Contour bunding

A traditional low-cost method of soil conservation suitable for sloping land; it promotes water retention and helps prevent erosion.

Contour bunding is a proven sustainable land management practice for marginal, sloping, and hilly land where the soil productivity is very low. It is widely adopted by the ethnic minorities of Nepal who practice the shifting cultivation system of farming. Over generations, they have successfully used this technology to control soil erosion, promote water retention, and increase crop production. It has a high probability of replication because it is simple to implement, is low cost, and makes the maximum use of local resources.

Farmers use a multi-step process to promote the formation of rough terraces along contour lines on sloping land. First the vegetation on the shifting cultivation plot (mostly fodder and forage trees and bushes) is cut down and the leaves and small twigs removed from the branches by slashing. All the material is left on the surface to dry. The leaves and twigs gradually decompose. After a few weeks, the remaining dry material is rolled into bundles and arranged along contour lines. The material is anchored with pegs, stones, and (where possible) tree stumps. This is the beginning of the contour bund. The farmers then incorporate the remaining leaf litter and decomposed organic matter into the soil between the bunds and plant crops. Over time, as the soil gradually deposits above each bund and is eroded below, rough terraces are formed. The process is labour intensive and farmers need to regularly check and maintain the bunds to allow the soil to collect.

WOCAT database reference: QT NEP 26

Location: Chitwan, Tanahun, Gorkha, Dhading and Makawanpur Districts, Nepal

Technology area: 1–10 km2

Conservation measure(s): Structural

Land use: Mixed land: agroforestry

Stage of intervention: Mitigation/reduction of land degradation

Origin: Initiated by the land users

Climate: Subhumid/subtropical Other related technology: Improved terraces (QT NEP 2)

Compiled by: Bir Bahadur Tamang, LI-BIRD

Date: March 2010, updated March 2013

Chitwan, Tanahun, Gorkha, Dhading and Makawanpur Districts, Nepal