Livestock-Water


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.

The NBDC recently organized a capacity building workshop (8-10 May 2013) to address feed resource needs identified by local NBDC partners and beneficiaries.

Innovation platforms (IP) established by the Nile Basin Development Challenge Program (NBDC) have identified fodder as an important intervention for soil and water conservation efforts in the Blue Nile Basin. In all three NBDC sites (Diga, Fogera, Jeldu) platforms decided to introduce fodder varieties to improve the supply of livestock feed, control gazing and support current government soil and water conservation interventions.  IP members began piloting fodder interventions during 2012. Improved forages were chosen by experts to suit local agro-ecologies: rhodes grass and elephant grass in Diga, desho grass, elephant grass and tree lucerne in Jeldu and elephant grass, vetch and sesbania in Fogera. Different approaches were applied in each to explore factors influencing the adoption and effectiveness of interventions:

  • Backyard fodder development by individuals at household level;
  • Planting of fodder on SWC structures;
  • Enclosure of communal grazing areas through collective action. In the first year 40 farmers participated in Diga, 96 in Jeldu and 13 in Fogera.

After the first year of pilot interventions the innovation platform members evaluated their activities and identified some gaps in knowledge and skills related to the design of fodder interventions. To assist this process, NBDC researchers organized a capacity building workshop (8-10 May 2013) to train local partners in the use of tools that would enable the assessment of the existing feed situation in their area, current livestock management practices and farmer needs. This was followed by practical fieldwork so that IP members could experience implementing the tools first-hand.

The tools

FEAST training - group picture The Feed Assessment Tool (FEAST) which was developed by ILRI’s Alan Duncan and colleagues is a systematic method to assess local feed resource availability and use. It helps in the design of intervention strategies aiming to optimize feed utilization and animal production. It comprises two parts: PRA part which aids group discussion with groups of farmers and individual questionnaire interview part which captures information at house hold level.

The Farmers’ Need Assessment (FNA) tool is complementary to the FEAST and helps list the possible existing problems/needs and prioritizing by pair-wise ranking.

The combined FEAST and FNA produces complementing information which can be used to identify possible interventions.

The training

FEAST CD training 2 Fifteen innovation platform technical group members from the three NBDC sites attended the three day training at Beshale Hotel in Addis Ababa. These included representatives of local research institutions, universities, NGOs and experts from woreda agricultural offices.

The training was given by Professor Adugna Tolera of Hawassa University who has provided similar training to stakeholders in other ILRI projects, and Ato Adissu Mulugeta, a private consultant who introduced the data entry software. ILRI-NBDC staff (Zelalem Lema, Gerba Leta, Tsehay Regassa and Aberra Adie) assisted the training in facilitating group works and field survey exercises.  Zelalem Lema led the overall facilitation process during the training period. Beth Cullen (ILRI) who coordinated the training event made the opening speech on the first day and emphasized the importance of the training to assist the ongoing action research at the NBDC sites.  Kindu Mekonnen (ILRI) made technical contributions to the FNA format development and other issues discussed during the training.

The first day of the training oriented the participants about the background and contents of the tools, including familiarization with the software. Holeta Agricultural Research Centre facilitated the practical field testing of the tools which included a data collection exercise with farmers in the village of Wolmera Woreda in the Holeta area. During the third day the trainees practiced data entry and reporting using software.

FEAST CD training3 During the reflection session at the end of the training, the participants appreciated the usefulness and user-friendliness of the tools.  Finally, the trainees expressed their ambition to implement the knowledge they acquired during the training and generate baseline information to contribute to the action research at their respective sites. They soon developed an action plan to collect and analyze data and produce a report in order to gather information before the commencement of the cropping season.

The aim will be to build the local research capacity of key IP members and to use the results to tailor the innovation platform pilot fodder interventions to the local needs and situations.

By Aberra Adie, Beth Cullen and Zelalem Lema

The CGIAR Challenge Program on Water and Food just published a new report from the Nile Basin setting out ways to enhance rainwater management (RWM) development processes.

In Ethiopia, considerable potential exists to enhance food production and rural livelihoods through better rainwater management – interventions which enable smallholder farmers to increase agricultural production – focusing on livestock, trees, fish as well as crops – by making better use of available rainwater while sustaining the natural resource base (water and soils) in rainfed farming systems.

Ethiopia has invested extensively in RWM interventions, in particular soil and water conservation and afforestation, over the last 40 years, but often with disappointing impact, for multiple reasons. Given this limited success in natural resource conservation, a new approach is clearly needed, but what should it be?

This report highlighted various livelihood issues that need to be considered if RWM activities are to be successful; it concludes with six recommendations:

  1. Shift the focus of targets from outputs to outcomes;
  2. Enhance monitoring and evidence collection on RWM with a focus on impact and sustainability;
  3. Revitalize and capitalize on the development agent system;
  4. Strengthen local institutions’ roles in natural resource management;
  5. Move towards more meaningful participation;
  6. Open lines of communication to foster innovation capacity.

Download the report

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

Catherine Pfeifer (credit: ILRI / C. Pfeifer)

Catherine Pfeifer, Post-doc at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and the International Water Management Institute (IWMI), is going back to Switzerland in late December. For the past three years, she was involved in the Nile Basin Development Challenge project (‘N3’) on ‘Targeting and scaling out of rainwater management systems‘.

In this interview she shares some views on her involvement in the NBDC  and particularly her work around gaming solutions for targeting relevant land and water management options.

What range of NBDC activities have you been involved in?

My main activity has been the Nile-goblet tool, including finding the data, setting up the database (linked to our suitability data), developing the concept of the tool. In a way, the Nile-goblet brings everything from the N3 project together: concepts, suitability data and adoption maps. This work aims to explain how to introduce socio-economic constraints in biophysical targeting.

The other main activity has been the Happy Strategies game which helps people assess most suitable land and water management interventions in a given area.

In addition to this, she did a lot of capacity building: A one-week training on geographic information systems (GIS) in 2011 and two training courses more recently this year. Finally there was the learning event last week which introduced the Nile-Goblet tool to members of the NBDC national platform thematic working group on technological innovation.

What has been most successful / what are you most proud of?

The tools: the Nile-goblet and the Happy Strategies game. They are taken up by partners (the Water and Land Resource Centre will further promote and work with those tools. They are considering developing them further in future learning events of the thematic working group on technological innovation. The reason I am proud: our initial objective was to get other people involved in developing these tools and we seem to have achieved this objectives.

Working with partners has generally been successful, despite challenges (see below).

The Spatial Analysis and Modeling topic working group has also been great to work with and quite a success.

What has also been successful is the work in our team: as the GIS specialist, I could take care of the adoption maps and developed a participatory tool. The team was very flexible throughout the process. I had enough freedom to do the things the way I thought they should work out.

What has been most challenging? Why?

Working with partners has been challenging at times, but we overcame challenges.

The other challenge was the integration with other NBDC projects. The program aimed to work in an interdisciplinary manner but it hasn’t always worked, perhaps because of the the way the project was set up. I wonder if we really had the space to develop such interdisciplinary work. At any rate we haven’t really worked together across teams as much as we could have. Every team worked in its interdisciplinary approach but this didn’t extend across projects. We missed opportunities to think together about how outputs could have been developed.

What lessons learned will you use or build upon (from your NBDC work) in your next job?

I want to keep working on integrating socio-economic constraints in spatial models. There is scope to understand how this integration works much better. I learned a lot about it in the past two years but there’s a lot of space for improvement still.

What I also really learned was how important it is to involve farmers and mix expert and local knowledge. For example we can do this geographic targeting but it will never be perfect. We need a space to interact, validate and learn and adjust, which is what we tried to offer with the Happy Strategies game. That integration is something where the CGIAR is very strong.

I also learned to not be scared, to trust that things will work out in the end somehow…  Three years ago, I would have been scared to talk to farmers and now I’m ready for it any time.

Any advices to the NBDC for the final year?

  • Get the right people involved at the right moment. E.g. the learning event was small but it brought together interested people and they will take it up.
  • Move away from trying at all costs to bring the diversity of the NBDC together. Think also about bringing similar people together to take over the work. Perhaps in our innovation platforms we would do well to reduce the diversity and invest in people that will take things up.
  • Mind the fatigue of our partners. Only invite partners that can really benefit from the events we organize. Otherwise there is a risk of a lot of talking and nothing much happening. And some partners are investing precious time and money in the events we organize, we need to remember that when planning our meetings.
  • Don’t get lost in interdisciplinarity: Try to link the NBDC teams and people but don’t try to force them to work together. There is a lot of good work that could be used at different scales and for different people. Not everything needs to be integrated.
  • If you really want to integrate the NBDC work, develop a Google layer and look seriously into collecting geo-coordinates for each NBDC output, so it can be shown on Google Earth and linked to actual NBDC documents. This could be the easiest way for NBDC to integrate our work. If I were to stay another year I would work on that and try to develop a public layer on Google Earth or a KML file (for Google Earth) which people can download, click on and display the NBDC outputs.

How do you look back at the whole experience?

I had a great time. I loved my job. I loved the fact that my job was free, despite the occasional tensions. I’m happy to see it finish nicely.

Catherine Pfeifer regularly blogged about her NBDC work on her own blog: http://catherinepfeifer.blogspot.com/

Discover the Nile-Goblet tool: http://nilebdc.wikispaces.com/Nile+Goblet+tool+and+training

Discover and use the Happy Strategies game: http://happystrategies.wikispaces.com/

Planning NBDC activities for researchers (Photo credit: ILRI/Le Borgne)The Nile Basin Development Challenge (NBDC) is entering its final year. By December 2013, all activities funded through the Challenge Program for Water and Food (CPWF) need to be complete.

A planning exercise on 15 and 16 November brought the core partners together to re-arrange priorities around specific outcomes and target groups that NBDC intends to influence.

About 25 participants representing the remaining four NBDC projects (the stock-taking project ‘Learning about rainwater management systems‘ ended earlier on) took part to the meeting.

Over the two days, participants:

  • reviewed the outcome logic model (the planning/monitoring framework) informing their activities to assess its validity in the current context,
  • took stock of important assets that the NBDC should capitalize on, in terms of outputs produced, networks strengthened and capacities developed,
  • discussed the integration of these assets and activities to support five key stakeholder groups: farmers and farming associations, researchers, planners, policy-makers and the internal NBDC team,
  • developed action plans to align these activities,
  • identified activities for cross-cutting issues such as gender, monitoring and evaluation, the sunrise strategy that is expected to ease the dawn of the program and a final session to plan the external stakeholder meeting in February 2013,
  • filled out a timeline of the project that tracked back important events, outputs, changes in the network or in the attitudes and skills of stakeholders. Participants were energized by the large numbers of outputs already produced as well as the extent of the capacity and network building efforts.

The workshop was a strong exercise in integrating across all the teams; it brought all the ‘N-project’ teams together around cross-cutting outcomes by stakeholder groups.

The next step in this planning is a full stakeholder meeting in February 203. Thereafter, the countdown for the NBDC will really tick with a renewed sense of urgency.

Read notes from the meeting here.

See some pictures from the meeting here.

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

Maksenit (Amhara) community members playing an adapted version of the ‘Happy Strategies’ Game Capturing GIS data in Debre Tabor (Credits: Catherine Pfeifer / ILRI)

Maksenit (Amhara) community members playing an adapted version of the ‘Happy Strategies’ Game (photo credit: ILRI/Catherine Pfeifer)

One of the sub-projects of the Nile Basin Development Challenge (NBDC) – ‘Targeting and scaling out of rainwater management systems’ – aims to map which rainwater management strategies work where, targeting specific strategies and scaling them.

We understand rainwater management strategies, to be a combination of rainwater management practices that increases water infiltration in the up-slope of a landscape, increases soil and water conservation in the mid-slope and increases water productivity in the low slope. Rainwater management practices are very broad and include, beyond rainwater harvesting, a whole range of practices affecting crops, livestock and trees.

The maps generated by the project are based on biophysical suitability criteria and socio-economic constraints identified in literature and through stakeholder consultation. Having generated the maps of likely areas where a strategy might be adopted successfully, the project team is ground-truthing the analysis by assessing adoption rates of rainwater management strategies in different locations.

A multi-scale approach is required to carry out this assessment.

Working closely with national partners, at farm scale, the team interviewed 600 farmers in 7 different watersheds of the Ethiopian Blue Nile – the current NBDC watersheds, namely Diga, Fogera and Jeldu as well as four new sites selected with NBDC partners:

  • In the Oromia region, Gorosole watershed (near Ambo) and Leku watershed (near Shambu);
  • In the Amhara region, Maksenit watershed (near Gondar) and Zefie watershed (near Debre Tabor).

The sampling of the farmers covers high-, mid -and low slopes in each landscape and represents female-headed households proportionally.

At landscape scale, the team ran focus group discussions in the four new watersheds and asked key community informants to imagine the best possible rainwater management strategy for their watershed, using an adapted form of the happy strategies game to understand which practice fits where and how it may need to be combined.

Capturing GIS data in Debre Tabor (photo credit: ILRI/Catherine Pfeifer)

Factors limiting adoption – which are beyond farmers’ influence – are identified in the process. They result in a set of interventions needed to enable the adoption of the strategy.

The 600 farm household surveys have been collected and are all geo-referenced at farmstead  – all in close collaboration with partners. Data entry will begin soon and the team plans a ‘writeshop’ to run the first analysis of the data with partners – to develop partners’ capacity to work with statistics and write analysis reports.

Find more detailed descriptions of the watersheds and how data has been collected on the blog of one of the NBDC researchers involved in the project.

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.

Download the Brief

During the 2011 Third International Forum on Water and Food (in South Africa) Amare Haileselassie from ILRI reflected on ways that livestock can be integrated into rainwater management systems and strategies in Ethiopia. The overall aim is to improve ‘livestock water productivity’ through the adoption of various practices at farm and landscape levels.

View the video interview:

See his powerpoint presentation to the forum

Read a recent policy brief on water-efficient livestock production

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