Multi-stakeholder conversation on land and water

In late 2011, all projects in the Nile Basin Development Challenge prepared ‘most significant change’ stories from the first phase of operations. One of the stories looked at how water-focused collaborative research in Ethiopia by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) has evolved over the past 8 years.

NBDC Brief 9 is a summary  of the story.

It started with research on livestock-water linkages during CPWF Phase I (2004-2008), continued through further analysis of crop-livestock production systems within a BMZ-supported project on water productivity in crop-livestock systems (2007-2009), and now has a broader rainwater management (RWM) focus on landscapes and the institutional linkages needed to achieve change through the Nile Basin Development Challenge (2010-2013).

We have seen the research agenda move from water productivity to crop-livestock-water system productivity that strives for an optimal balance in allocating water resources for crops and livestock.

Rainwater management as integrating framework

The ‘rainwater management’ concept that emerged seems to be attractive to people and organizations in Ethiopia. In particular we see uptake by those who promote watershed management as a key natural resources management strategy but end up doing soil conservation structures. RWM strategies also help national institutions move from a rainwater harvesting focus towards integrated rainwater management, and from surface water management towards integrated blue and green water in the landscape.

This broader concept, with institutional, technological and political dimensions, calls for a wider participation of actors at farm, landscape, national and regional scales. Beyond the wider involvement of different actors, it calls for a greater emphasis on overall sustainable landscape productivity that addresses water depletion, land degradation, low productivity and institutional capacity. It has inserted new thinking in ongoing national programmes, including the multi-donor forum on ‘Sustainable Land Management’ which is integrating water in the national land management agenda.

Closer to home, this emerging RWM concept is influencing members of the NBDC team – in terms of methodology and working approaches, particularly by moving people away from disciplinary-based research towards integrated landscape management. Shifting the focus away from research and landscape components towards wider system approaches has also brought scientists at IWMI and ILRI together in a particularly long-lasting and productive collaboration, to the extent that the two groups in Ethiopia operate as one in several projects.

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