Rainfall in the semi-arid Ethiopian Highlands is characterized by erratic nature, and dryspells during crop growing season is a critical problem for the rainfed production systems. Rainfed farming therefore needs to be supported by appropriate water harvesting technologies to mitigate the moisture stress during critical crop growth stage during the main season and to increase opportunities for irrigated horticultural production. With this aim, a wider scale of water harvesting technology dissemination program was carried out in these areas of Ethiopia since 2002/03. In Tigray region, on-farm level household ponds, larger communal ponds, and a series of ponds were the three types of water harvesting technologies promoted by the program since it initiation to store and utilize rain water/runoff. This research was conducted with the aim of evaluating the implementation of the program and its impacts thus far, and to identify the major technical and socio-economic constraints to the wider utilization of the on-farm level household ponds.
The on-farm household ponds were found not well adapted to the socio-economic environment and the utilization level of the ponds for the planned objectives was limited in the region. The implementation process was found deficient in popularizing the pond technologies among farmers and many technical problems were found to limit the wider utilization of the household ponds. The experience of farmers in irrigated farming, particularly with such small-scale water harvesting structures, is limited and farmers have attitude problems in accepting the technologies. Although, some model farmers were able to utilize the ponds in a beneficial way, the economic benefits for the large majority of the farmers were limited. However, detailed analysis of the case of model farmers show that acceptable economic returns are possible from pond technologies given that farmers are able to follow appropriate cropping patterns and irrigation techniques to improve water use efficiency.
It is recommended that the technologies should be disseminated in the region with a limited dependence of external support and in a more farmer participatory approach. The technology options should also be widened and these require more research for the generation of alternative technologies.