Nile 4


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 seventh key message from the Nile Basin Development Challenge is to ‘attend to downstream and off-site benefits of rainwater management as well as upstream or on-farm benefits and costs.’ How do land and water management interventions affect, positively or negatively, downstream and/or off-site users? Erosion and siltation management at site level has far-reaching consequences for people kilometers away from these sites. Smart land and water management interventions consider such trade-offs upfront and throughout.

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

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 fifth key message from the Nile Basin Development Challenge is to ‘adapt new models, learning and planning tools and improved learning processes to increase the effectiveness of planning, implementation, and capacity building’.  Planners, development agents and farmers, together with researchers, can use a variety of tested tools to plan and implement rain water management solutions, and to develop capacities of all actors along the way. Tools such as Wat-A-Game, hydrological modeling, Cropwat modeling for crop-water productivity, the Nile Goblet tool and feed analysis tools etc. have been all used and tested in the NBDC and are available for anyone.

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

This study was conducted in Mizewa watershed which is located in Blue Nile Basin (BNB) to estimate on-site financial cost of erosion in terms of yield reduction taking maize as representative crop. For this purpose, discharge measurement and runoff sampling was made during the rainy season of 2011 at the outlet of three sub watersheds within Mizewa catchment; lower Mizewa (MZ0), Upper Mizewa (MZ1) and Gindenewur (GN0).

The samples were filtered to separate the sediment which was subsampled for determination of suspended sediment concentration (SSC), sediment fixed NO3 -, NH4 + and available phosphorous (P) contents. The filtered water was used to assess dissolved nitrate and dissolved phosphate. The on-site financial cost of erosion was estimated based on productivity change approach (PCA) focusing on available NP losses.

The result revealed that the SSC and its NP content varied in space and time, in which higher and lower SSC occurred towards the beginning and end of the rainy season, respectively. The mean seasonal discharge was found to be 2.12±0.75, 1.49±0.52 and 0.57±0.20 m3/ sec at MZ0, MZ1 and GN0 stations in that order while the corresponding sediment concentration was 510±370 mg/l, 230±190 mg/l and 370±220 mg/l. This led to the total suspended sediment loss (SSL) of 4 ton/ha/year, 2 ton/ha/year and 3 ton/ha/year from the respective subwatersheds. The on-site financial cost due to N and P lost associated with SSL was estimated to be USD 200/ha, USD 186/ha and USD 227/ha from MZ0, MZ1 and GN0 watersheds, respectively.

The study revealed that the economic impacts of soil erosion which is variable based on the characteristics of land resources and management practices are immense and deserve due attention. The result may help in sensitizing both farmers and decision-makers about the risk of soil erosion and in targeting management practices to overcome the challenges.

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.

Restrictive soil layers commonly known as hardpans restrict water and airflow in the soil profile and impede plant root growth below the plough depth. Preventing hardpans to form or ameliorate existing hardpans will allow plants root more deeply, increase water infiltration and reduce runoff, all resulting in greater amounts of water available for the crop (i.e. green water). However, there has been a lack of research on understanding the influence of transported disturbed soil particles (colloids) from the surface to the subsurface to form restrictive soil layers, which is a common occurrence in degraded soils.

In this study, we investigated the effect of disturbed soil particles on clogging up of soil pores to form hardpans. Unsaturated sand column experiments were performed by applying 0.04 g/ml soil water solution in two sand textures. For each experiment, soil water solution infiltration process was visualized using a bright field microscope and soil particles remained in the sand column was quantified collecting and measuring leachate at the end of the experiment in the soil and water lab of Cornell University.

Preliminary results show that accumulation of significant amount of soil particles occur in between sand particles and at air water interfaces, indicating the clogging of soil pores occurs as a result of disturbed fine soil particles transported from the soil surface to the subsurface.

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.

Over the past five decades, gullying has been widespread and has become more severe in the Ethiopian highlands. Only in very few cases, rehabilitation of gullies has been successful in Ethiopia due to the high costs.

The objective of this paper is to introduce cost effective measures to arrest gully formation. The research was conducted in the Debre-Mewi watershed located at 30 km south of Bahir Dar, Ethiopia.

Gullying started in the 1980s following the clearance of indigenous vegetation and intensive agricultural cultivation, leading to an increase of surface and subsurface runoff from the hillside to the valley bottoms. Gully erosion rates were 10–20 times the measured upland soil losses. Water levels, measured with piezometers, showed that in the actively eroding sections, the water table was in general above the gully bottom and below it in the stabilized sections.

In order to develop effective gully stabilizing measures, we tested and then applied the BSTEM and CONCEPT models for their applicability for Ethiopian conditions where active gully formation has been occurring. We found that the model predicted the location of slips and slumps well with the observed groundwater depth and vegetation characteristics.

The validated models indicated that any gully rehabilitation project should first stabilize the head cuts. This can be achieved by regrading these head cuts to slope of 40 degrees and armoring it with rock. Head cuts will otherwise move uphill in time and destroy any improvements. To stabilize side walls in areas with seeps, grass will be effective in shallow gullies, while deeper gullies require reshaping of the gullies walls, then planting the gully with grasses, eucalyptus or fruit trees that can be used for income generation. Only then there is an incentive for local farmers to maintain the structures.

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.

Most soil erosion studies conducted in Ethiopia are focused on quantification of sediment and lack specific information on temporal and spatial variability of sediment and its associated plant nutrients loss. This study was therefore quantified and characterized runoff and sediment along with estimated the on-site financial cost of erosion in terms of its concomitant crop yield loss due to the nitrogen and phosphorus lost in consequence of erosion.

Data on discharge and runoff samples for sediment concentration and nutrient content was collected at three monitoring stations (Melka, Galesssa and Kollu) in Meja watershed in Jeldu district, in the Ethiopian part of the Blue Nile Basin. Daily samples collected during the rainy season were analysed in the laboratory of Ambo University for sediment content of runoff, particle size distribution of the sediment and nitrogen and phosphorus content of both the sediment and runoff. Preliminary results indicate that both runoff volume and sediment concentration vary with space and time. While the maximum runoff volume was recorded in the middle of the rainy season, sediment concentration decreased towards the end of the rainy season in response to increased ground cover. The average suspended sediment concentration during the rainy season was 3.0 ± 1.1, 2.2 ±1.3 and 1.4 ± 0.9 g L-1 while the total sediment yield ranged from 74 t km-2, 248 t km-2 and 604 t km-2 at Melka, Galesssa and Kollu, respectively. The financial cost of erosion was estimated at 595, 510 and 2475 ETB ha-1 from Melka, Kollu and Galessa, respectively.

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.

This paper examines the advance time of furrow irrigation at Koga.

Koga irrigation scheme was developed to irrigate about 7004 ha. Furrow irrigation is the recommended method for the distribution of water. However, furrow irrigation has inherent inefficiencies due to deep percolation on the upper end and runoff at the lower end of the furrow. These losses depend on furrow length, furrow gradient, surface roughness, stream size and cutoff time. These factors play significant role to influence the advance time of irrigation and the operation rule of the scheme.

The experiment was conducted during 2012 irrigation season in two periods (February and April). The advance time of irrigation was monitored at three discharge rates and four furrow gradients at 90–110 m furrow length. The required discharge was measured using RBC flume. The average advance time at respective discharge rates of 0.3, 0.6 and 0.8 litre/sec range from 290–460 min, 150–437 min and 100–294 min during 1st irrigation; and 115–370 min, 78–189 min and 43–217 min during 2nd irrigation. The advance time vary greatly among the discharge rates when the furrow length increases. The advance time of water at 0.5, 1.0, 2.0 and 2.5 % gradients was 236, 181, 197 and 398 min at 1st irrigation and 163, 175, 220 and 88 min at 2nd irrigation respectively. Furrow gradients and surface irregularities result in great variation of advance time. The advance time becomes shorter when the field gets smoother during 2nd irrigation. Under non-levelled and irregular field conditions, 0.6–0.8 litre/sec application rate can be suggested to irrigate 30–40 m furrow lengths in order to improve application efficiency above 60% and to optimize the daily operation rule of the overall scheme.

The result of this study indicates the relevance of examining the furrow length, discharge and application time recommended in the feasibility study of irrigation schemes.

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.

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