Abstract Land degradation due to poor land management is the main constraint for agricultural productivity globally. Many developing countries have developed national soil and water conservation (SWC) program however, sustainable land management is not yet attained. To understand the effect of SWC measures, a bibliographical review was carried out from the Scopus Elsevier citation database from 1990 to 2017 using the keywords “Effect of SWC” in the title, abstract or keywords. Total amounts of 869 documents were found, and synthesis was made from these scientific journal articles to assess the main biophysical dynamics of watersheds due to SWC measures and to highlight the research gaps. The synthesis revealed that SWC measures in agricultural landscapes have a significant impact on water and sediment connectivity and therefore on the erosion process. It potentially slows the runoff generation, reduces the soil particle detachment and sediment transport; and subsequently, enhances soil moisture and nutrient availability. However, many research article outputs and recommendations focus on plot and small-scale watersheds and are based on short-term or intermediate time frame results. Since there is a lack of sufficient recommendations and scientific evidence founded on long-term observations strong scientifically based feedback on the dynamics of soil properties, surface runoff and erosion processes at watershed and parcel scale should be drawn based on both short- and long-term evidence and considering connectivity and natural-based solutions. This will help to develop and promote ecologically sound, economically viable and socially acceptable conservation measures in agricultural watersheds.