Blue Nile Hydrosolidarity

Valuation of Land and Water Use

PhD research project by: Abonesh Tesfaye


The Blue Nile faces significant pressures, most importantly soil erosion due to unsustainable land management, causing negative on-site and off-site externalities to different water users living and working in the river basin in Ethiopia and Sudan. This includes agricultural productivity losses affecting rural livelihoods downstream and upstream, drinking water intake and hydropower generation downstream, siltation of irrigation canals and reservoirs, environmental land and water degradation and subsequent aquatic ecosystem habitat and biodiversity losses.

The main objective of this PhD study is to assess the economic value of the positive and negative externalities of sustainable soil conservation and watershed policy, both upstream and downstream in the Blue Nile river basin. In environmental economics, a variety of economic valuation methods have been developed over the past decades to address the positive and negative externalities associated with environmental policy in general and water policy more particularly which will be further developed and applied in this PhD study. Besides economic valuation of the externalities associated with soil conservation and watershed services, the study will also examine the institutional-economic incentives and conditions needed to be in place in order to encourage sustainable land and water use across the river basin. The study results will be part of a wider cost-benefit analysis (CBA) of sustainable transboundary river basin management and policy, accounting for recent developments in CBA, hence strengthening the role of economics in policy and decision-making in the Blue Nile river basin.


  • Brouwer, R., Tesfaye, A., and Pauw, P. (2011). Meta-analysis of institutional-economic factors explaining the environmental performance of payments for watershed services. Environmental Conservation, 38(4), 380-392, DOI:
  • Tesfaye, A. & Brouwer, R. (2012). Testing participation constraints in contract design for sustainable soil conservation in Ethiopia. Ecological Economics, 73, 168–178, DOI:
  • Tesfaye, A., Negatu, W., Brouwer, R. & Van der Zaag, P., 2013. Understanding soil conservation decision of farmers in the Gedeb watershed, Ethiopia, Land Degradation & Development, DOI:
  • Abonesh Tesfaye Tulu (2013) Institutional-Economic Incentives for Sustainable Watershed Management in the Blue Nile River Basin. PhD thesis VU Amsterdam, 11 November 2013; promoters: Roy Brouwer & Pieter van der Zaag