The Nile Basin Development Challenge (NBDC) has identified several challenges to effective planning and implementation of rainwater management (RWM) interventions in its three sites, (Jeldu, Diga and Fogera) located in the Blue Nile Basin of Ethiopia. Challenges include poor coordination and communication between actors, lack of bottom-up planning and insufficient community participation.

Local level innovation platforms have been established in each site an attempt to work with a range of stakeholders to address these issues. So far, innovation platform members have identified common RWM issues and have designed pilot interventions at a micro catchment scale. However, we need to draw on the lessons learned to design more effective strategies at a larger scale.

Zelalem Lemma (ILRI) introduces the WAT-A-GAME workshop

In December 2012, researchers from AfroMaison and the Nile Basin Development Challenge co-organized a workshop in Fogera to develop landscape scale strategies for improved rainwater management. The workshop was organized by Mulugeta Lemenih, Beth Cullen, Zelalem Lema and Aberra Adie with assistance from Geraldine Abrami and Emeline Hassenforder.

The aim of the workshop was to use WAT-A-GAME (WAG), a participatory planning tool, as the starting point for looking at RWM issues at a landscape scale.

WAT-A-GAME is an open toolkit developed by IRSTEA and CIRAD which enables participants to design and run simulations for water management, policy design and education. It aims to show how water moves within a landscape, how it is used, polluted, transformed and shared by actors. Using WAG, participants can simulate various actions or strategies and the resulting impact on their household economy, their wellbeing, labor, and the surrounding ecosystem. New policies can also be invented and tested. It can be adapted to individual cases, various land and water management issues and different scales. WAG has been designed to be used by a range of stakeholders, including farmers, scientists, experts, administrators and policy makers. In this workshop WAG was used to model the Fogera catchment and simulate key RWM issues including water availability, run-off, soil erosion and the impact of different land-use practices.

Aberra Adie (ILRI) introduces the WAT-A-GAME to farmers

Research conducted by NBDC scientists has highlighted a disconnect between farmers and decision makers in terms of perceptions about NRM problems and ideas for solutions.

This is exacerbated by a lack of communication and understanding between the different actors. In order to highlight these differences participants were separated into two groups of 28 community representatives and 22 decision makers and experts.

For the first two days these groups worked separately to identify and prioritize key issues, identify technical, institutional and policy interventions to address these issues and to incorporate these actions into an integrated strategy.

Actions required to address rain water management issues are prioritized by farmers

On the third day, the two groups presented their strategies to one another. This led to knowledge sharing and constructive dialogue about similarities and differences between the strategies, the reasons for this and how they can be merged. The role-playing exercises and subsequent discussions raised awareness about upstream and downstream linkages and landscape interconnectedness. Regional and district staff learned about farmers’ knowledge and priorities, and vice versa.

This was the first in a series of workshops, the next step will be to test strategies developed during the first workshop and work with stakeholders to create an integrated and feasible strategy for the Fogera area that can potentially be implemented. It is hoped that this process will be replicated in the two other NBDC sites over the coming year. The process will be used to share experiences and knowledge between the three sites, as well as between local and national platforms in an attempt to inform policy.

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