Nile 3


The first learning event of the thematic working group on technological innovation (1) of the national platform on land and water management took place on 6 December 2012. The event brought together representatives from the Amhara Regional Agricultural Research Institute (ARARI), the Water and Land Resource Center, Nile river basin authorities, the Ethiopian water harvesting association (ERHA), and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation. All participants were invited to discover and test the new open source geographic information system (GIS) tool for suitability mapping “Nile-Goblet” and to ponder how to bring technical innovation on the ground.

The participants liked the tool very much, for its ease to make suitability maps without prior GIS knowledge. They also appreciated the fact that the tool allows anyone to introduce their technical expertise or local knowledge about suitability criteria following a very a transparent procedure. Subsequently, policy-makers and practitioners can identify with, understand and trust the resulting maps.

The tool is expected to emphasize the necessity to promote location-specific rainwater management and to help move away from today’s one-size-fits-all blanket approaches. Indeed, the maps generated by users can support the elaboration of context-specific policies. In combination with participatory approaches such as the Happy Strategies game, the maps also allow bringing in expert knowledge into a participatory approach and improving planning on the ground, together with communities.

The Nile Goblet tool: screenshot (Credit: ILRI / C. Pfeifer)

The Nile Goblet tool: screenshot (Credit: ILRI / C. Pfeifer)

Participants of the learning event found it very useful to come together to learn and discuss. It is likely that this group will meet again and possibly combine learning events with other events that are already planned and funded. Additionally, the Water and Land Resource Center – in collaboration with the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation – will look into opportunities to use and promote the Nile-Goblet tool for their own work.

On the second day of the workshop, an informal training course took place, aiming at adapting the tool for participants’ own needs.

The learning event brought together a budding community of practice which seems truly interested in location-specific rainwater management and has the capacity to carry out the work of the Nile Basin Development Challenge in this field further along.

On 18 December 2012, the learning event was followed by another introduction to the Nile-Goblet tool, this time for CGIAR staff in Ethiopia.

Read the notes of the Learning Event here.

Read more about the Nile-Goblet tool here.

View the presentation

Download a report of the workshop

(Article by Catherine Pfeifer)

Notes:

(1) The national platform on land and water management launched four thematic working groups in the course of 2012. Technological innovation is one of these working groups.

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.

GIS goblet tool training participants (photo credit: C. Pfeifer)

GIS goblet tool training participants (photo credit: C. Pfeifer)

The Nile 3 project  ‘Targeting and scaling out of rainwater management systems‘ recently organized two training courses on geographic information systems (GIS) for its partners – in Addis Ababa and in Gondar. The objective was to teach and test the beta version of the new Nile Goblet tool. This open source GIS solution helps users carry out suitability mapping without prior GIS knowledge.

Based on the concept of rainwater management developed in the Nile Basin Development Challenge, the tool allows users to define their own suitability ranges for a whole range of bio-physical criteria to map suitability of various rainwater management practices. In addition, it makes use of so called “willingness of adoption” maps to introduce the socio-economic constraints into classic suitability analysis. Finally, to improve water availability and productivity, rainwater management practices should be combined at landscape scale. Therefore the tool includes a module that helps study suitability of a combination of rainwater management practices at landscape scale.

The tool is flexible and can be programmed for any practice/technology and any location in the world, as long as geographical layers for the different suitability criteria are available. Part of the training consisted in preparing new layers both in ArcGIS and in GRASS GIS (an open source GIS software) and introduce them to the Nile Goblet tool.

Developing GIS maps at the goblet tool training course (photo credit: C. Pfeifer)

Developing GIS maps at the goblet tool training course (photo credit: C. Pfeifer)

Both training courses were a success. Participants could learn about suitability mapping as well as the challenges one might face when preparing new geographical layers for the tool. The training courses served as a way to test the tool. Minor technical itches could be identified and a great number of suggestions for improvement were collected.

The team is now working on an improved version, hoping to launch the tool at an upcoming learning event from the innovation and technology thematic working group of the national platform and give an additional training for CGIAR scientists based on the ILRI Ethiopia campus.

Read more information about the Nile Goblet tool.

(Post by Catherine Pfeifer)

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)

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.

Rainwater management practices are often promoted with little regard for the site-specific biophysical characteristics and local socio-economic and institutional environments.

To promote rainwater management more successfully, a paradigm change towards promotion of location-specific interventions is needed. Beyond biophysical suitability, successful implementation crucially depends on farmers’ willingness to adopt a practice.

‘Similarity analysis’ is an approach that presents and matches geospatial and other data so successful interventions in a location can be mapped to other locations with similar biophysical, socio-economic and institutional characteristics within a basin. Mapping similarities and differences can help us identify promising locations for technologies and other interventions to be spilled over for wider impact.

The report ‘Similarity analysis for the Blue Nile Basin in the Ethiopian highlands‘ :

  • Presents the available spatial data for the Blue Nile Basin in the Ethiopian highlands.
  • Develops a methodology that allows identifying locations within a landscape that have similar biophysical, infrastructure, socio-economics, and governance characteristics relevant to rainwater management.

Download the technical report

See a list of other Nile Basin Development Challenge outputs

NBDC Reflection and Roadmap workshop, 21-22 May 2012, ILRI Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (photo credit: ILRI/Zerihun Sewunet).

NBDC Reflection and Roadmap workshop, 21-22 May 2012, ILRI Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (photo credit: ILRI/Zerihun Sewunet).

On 21 and 22 May 2012, the Nile Basin Development Challenge (NBDC) team held a reflection and road map meeting with 24 participants from the four projects that make up the NBDC as well as from the Management Team of the Challenge Program for Water and Food (CPWF).

Participants reported on progress (see a report from the ‘Nile 4’ project), assessed whether NBDC is on the right track, identified the NBDC’s comparative advantages, crucial gaps and potential adjustments and, finally, developed an action plan that integrates monitoring and impact assessment and folds into a ‘sunrise strategy’ as the NBDC (and its parent CPWF) is scheduled to end in 2013.

The keywords for this important meeting have been: alignment, integration and indeed sunrise.

Aligment

The pressure to deliver science and show results is mounting in the CPWF generally. For the NBDC this means the component projects should emphasize and deepen collaboration and synergies with one another.

Integration

Beyond internal alignment of the different projects, a major challenge is to ensure the NBDC is integrated with other research and development initiatives – as both outlets to disseminate its research results and to engage audiences around the research insights gathered so far and the tools and approaches developed by the various NBDC teams.

The Africa RISING program and initiatives by e.g. the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations or the United Nations’ Environment Program were some of the initiatives mentioned that could help pave the way for the sunrise strategy.

Sunrise

Although the program comes to an end in late 2013, the team wants to see this not so much as a sunset but rather as a sunrise, the start of a new and exciting period. During the meeting, the team started brainstorming a vision for 2014 and beyond, which builds upon the different innovation platforms – which should also be further integrated.

The way to the sun?

The comparative advantage of the NBDC was seen to lie in the combination of research outputs and development outcomes, the integrated approach at multiple scales and the program’s reputation for its knowledge brokerage function. Mobilizing these assets through a ‘sunrise strategy’ will stimulate integration and alignment in the best possible way.

The meeting was documented through notes on the wiki and some photos  from the meeting.

Catherine Pfeiffer facilitating the N3 partner meeting, April 2012 (Credits: ILRI/Catherine Pfeiffer)The Nile BDC project on targeting and scaling out rainwater management innovations (N3) recently held a partner meeting in Ambo.

Partners, including the Amhara Regional Agricultural Research Institute (ARARI), the Oromia Agricultural Research Institute (OARI) and the Ethiopia Rainwater Harvesting Association (ERHA) joined.

They discussed preliminary feasibility maps showing where each rainwater management practice is likely to be feasible and planned data collection, namely a farm household survey and focus group discussions to validate the maps.

In a first stage, participants selected four sites next to the existing three NBDC sites (Diga, Fogera and Jeldu) to help validate the new maps. The four new sites are: Shambu and Ambo district in Oromia region as well as the Gummera (Maksenit) watershed and Zefie (Debre Tabor) watershed in the Amhara region.

In a second stage, participants discussed data collection and used the happy strategies game.

Discovering the 'happy strategies' game at the N3 partners meeting, April 2012 (Credits: ILRI/Catherine Pfeiffer)

The participants decided to adjust the game to the particularities of the communities concerned, simplifying it and only focus on practices the community has knowledge of.

Participants also reviewed and shortened the relatively long farm household questionnaire that had been developed.

The N3 partners will be mainly responsible for data collection. Data analysis will be done in close collaboration between the partners and N3 team in order to allow some capacity building on statistical tools.

The N3 team is  looking forward to getting this important data and learn more from the study sites.

(By Mulugeta Habtemichael and Catherine Pfeifer).

Spatial Analysis and Modelling group, one of the six Nile BDC topic working groups

Spatial Analysis and Modelling group, one of the topic working groups involving NBDC

From 6 to 9 February, the secretariat of the Challenge Program for Water and Food (CPWF) organized a meeting in Montpellier, bringing together the six Basin leaders and six topic working group leaders.

This was the first meeting where these two groups of people were together to discuss progress. As the program is scheduled to end in December 2013, there is much reflection going on about the outputs generated by the program and the outcomes that they are leading to. One of the key issues debated during the Montpellier meeting indeed was: “where is the science?

After two years in its second phase, the program is in full swing and a number of research outputs have already been highlighted on the CPWF website. After the first phase of the program, a whole series of outputs have been generated through intensive repackaging of the research results from the first phase (2002-2007).

The key question highlighted comes at a crucial moment: the World Water Week’s annual theme is on ‘water and food security’, giving impetus for CPWF to show some results; the CGIAR research program (CRP) ‘Water, Land and Ecosystems’, a strongly related program, is just about to be launched and should build upon the CPWF; but more generally the current reform of the Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) is urging all CGIAR centers to reconsider how the research they provide can better tackle poverty and contribute to wider development in a more integrated manner.

CPWF is a modest program in this wider agenda, nonetheless it has something to contribute in this sense too and the urgency to show the impact of the science is felt too. The Montpellier meeting meant to address this question in some ways:

  • By urging more interaction between basin leaders, topic working group leaders and CPWF management;
  • By participating more in global events (to show and discuss the results) and stimulating more cross-basin learning and sharing;
  • By developing more research outputs from phase one and from the current phase, including a book and some policy briefs, furthering the repackaging work recently carried out by the global CPWF communication team.

What does this mean for the Nile Basin Development Challenge (NBDC) team? Tilahun Amede (Nile Basin leader) and An Notenbaert (involved in Topic Working Group on spatial analysis and modeling) represented the Nile team in Montpellier. The discussions in which they participated brought some coherence and cohesion in the overall CPWF approach to deal with the above hard question which lies ahead. At the same time, the Nile team will have to deal with specific implications:

  • In terms of cross-basin interactions, Tilahun Amede has been working with other African basin leaders since the third International Forum for Water and Food to develop a sharing network and perhaps develop a book that captures experiences from the Limpopo, Volta and Nile Basin.
  • Topic working groups might be modified to suit changing needs in the program. The exact composition and representation from the NBDC may also be affected by this change but it is unclear yet how this will pan out.
  • Tilahun Amede is leading on one of the chapters planned for the end of program book and he should also provide support to another article directed by Larry Harrington.
  • Communications, engagement and dissemination of scientific results are on the menu, more than ever. A recent NBDC meeting on communication – held on 24 February – partly addressed this need and came up with a series of recommendations to join up the different Nile project teams and to repackage existing research results with a keen eye for the information needs of specific audiences such as policy-makers, communities and other scientists involved in similar initiatives.

With an upcoming team meeting – planned around the end of March – there will be more chances to join up the dots, locate and source the famous and sought after ‘science’ from CPWF.

Less than two years of program remain, a seemingly distant date, but there is much work on the NBDC agenda and the whole team – scientists or not – are hard pressed to find the formula that guarantees strong scientific results without compromising the engagement and embedding process undertaken by the NBDC for the past two years.

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