Most farmers in the Blue Nile Basin depend on unreliable rainfed agriculture and are vulnerable to climate variability. Lack of appropriate rain water management in these areas prevents smallholders from addressing the consequences of flooding during the rainy season and droughts during the dry season. This is in turn a major contributory factor to food insecurity and poverty.

Addressing these issues entails designing, targeting and prioritizing rain water management strategies. In support of this, we developed a generic methodology for out-scaling and prioritizing interventions in agricultural systems. The methodology entails a multi-stage and iterative process of:

  1. diagnosis and selection of options,
  2. characterization of the options,
  3. identification of the recommendation domains and out-scaling potential of these options,
  4. assessing the impacts along different dimensions and on different groups of people.

This paper describes how we applied this methodology in the Blue Nile Basin. We consulted several national stakeholders and identified the ‘best-bet’ options as they are currently being promoted by the SLM program. A next step entailed the description and characterization of the options. Previous knowledge about bio-physical and socio-economic conditions influencing suitability was collated, while field studies were undertaken to increase our understanding of adoption of these options. Matching this characterization data with a spatial database allowed us to map the suitability and feasibility of rainwater management options and strategies. For the last stage, the impact assessment, we identified the most-likely-to-be-adopted strategy for each of the watersheds based on the feasibility maps. We translated this into maps compatible with the SWAT model.

Results from the impact assessment should eventually feed back into the assessment of alternative options. The framework is applicable in many different forms and settings. The steps can be gone through qualitatively in a multi-stakeholder setting while the process can also be done quantitatively. It has a wide applicability beyond the Blue Nile Basin.

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This paper was first presented at the Nile Basin Development Challenge Science meeting. The NBDC Science meeting was held on 9 and 10 July 2013 at the ILRI-Ethiopia campus, with the objectives to exchange experiences and research results across NBDC scientists involved in the NBDC projects and to discuss challenges and possible solutions.