Integrated Sciences


In late 2013, the Nile Basin Development Challenge developed eight key messages. Taken together, these messages form a new paradigm that can help further transform policies and programs and better enable poor smallholder farmers to improve their food security, livelihoods and incomes while conserving the natural resource base.

The fourth key message from the Nile Basin Development Challenge is to ‘create, align and implement incentives for all parties to successfully implement sustainable innovative programs at scale’. Incentives can be positive and negative, formal or informal, tangible or intangible, and they are different whether you are based upstream or downstream. Different incentives will motivate diverse actors differently, but in any case appropriate incentives are critical for community-led implementation of rain water management.

See the overall digital story ‘An integrated watershed rainwater management paradigm for Ethiopia: Key messages from the NBDC‘.

Download the brief covering the full set of key messages.

Read the full technical report “A new integrated watershed rainwater management paradigm for Ethiopia: Key messages from the Nile Basin Development Challenge, 2009–2013


This digital story was produced to communicate the key messages resulting from the Nile Basin Development Challenge (NBDC). The Nile BDC aimed to improve the livelihoods of farmers in the Ethiopian highlands through land and water management and was funded by the Challenge Program for Water and Food. The eight key messages constitute a ‘new integrated watershed rainwater management paradigm’ and are based on the outputs and outcomes of trans-disciplinary scientific research for development

Considering that agriculture remains a key sector in Ethiopia, commercialization of the sector necessitates improving participation of smallholder farmers in markets, hence improving their incomes and livelihoods.

Promoting smallholder commercialization through cash crop production is one avenue of such efforts. The main argument for smallholder commercialization through cash crop production is that it can allow households to increase their income directly. Sesame in Ethiopia can be taken as a good example in this regard. Although Diga has a potential land and the area is among the few areas which are agro-ecologically suitable for sesame production and productivity in the country, smallholder farmers are not participating actively in its production (constrained by a number of factors).

This study assesses factors determining smallholders’ participation in sesame production in Diga, West Ethiopia. Using structured questionnaires, the data was collected from a random sample of 120 smallholder farmers and analysed by using a double hurdle approach.

After all, this study highlighted that access to credit, farm landholding size, family labour, household assets (oxen, donkey), access to family food for the whole year and proximity to extension service centres significantly influence smallholders’ decision probability of participating in sesame production. On the other hand, access to credit, number of oxen owned and number of active family labour significantly determine the level of smallholders’ participation in sesame production.

The implication is that production potential due to favourable agro-ecological condition is necessary but not sufficient for smallholder farmers to participation in sesame production. Indicating household specific and institutional factors also influence their decision. Thus, if active participation of smallholder farmer is required in the field, institutional innovations should be developed and strengthened—in a way to involve all smallholder farmers.

Read the paper

See the full proceedings of the NBDC Science meeting


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.

Termites are a major pest in the semi-arid and sub-humid tropics. They pose a serious threat to agricultural crops, forestry seedlings, rangelands and wooden structures. In Ethiopia the problem is particularly serious in the western part of the country, specifically in Wollega Zones of Oromia Region. In the past, several attempts were made to reduce damage caused by termites, including extensive termite mound poisoning campaigns. These interventions not only had a negative effect on the environment, but were also largely ineffective.

Based on previous work in Uganda showing that adding organic matter to the soil diverts termites from the plant and functions as alternative feed source, a project was commenced by the Challenge Program for Water and Food (CPWF). In partnership with IWMI and Makerere University, ILRI and Wollega University took the lead in working with local stakeholders to identify sustainable solutions to address the termite problem in Diga, Ethiopia. The research consisted of two major activities; 1) a baseline study to better understand the relation between land use, water, termites and local institutions; and 2) the design and testing of identified interventions.

The baseline findings indicated that termite damage depends on various biophysical and socio-institutional factors, which requires an integrated, but also targeted, termite management approach; two termite species are locally recognized, but level of knowledge highly varies among farmers within and between kebeles. Various trials were designed for on-farm experimentation using cattle manure and crop residues as alternative feed source for termites in combination with other cultivation techniques.

The result obtained indicated that application of cattle manure and crop residues increases the organic matter content of the soil by 24.5 and 13.9%—grain yield of maize by 38.8 and 16.7% and reduces termite count per plant by 29.6 and 21.6% as compared to the control treatment, respectively. The results are in line with farmers’ own evaluation of the trials. Results and implications are discussed.

See the presentation:

Read the paper

See the full proceedings of the NBDC Science meeting

Read the technical report No. 9 “Integrated termite management for improved  rainwater management: A synthesis of African experiences


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.

Agricultural productivity in Ethiopian highlands is constrained mainly by high climate variability. Although use of soil and water conservation technologies is recognized as a key strategy to improve agricultural productivity, adoption of technologies has been very low as farmers consider a variety of factors in their adoption decision.

This study assesses the adoption pattern of interrelated rainwater management technologies and investigates factors that influence farm household adoption and scaling-up of rainwater management technologies and draws recommendations for policy. Our results show that rainwater management technologies are interdependent to each other implying that technology adoption decisions need to capture the spillover effect on the adoption of other technologies and have follow a multi-dimensional approach. Moreover, our results suggest that instead of promoting blanket recommendations, it is important to understand the socio-economic, demographic characteristics and biophysical suitability of the rainwater management technologies.

Although impact of gender is likely technology-specific and generalization is not possible, our result indicates that male-headed households have a comparative advantage in rainwater management technologies adoption in the Nile Basin and suggests the need to address the constraints of women farmers to give them an opportunity to actively participate in rural economic activities.

See the presentation:

Read the paper

See the full proceedings of the NBDC Science meeting


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.

Termite infestation is symptomatic of severe land degradation in many semi-arid regions of the Nile Basin. One characteristic of land degradation is low organic matter (OM) reserves in vegetative biomass and soil. One consequence is excessive rainwater depletion through non-productive evaporation and runoff leading to low agricultural water productivity and diminished livelihoods.

CPWF research demonstrated that rapid restoration of pasture production is possible by providing manure through night corralling of cattle prior to re-seeding termite affected rangeland in Uganda. In degraded Ethiopian and Ugandan croplands, preliminary results also suggest that application of maize or sorghum stover to growing maize crops reduces termite damage and associate yield losses. Termites appear to prefer feeding on litter, manure and stover rather than on living plant material.

We hypothesize that sustainable crop and livestock production requires a minimum threshold of available dry-season ‘litter’ to avoid termite-driven destruction. We propose an integrated termite management (ITM) approach that involves establishment of sufficient OM reserves to sustain termites and other ecosystems services. One anticipated consequence is enabling termites to resume their beneficial roles in promoting nutrient recycling, infiltration and aeration of soil.

In this context, ITM requires an appropriate mix of relevant bio-physical and socio-economic interventions. Besides providing water for animal and crop production, the process of rebuilding OM reserves on degraded termite affected rainfed agricultural land requires additional water. We anticipate that the long-term results of increasing OM reserves will be higher agricultural water productivity, increased crop and animal production and improved livelihoods.

See the presentation:

Read the paper

See the full proceedings of the NBDC Science meeting

Read the technical report No. 9 “Integrated termite management for improved  rainwater management: A synthesis of African experiences


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.

Inefficient management and use of water is unanimously the most single constraint of agricultural production of Ethiopia.

This study was conducted to assess the effect of livestock feed sourcing and feeding strategies on livestock water productivity (LWP) in mixed crop–livestock production systems of the Blue Nile Basin in Ethiopian Highlands. Three districts representing diverse agricultural farming systems were considered. Each district further stratified to different farming systems. Multi-stage stratified random sampling technique was employed to select farm households. Household survey, group discussions and plant biomass sampling were done to generate data on beneficial outputs, water depleted and feed sourcing and feeding strategies. LWP was estimated as a ratio of livestock’s beneficial outputs and services to depleted water.

The results indicated that the major feed sources were mainly from crop residues (58.5 to 78.2%), natural pasture (10.9 to 33.4%) and aftermath grazing (9.9 to 24.3%) in study farming systems. The feed source from energy dense (improved forages) was low. The feeding strategies were relatively similar among the study farming systems. No apparent difference (P>0.05) was observed in LWP within all districts among the farming systems and the value falls between USD 0.15–0.19 m-3. However, LWP difference was observed within clustered wealth status within all farming systems and lower value of LWP general observed for the poor farm households. Such differences of LWP values can be accounted for by the strategies farm households are following in feed sourcing and how water productive those feed sources are.

In the context of this work, options to improve LWP mainly involve sourcing water productive and higher quality feed.

See the presentation:

Read the paper

See the full proceedings of the NBDC Science meeting


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.

The Nile Basin Development Challenge (NBDC) is coming to an end in late 2013, as will all Basin challenges of the Challenge Program for Water and Food (with the exception of the Ganges basin for another year). The Nile Challenge has generated many rich experiences that we hope will be taken up by CGIAR research programs (such as ‘Water Lands and Ecosystems‘ and ‘Integrated Systems for the humid tropics’).

The NBDC team organized a double event on 14 and 15 November to facilitate the transition to new programs:

  • A dinner for very important persons (VIP) organized on 14 November to discuss the eight key messages developed by NBDC.
  • A ‘Knowledge Watershed’ event at the ILRI campus on 15 November to look at past achievements, current observations and practices and possible next steps.

The VIP dinner was organized with 30 experts in land and water management in Ethiopia, including the State Ministers for agriculture, energy, water resources, and representatives from the World Bank, the Ethiopian Institute for Agricultural Research etc. The dinner was squeezed between presentations of the eight key messages. The messages were presented in two batches of very short and compelling presentations, interspersed with the different courses of the dinner. The invited guests provided some insights about the key messages and were networked ‘in a different way’. An experience appreciated publicly by one of the state ministers and likely to be followed again for other programs.

Amanda Harding moderating the high level panel closing the Knowledge Watershed (Photo credit: Ewen Le Borgne / ILRI)

Amanda Harding moderating the high level panel closing the Knowledge Watershed (Photo credit: Ewen Le Borgne / ILRI)

The Knowledge watershed was run the next day as a sort of share fair with about 80 participants spanning partner organisations and important actors in land and water management. An initial open mic session invited all participants to share what they considered major achievements of the NBDC. Then the eight key messages were presented and discussed around ‘scale stands’ representing the local (woreda/district), regional (sub-national) and national levels.

The Knowledge Watershed ended with a talk show inviting participants representing partners at woreda, basin authority and federal level to discuss next steps and what would happen ideally if a ‘new NBDC’ was to take place. The final cocktails allowed further networking and public thanking for all the actors that contributed to NBDC in the past years.

More information about these final NBDC events at: http://nilebdc.wikispaces.com/reflection5

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