chris M. Mannaerts, Ben H.P. Maathuis, Daniel Teka

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
66 Downloads (Pure)


This paper characterizes and compares three types of small-scale irrigation scheme practices in Northern Ethiopia. A multidisciplinary survey approach, collecting information on socioeconomic, biophysical, and institutional aspects of irrigation by the smallholder farmers, was used to investigate and compare aspects of land, water use, and crop productivity, including farmer income and livelihood sustainability. The study was conducted in the Zamra catchment, a sub-basin of the large Tekeze river basin and Nile basin tributary. Three common small-scale irrigation scheme types, i.e., traditional diversion, modern diversion, and dam (reservoir) based irrigation, were compared using four pilot survey areas. From the total of 618 farmer households in the study areas, 242 farmers were selected using stratified random sampling and participated in the survey and research. More than 100 input data were collected from the farmers related to the biophysical, socioeconomic, and institutional factors affecting their work practice and livelihood. Focus group discussions were conducted with elders, the water users association committee, and women-headed households. Descriptive statistics and multivariate analysis were used for quantitative analysis. The result indicates a significant difference between the three irrigation schemes. One important conclusion of this study was that the explanatory value of a single factor (e.g., biophysical), as commonly done in irrigation research and assessment, was seldom sufficient to explain water use, crop yield, and farmer income. Institutional and/or socioeconomic drivers also played an important role in the entire farming practice, income generation, and livelihood of the farmers. This study highlighted the value-added of the multidisciplinary approach (socioeconomic, biophysical, and institutional) for the evaluation of small-scale irrigation practices and livelihood analysis of agricultural smallholders in climate-affected regions, such as the Northern Ethiopian highlands.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1704
Pages (from-to)1-19
Number of pages19
JournalSustainability (Switzerland)
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 16 Jan 2023


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