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Application of a low‐cost database to soil erosion and soil conservation studies in the Awash Basin, Ethiopia

Griffiths, J. S., Richards, K. S.
Land degradation & development 1989 v.1 no.4 pp. 241-262
Food and Agriculture Organization, Universal Soil Loss Equation, basins, computer software, databases, developing countries, finance, geographic information systems, issues and policy, land use change, planning, rivers, soil conservation, soil erosion, watersheds, Ethiopia
In large‐scale land resource planning exercises, Geographical Information Systems (GIS) form a valuable means of storing, retrieving, displaying, and analysing spatially‐referenced data, as well as enabling the simulation of the consequences of various alternative development options. However, at this scale only generalized policies for the allocation of finance can be made, and the implementation of those policies will invariably require detailed evaluation at the local level. This suggests that expenditure on the central planning process itself should be limited, with funds reserved for later site studies. The form of GIS adopted centrally should also lend itself to easy use and interpretation by policymakers and planners. These requirements suggest that GIS development using proprietary off‐the‐shelf database management software may be preferable to high‐technology GIS software. This paper outlines the development of such a GIS, based on dBase‐III‐plus and its internal programming language, in the analysis of problems of soil erosion and soil conservation in the large (110,000 km²) drainage basin of the Awash River in Ethiopia. The methodology employed involves the FAO modification of the Universal Soil Loss Equation, which clearly lacks a secure process basis, but is appropriate for the scale of planning involved and the quality of calibration data available. The GIS is used to map patterns of soil erosion, to identify target areas for conservation on the basis of criteria of sensitivity to land use change, and to assess the costs and benefits of conservation work in those areas. It is suggested that the simple form of GIS involved in this study has much to offer environmental managers in developing countries in the rapid development of plans for soil conservation.