Livestock Challenges


On 23 and 24 July, the Nile BDC organised a regional stakeholder dialogue in Bahir Dar to share emerging findings on land and water management with partners from Ethiopia’s regions and explore how to institutionalize a regional platform for NRM. It built on the messages emerging from the recent NBDC science meeting.

Participants discuss key issues to take forward (Credit: ILRI/Meron Mulatu)

Participants discuss key issues to take forward (Credit: ILRI/Meron Mulatu)

About 55 participants from the regions in Ethiopia where NBDC is active (Amhara and Oromia) and from other regions (Tigray and SNNPR) as well as from federal and international institutions discussed:

  • An overview of NBDC activities in the three pilot sites – Jeldu, Fogera, Diga (presentation by Simon Langan)
  • Major learning from the pilot interventions: tools and practices
  • NBDC messages and their contribution for policy and institutions at the regional level
  • Experiences from other projects:
  • Major challenges in rainwater management in the Abay basin: By Abay Basin experts in collaboration with the Bureau of Agriculture and the Amhara Regional Agricultural Research Institute (ARARI)
  • Institutionalization of a regional NRM platform: Ownership and way forward

Read more about the regional stakeholders’ dialogue on the NBDC wiki,

See presentations and notes from the meeting

More presentations from the: Nile BDC

See pictures from the event

Six months before its formal end as a project, the Nile Basin Development Challenge (NBDC) hosted a science meeting to share ongoing and finalised research results.

Bedasa Eba introducing his paper60 participants met on 9 and 10 July 2013 and reviewed presentations organised around four main themes:

  • Livestock and irrigation
  • Water productivity, hydrological and erosion modeling
  • Rainwater, land and water resources management
  • Institutions, adoption and marketing

In addition, 10 posters were also featured in the science meeting, mainly from PhD and MSc students working in the NBDC. Presentations and posters are online.

Key lessons and conclusions emerging were:

  • The research for development approach adopted by the NBDC and other basins in the Challenge Program for Water and Food (CPWF) is valuable but it has not been able to go as far as planned, especially in terms of getting beyond research outputs towards development outcomes. See more about this in the presentation by Doug Merrey.
  • The Development Agents’ (DA) system has been somewhat left behind but have a crucial role to play and could be revitalised by actors like NBDC to involve DA staff in transdisciplinary research projects that can help move research outputs to outcomes.
  • NBDC research tends to focus on individual or household benefits of certain rainwater management interventions but less attention has been given to collective benefits and tradeoffs between upstream and downstream communities. The debate about on-site and off-site benefits and the link with ecosystem services at landscape level remains open.
  • Similarly, competition for water resources puts the stress on a new phenomenon: it is traditionally easier to promote individual technologies rather than collectively managed schemes (with their high transaction costs). However, adding too many individual pumps in the watershed stresses water resources.

The participants also highlighted a series of research gaps that ought to be taken up by future initiatives focusing on land and rainwater management (RWM). These included: appropriate land use planning, strengthening local agencies to deal with RWM and to plan land use, identifying suitable scalable solutions that are appropriate for a given context or focusing on scalable practices and methods or approaches; improving biomass production.

Finally, they noted that NBDC science remains somewhat scattered but the evidence base collected is an important asset to carry into other initiatives that will build on the NBDC legacy.

The presentations and individual papers featured in the NBDC science meeting will be individually featured on this website – watch this space!

Read conversation notes and links to outputs from the meeting

Discover the presentations and the posters shared at the science meeting

Download the meeting proceedings.

In April 2013, the Africa Research in Sustainable Intensification for the Next Generation (Africa RISING) and Nile Basin Development Challenge (NBDC) jointly organised a ‘Training of Trainers’ workshop in the use of SLATE: A tool for Sustainable Livelihoods Asset Evaluation. The initial workshop was held in Addis Ababa. 30 participants from the Africa RISING’s four project sites and NBDC Innovation platforms attended the training. The training combined both conceptual and practical sessions in Jeldu woreda, one of the NBDC research sites.

Trainees practicing SLATE on their laptops (photo credit: ILRI/Simret Yasabu)

Trainees practicing SLATE on their laptops (photo credit: ILRI/Simret Yasabu)

SLATE has been developed by ILRI (International Livestock Research Institute) Scientist Peter Thorne. The SLATE tool uses the Sustainable Livelihoods approach of the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID) to think about scope, priorities and objectives for development.

The tool helps identify the range of assets and options open to households and get a clearer idea of the constraints and opportunities available to them. By concentrating on the range of different assets that are accessible to farm households, it ensures that these can be taken into account when designing development interventions.

How does SLATE complement NBDC innovation platform activities?

There is a recognized need to tailor soil and water conservation (SWC) interventions to specific socio-economic and biophysical conditions. The NBDC pilot interventions aim to improve collaboration between stakeholders at woreda level in order to ensure that SWC activities are better tailored to local contexts. Although farmers participating in the first year pilot interventions expressed an interest in fodder development, there had been limited consideration for the needs of different types of farmers. In order to improve the fodder interventions undertaken in 2013, innovation platform members realized they needed to consider variations in livestock holdings, land size and wealth between participating farmers as well as the inclusion of farmers without livestock. NBDC researchers organized the SLATE training to build the capacity of platform members to identify the needs of different farming households.

SLATE training

On the First day, Peter Thorne and Amare Haileslassie  shared the previous SLATE-based survey processes and findings undertaken at Bekoje, Arsi as well as the various steps around data collection and software demonstration. This was followed by a group exercise to familiarize the participants with the software.

For the field work, trainees were divided up in to three Kebeles (Seriti, Kolu Gelan and Chelanko) in Jeldu woreda of the Oromia Region, one of the NBDC Innovation Platform sites. During the first day of the field work, each group had a chance to meet and discuss with selected farmers to identify livelihoods indicators for their specific communities. With the selected farmers each group were able to identify 49-53 livelihoods indicators. On the second and third day individual household interviews were conducted with farmers (50 farmers in each kebele) to assess their asset status based on the already identified livelihoods assets indicators. The data collected from each household were then entered in the SLATE software to generate a set of livelihoods asset pentagons which gave a quick overview of the areas in which households and communities may differ.

On the last day of the training, participants presented review of the field exercise which covered the approaches they followed, the challenges and lessons learned, the results of their interviews as well as key issues for future considerations.

Read more about the SLATE training on the Africa RISING workspace.

By Beth Cullen and Simret Yasabu

The Ethiopian highlands are losing many valuable tree and shrub species because of anthropogenic and climatic factors. The coverage of high value indigenous tree and shrub species has declined. The tree species that used to provide quality products and ecosystem services have become limited. As a result, there is increasing use of non-forest/tree products such as dung and crop residues to fill fuel and other household requirements.

This brief, co-produced by the Nile Basin Development Challenge and the Africa RISING research program on sustainable intensification, examines important issues to consider for the advancement of tree planting in the Ethopian highlands: germplasm issues, data and information-related issues, capacity development, working on a holistic and integrated approach, institutional issues and policy-related issues. Yet, trees can be a potential connector/integrator of the crop and livestock components of the farming system in the highlands of Ethiopia.

The brief was developed from the third meeting of the National Platform for Land and Water Managementread the meeting report.

Read the NBDC / Africa RISING brief on tree growing in the highlands of Ethiopia

Participants of Lessons and success stories from a pilot project on climate change adaptation interventions in Kabe watershed workshop (Credit: ILRI/Zerihun Sewunet)

Participants of Lessons and success stories from a pilot project on climate change adaptation interventions in Kabe watershed workshop (Credit: ILRI/Zerihun Sewunet)

The project ‘Enhancing communities’ adaptive capacity to climate change in drought-prone hotspots of the Blue Nile Basin in Ethiopia‘ hosted a final workshop on 11 and 12 February 2013 in Addis Ababa. The project, which was launched in late November 2011, had about one year to “develop a learning site to help enhance the adaptive capacities of local communities to climate-change induced water scarcity” and to “provide evidence to governments to consider climate change and ecosystems in land use planning and natural resource management”. The site chosen was the Kabe watershed around Wollo.

The end of project workshop discussed lessons from the project and identified success stories that could be scaled up to similar areas. Over the two days, the 4o or so participants actively engaged with three major areas of the project:

  • Watershed exploration (socio economic circumstances, community perceptions on climate change in the watershed, climate scenarios);
  • Climate change adaptation interventions (crop and home garden interventions, livestock interventions, water/soil & water conservation and agro-forestry interventions);
  • Cross-cutting issues (watershed mapping, capacity building, collective action).

On the second day, they identified what interventions could be scaled up, how they could be scaled up (building on the approaches tried out in the project) and what a next phase of this project might look like.

Throughout the workshop, the digital stories that were developed as part of this project were shown to illustration some of the project’s findings.

The United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) which funded this project is interested in a more ambitious second phase of this project. Some of the lessons learned through the project and summarized in the workshop will hopefully see other useful applications soon.

Read meeting minutes

See some presentations from this meeting

Discover photos from the event

One of the objectives of the Nile Basin Development Challenge – registered as one of the outcomes that the program hopes to achieves – is to develop the capacities of various actors, including of future generations of decision-makers, planners and implementers of land and water management policies and interventions.

Over the past, the Nile BDC has hosted the work of various students to develop their theses. Here is a tour of some of these:

Most recently,

Other theses comprise:

For the final year of the Nile BDC, a few more theses and pieces of work can be expected.

Sabine Douxchamps, Augustine Ayantunde and Jennie Barron at the sister Volta Basin Development Challenge just published a study of agricultural water management in rainfed crop-livestock systems of the Volta Basin (Burkina Faso and Ghana) that investigates the return of aid investments on water availability, food security and livelihoods.

The authors provide recommendations for research-for-development interventions and new concepts for research on water management:

  • When promoting AWM strategies, projects should carefully study the available information on factors triggering adoption, and play on these to ensure sustainable uptake of the technology.
  • Local capacities and agendas should be better accounted for when promoting AWM strategies or low-cost irrigation technologies.
  • Participatory management of the water infrastructure should be carefully planned through integration of maintenance costs in project budget, capacity building of actors towards assumption of more responsibility, and ways to deal with turnovers within management committees.
  • Farmers’ capacity building is definitely a key asset for enlightened risk management and constant adaptation to new variable conditions.
  • Future research and development projects should concentrate on how to leverage the factors limiting
    adoption and enhancing system productivity while maintaining healthy ecosystem services.
  • There is a need for a system perspective, to improve water-crop-livestock interactions, to develop off-season cultivation options and market access, and to balance distribution of gender benefits.
  • There is a need for a multi-scale, landscape perspective, to understand ecological landscape processes and trade-offs between ecosystem services derived from and affected by AWM strategies adoption across different scales.
  • There is a need for an institutional perspective, to facilitate management of AWM structures and to raise awareness.
  • Finally, there is a need for a long-term perspective, to foresee the best strategies for adaptation to climate change and manage risk in the variable environment of the Volta Basin.

Download the study

The topic working group on ‘spatial analysis and modelling’ (SAM) from the Challenge Program for Water and Food (CPWF) has agreed on a partnership between the International Water Management Institute (IWMI), Cornell University and Texas A&M University on a product dealing with global climate reanalysis data.

This partnership and announced its intentions at the recent Soil and Water Technology (SWAT) 2012 conference. The product (available at this address: http://tamu-cornell.drfuka.org/) will be hosted by Texas A&M University for now.

As an upcoming paper highlights, “Obtaining representative or near real-time meteorological data to force watershed models can be difficult and time consuming. Land based stations are often too far from the point of interest to adequately represent the weather, and many have  gaps in the data series.” The Climate Forecast System Reanalysis (CFSR) global meteorological data set has the advantage of using precipitation and temperature data, which generally provide better predictions of watershed discharge than land based stations at distances greater than 10 km from the watershed center.

This data set is useful for the SAM team for hydrological modeling, in the absence of gauge data. However, the data can also be used for any other application. It requires MET parameters – a lot of other parameters were not included (see full details at: http://rda.ucar.edu/pub/cfsr.html). Daniel Fuka, PhD student from Cornell University is leading this work.

Confronting project ideas with farmers’ realities is always an interesting game with sometimes unexpected outcomes. In one recent Nile Basin Development Challenge (NBDC) activity, this reality check has unearthed a potentially promising future for intensification in the Ethiopian highlands via chicken and fruit tree farming.

As part of the NBDC, one of the program teams (in the so called ‘Nile 3’ project on targeting and scaling out water management systems), held field focus groups in four watersheds, namely in Gorosole (Ambo, Oromia), Laku (Shambu, Oromia) Maksenit (Gondar, Amhara) and Zefie (Debre Tabor, Amhara). The focus group discussions, focusing on a participatory mapping exercise, were held separately in each location for women and men.

The objectives of the discussions were to identify the ‘ideal’ landscape management from a community perspective and understand why that ideal landscape has not been implemented. We hoped that the rainwater management practices that the focus groups find most suitable in each watershed would allow us to validate the suitability maps developed by the project team.

Unsurprisingly, soil and water conservation related to small scale irrigation practices was found to be suitable. In some locations, farmers wished they had better access to pumps to intensify these practices.

More surprisingly however, two other major rainwater management practices across all the watersheds were seen as important: Fruit tree cultivation and chicken farming.

In all watersheds, fruit trees scored high in the mapping exercise. In the highlands (Laku, Gorosole and Zefie), farmers put apple trees high on their wishlist. In the warmer Maksenit area, (mostly) women talking of ‘home gardens’, i.e. small papaya orchards combined with pepper production. Fruit trees are a source of hope for most farmers that the project team encountered.

Remarkably, each watershed was at a different level of implementation but it did not affect the results. In Gorosole there are no trees because farmers cannot access seedlings, whereas in Zefie and Maksenit the first farmers are planting trees, however they are yet to yield any fruits. Laku watershed was the only location where farmers do have apple orchards and are facing challenges to bring apples to the market. Given the high price of apples in Ethiopian towns, apples seem a promising business – a pathway to make the value chain work for smallholders?

In two watersheds – Laku and Maksenit – farmers were dreaming of chicken farms (with about 20-30 chickens). In those areas, chicken prices are high. Diversifying their activities to include poultry would allow farmers to de-stock other livestock and decrease the pressure on natural resources. However, this promising track is not without its hazards: In Laku, farmers struggle with their limited knowledge about how to increase the chicken population and move towards chicken farming; in Maksenit the limiting factor is pest management.

Given that chickens often cost less in Ethiopian cities than they do in rural locations, farmers might want to promote and handle poultry farming carefully. The poultry road to intensification is perhaps not as promising as it first looks.

Read a detailed report from the focus group discussions (on the project wiki)

(By Catherine Pfeifer)

The national platform on land and water management held its third meeting on 23-24 July 2012 at the campus of the International Livestock Research Institute in Addis Ababa. About 70 participants attended this event and represented Governmental agencies and regional bureaus, research institutes and universities, non-governmental organizations and donor agencies.

After having been established with a specific vision and mandate in the first national platform meeting, the National Platform was further developed in the second national platform meeting, where participants teased out priority work areas for which four thematic working groups are developing an agenda.

This third event offered an opportunity to:

  • Inform a wider audience about the national platform: what it is about, what it aims to do and how it relates to other projects, in particular Africa RISING;
  • Introduce the four thematic working groups and their agenda for the coming months and gather feedback on their rationale and activities.

This meeting was a first for the platform as it was hosted with the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) – more specifically, one of the Africa RISING ‘early win’ projects on ‘Sustainable tree-crop-livestock intensification as a pillar for the Ethiopian climate resilient green economy initiative‘. As a result, the main part of the event was dedicated to this particular project which ties in naturally with the agenda of the land and water management national platform.

The agroforestry part of the event culminated with a panel discussion which discussed some challenges faced in Ethiopia: Weak coordination and integration, climate change, and (insufficiently?) participatory approaches to policy-making. One of the panelists and some  platform members advocated a holistic approach that integrates crops, livestock and agroforestry.

Following these sessions, the four thematic working groups of the national platform introduced themselves, their agendas for the next 12 to 18 months and collected additional ideas of relevant initiatives, actors and documents that could inform their work on institutional innovation, technological innovation, ecosystem resilience and policy support.

The third national platform meeting ended by raising some challenging considerations for the platform itself: How wide or focused should it be? How to avoid duplication and competition with the Sustainable Land Management project funded by the German Development Cooperation Agency (GIZ), how (and perhaps whether) to sustain this platform beyond the Nile Basin Development Challenge…

Expanding a platform to invite other actors and initiatives can be crucial for its healthy development, although it begs the question of the added value and unique selling point of the platform.

Read the workshop report

See some pictures from the workshop

Read the notes from the sessions

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