Participation


The Nile Basin Development Challenge (NBDC) was a multi-disciplinary, multi-institutional participatory “research for development” (R4D) partnership that aimed to improve the resilience of rural livelihoods in the Ethiopian highlands through a landscape approach to rainwater management (RWM).

The NBDC used multiple means to learn lessons from its experience – this ‘Institutional History’ consolidates and communicates some of those lessons. It draws on the large collection of documents, informal and formal reports, minutes of meetings, etc. available through the NBDC wiki and website as well as interviews with 26 partners and stakeholders.

The lessons are embedded in the following areas

  1. Theory of change
  2. Research for development paradigm
  3. Partnerships
  4. Stakeholder engagement
  5. Innovation and innovations
  6. Knowledge integration
  7. Knowledge management and communication
  8. Program design and implementation
  9. Gender and participatory program design

Download the report

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Today in Addis Ababa the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) hosted a learning share fair on agricultural water management. It was designed to celebrate 10 years IWMI engagement in Ethiopia and East Africa and to link with World Food Day and a series of meetings of the CGIAR Research Program on Water, Land and Ecosystems.

Approximately 100 people from Ethiopia and beyond congregated in the plenary tent on the Addis Ababa campus. First on the agenda: a retrospective on IWMI in East Africa.

IWMI retrospective

Doug Merrey, first IWMI Director for Africa explained how the East Africa office in Ethiopia grew out of discussions in early 2000, a December 2002 national workshop bringing together all agricultural water management actors in the country, and resulted in an IWMI agreement with the Ministry of Water in 2003.

Key elements in the establishment and subsequent operations of the office included a strong IWMI partnership with the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) as well as evolving partnerships with the Ministry of Water initially, then with the agriculture ministry, research organizations, NGOs, universities and other organizations.

After this brief historical retrospective, Simon Langan, Head of the IWMI East Africa office also reported on IWMI achievement in the past 10 years.

First, he identified 20 significant projects in the past 10 years as the basis on which IWMI built its achievements in the region. He particualrly highlighted:

  • The Nile Basin Development Challenge – a strong partnership with national partners to address land and water issues at a landscape scale;
  • IMAWESA – an IFAD-funded water management best practice network across east Africa
  • Agwater management solutions – a Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation-funded project that assessed different interventions and their uptake
  • LIVES – a new Canada-supported program with ILRI with a systems focus on the crop-livestock-irrigation interface

Second, he highlights the publications – reports, papers and books – produced by the office as a contribution to the evidence base for agricultural water management practice and decision making. The tally includes 8 books, 83 journal articles, 104 proceedings and many policy briefs, investment briefs and research reports.

Third, he pointed out some capacity building dimensions of the work of the office: More than 80 MSc students, 11 PhD students, several interns and 6 postdoctoral fellows supported through various projects.

Fourth, he highlighted the importance of partnerships – across CGIAR centres, with the Ministry of Agriculture, the Nile Basin Inititiative, the  Global Water Initiative and with universities.

All in all – “A lot to be proud of and to build upon.” He emphasized that the share fair is designed  to be an opportunity to strengthen these partnerships , to share, and to learn …

Communal river of learning

Following the brief summary of IWMI achievements in the region, participants were asked to contribute their institutional and personal achievements along a timeline. Some of the achievements posted were:

  • Livestock-water productivity concept
  • Active network of agricultural water management partners
  • Participatory communication and role-playing
  • Empirical evidence of agricultural water management impacts on poverty
  • Water evaluation and planning tool
  • Community based participatory watershed planning guidelines
  • Review of policy institutions on land and water
  • Tools for improving irrigation performance
  • Substantial evolution of Ethiopian sustainable land management policies
  • Developed PhD program in civil and water resources engineering
  • Multidisciplinary assessment on water productivity
  • Development agents training and experience sharing on land-water linkages
  • Launch of regional charter on investment in water for agriculture
  • Stakeholders engaged in participatory natural resource management planning and implementation in 3 NBDC watersheds
  • Concepts and principles of innovation platforms have been applied in practical rainwater management efforts
  • Established Ethiopian Institute of Water Resources at Addis Ababa University

Share fair actors

Who attended the meeting? the list includes RIPPLE, ILRI, CRS, Care east Africa, OXFAM America, HUNDEE (Oromo Grassroots Development Institute), Ethiopian Institute of Water Resources, Ministry of Water Development, IFAD, CPWF, IFPRI, MetaMeta, ICRISAT, SEI, Global Water Initiative, Ministry of Agriculture, ENTRO, FAO, ODI …

The share fair was designed and facilitated by Ms. Nadia Manning-Thomas for IWMI

Nile Basin Development Challenge experience in Ethiopia shows that natural resource management (NRM) requires multi-sector integration and the strong involvement of farmers to identify problems and implement solutions. However, research shows there is a ‘disconnect’ between farmers and decision makers in their perceptions of NRM problems and ideas for solutions.

Participatory tools – such as ‘WAT-A-GAME‘ that can be used to encourage better communication and joint understanding among different actors are essential for successful planning processes. NBDC researchers, in collaboration with the AfroMaison project and local partners, have been experimenting with the WAT-A-GAME tool in Fogera, Ethiopia. 

Learning event

Mulugeta Lemenih facilitates the WAT-A-GAME learning event (Photo credit: ILRI / Apollo Habtamu)

Mulugeta Lemenih facilitates the WAT-A-GAME learning event (Photo credit: ILRI / Apollo Habtamu)

In February 2013 a ‘learning event’ was organized to present the tool and experiences from Fogera woreda to an expert group of regional and national partners. The participants included representatives from the Ministry of Agriculture, the Ethiopian Insitutue of Agricultural Research, OXFAM- African Climate Change Resilience Alliance, Forum for Environment Ethiopia, Ethio Wetlands and Natural Resources Association, Horn of Africa Regional Environment Centre, Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus, Ethiopian Rainwater Harvesting Association, World Vision Ethiopia, Hundee-Oromo Grassroots Development Initiative, Fogera Woreda Livestock Agency and SOS Sahel Ethiopia.  The aim of the event was to discuss the tool and its potential use in supporting landscape scale strategy development for integrated NRM at a larger scale. Participants played the game using two similar game boards designed for the Fogera landscape. Seven volunteer participants from each group represented the farmers living in the highland, mid-land and wetland areas and also a landless farmer.

After the learning event, participants raised many questions:

  • Was the tool new?
  • Does ‘landscape’ mean the same as ‘watershed’?
  • Were users surveyed before and after they played the game?
  • What time framework is involved in playing the game?
  • Participants gave constructive feedback on the game itself and how to make it useful for other organizations and experts working in the area of NRM.

All agreed on the need to simplify the tool and called for further research to investigate ways in which the tool could be used to complement current government approaches towards watershed management. They also suggested that community level representatives should be grouped by gender and that land management strategies should be developed separately to ensure that women’s views are recognized.

More generally, playing the game stimulated a discussion around different approaches towards integrated planning of NRM used in Ethiopia. It seems that most of the approaches in the past lacked genuine community participation and they failed to create a sense of ownership. At the learning event it was agreed that the WAG tool could usefully complement ongoing watershed management planning and implementation.

Participants also felt that the role playing element would help communities better understand their problems, from household to landscape levels, and give them an opportunity to identify potential solutions from their own perspectives. The game also presents an opportunity for decision makers to better understand the challenges facing communities in the implementation of NRM interventions.

Some participants showed interest in taking and adapting the tool to their own organizations and programs. However, a simple set of guidelines is needed to explain how to design the game board for a specific landscape and then to use the game effectively to reflect and address different actors’ views. This will help the scaling up of the tool by other organizations. In-depth training is also needed for organizations that are interested to use it in their project sites with necessary documents and materials.

See this presentation about using WAT-A-GAME for participatory NRM planning in Fogera – presented at the NBDC science meeting in July 2013:

Read the WAT-A-GAME brief

NBDC scientists Kindie Getnet and Geremew Kefyalew recently published a research article in the Environment and Development Economics journal to further assess the development impact of rainwater management innovations through the use of a Rainwater-livelihoods-poverty index (RLPI).

The article relates to research ongoing in Diga, one of the three NBDC action sites and proposes working through the comprehensive RLPI, which incorporate intermediate processes and impact pathways to understand the impact of innovations in rainwater management.

The RLPI methodology is further strengthened with participatory household surveys as a way to relate scientifically generated evidence with empirical evidence and eventually inform farmers’ decisions about adopting rainwater management innovations.

Read the research article

To strengthen the planning and implementation of rainwater management strategies at local level, the NBDC has supported the establishment of Innovation Platforms (IPs) in its three study sites: Jeldu, Diga and Fogera woredas. IPs bring together local stakeholders with an interest in rain water management (RWM) and aim to facilitate a collaborative approach to RWM.

The NBDC innovation platforms aim to build on existing local capacities and knowledge, link woreda level actors with external support and research, to develop new, locally-appropriate solutions to RWM challenges, as well as building the conditions for long-term collaborative relationships.

Devolution of platform facilitation

Backyard fodder development with farmers in Limbichoch village (Photo credit: ILRI)

Backyard fodder development with farmers in Limbichoch village (Photo credit: ILRI)

The NBDC platforms were initially established and facilitated by researchers from the  International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI). After one year of platform activities, due to concerns about platform sustainability, a decision was taken to devolve platform facilitation to local institutions.

Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) were identified to play this role in each of the sites because of their relative flexibility in terms of budget and human resource utilization: HUNDEE- Oromo Grassroots Development Initiative at Jeldu, Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus (EECMY) at Diga and Ethio-Wetlands and Natural Resources Association (EWNRA) at Fogera.

A partnership agreement was signed with each of the NGOs, thereby transferring responsibility for the facilitation of regular IP meetings and management of ‘Innovation Funds’ for the platform pilot interventions.

As part of the agreement, NGO facilitators were required to work closely with IP Technical Group (TG) members to design the pilot interventions, engage in community capacity building and assist with regular IP activities and financial reporting.

Capacity building

NBDC researchers continued to observe the innovation platforms after responsibilities had been devolved and noticed some problems including a lack of understanding about the platform concept among key partners, poor facilitation skills, lack of clarity on the roles of each TG members and lack of capacity to conduct participatory action research with farmers.

As a result, a training event was arranged from 18 to 20 March 2013 at the ILRI campus in Addis Ababa. Five members of the IP technical working groups from each site, as well as representatives from the NGO head office, were invited to attend. The aim of the workshop was to develop a clear understanding of the aims and objectives of the innovation platforms among the key actors, to evaluate the activities undertaken in the previous year, to plan activities for 2013 and to provide training on IP facilitation and action research methodologies. The trainers included an IP member from Jeldu, representing Holeta Agricultural Research Centre, and ILRI Researchers.

In addition to enhancing the skills of local partners, the training was also an opportunity to bring platform members from the three sites together in an environment where they could share their experiences. Participants from each platform were encouraged to reflect on the successes and the challenges they had encountered in order to learn from one another.

On the third day participants went on a field visit to the Jeldu area, which included a visit to a Farmer Research Group established by Holetta Agricultural Research Center. The field day helped the trainees to understand the processes involved in consulting and working together with farmers and to see first-hand the contribution that participatory approaches can make to pilot projects in their respective areas. They also got a chance to visit the research centre’s fodder demonstration sites and improved and local livestock breeds at the breeding center.

Participant responses

Local partners (research centers and universities) at the training (Photo credit: ILRI/Meron Mulatu)

Local partners (research centers and universities) at the training (Photo credit: ILRI/Meron Mulatu)

At the end of the event the participants were given the chance to reflect on the training and give their comments and feedback. All of the participants found the topics of the training interesting and pertinent for both the IP intervention work as well as their day-to-day activities.

They particularly appreciated the training on participatory approaches, and the emphasis on methods and tools for enabling farmers to identify problems and solutions which was new for the majority of the participants.

They also enjoyed visiting the Farmer Research Group established by Holetta. The chance to share experiences with other innovation platform members was valuable and they learned lessons that they will use in the next round of pilot interventions.

The roles of the TG members were clearly developed in a collaborative effort between all of the participants; this was an important step in clearly identifying roles and responsibilities for the ongoing IP activities. Overall the participants expressed their gratitude for the training and requested NBDC researchers to organize similar events focusing on capacity building for the future.

Beth Cullen and Zelalem Lema

2013 is the final year for the Nile Basin Development Challenge (NBDC). On 20 and 21 February 2013, the NBDC convened a meeting of the  National Land and Water Management Platform to review progress and directions for the coming phase.

Group photo: NBDC / Land and Water Management National Platform Meeting 4 (Credit: ILRI/Zerihun Sewunet)

Group photo: NBDC / Land and Water Management National Platform Meeting 4 (Credit: ILRI/Zerihun Sewunet)

The workshop reflected on past work – approaches developed, research findings, key messages – in order to prioritize future interventions. Over 60 participants from partner organizations and other governmental, research and non-governmental institutions participated to the two-day workshop.

After an introduction to the NBDC timeline, some key messages compiled by project staff were presented and discussed. A series of NBDC approaches, methods or areas of work were introduced later in the day: innovation platforms and recent insights, modeling, Wat-A-Game, Happy Strategies game, GIS, Goblet tool and suitability maps, participatory hydrological monitoring, digital stories and participatory video, and local planning processes.

The participants formed groups to discuss the relevance of the messages they heard and to identify priority activities to build upon NBDC work and embed it in organizational and individual practices. A special policy session also looked at possible contributions of the NBDC to priority development challnges in Ethiopia.

At the end of the workshop, the Nile basin leaders Simon Langan and Alan Duncan reflected on the feedback received and the directions that the NBDC will take. Key directions include: repackaging research in accessible ways for farmers, policy-makers and other organizations; focusing on capacity development; finding practical ways to bring farmers’ and scientists’ voices together in crafting common approaches and discourse; addressing the regional gaps between local level work and national level engagement; and joining forces with existing initiatives that can reinforce the messages of the NBDC such as the Sustainable Land Management program.

Read the notes of the meeting.

Discover pictures from the event.

Digital storytelling refers to short films composed of digitized still and moving images, sound and text. This is a highly effective way of presenting compelling stories in an engaging format. Digital stories can be created by people everywhere, on any subject and shared electronically.

In November 2012 ILRI research staff attended a digital story workshop run by UK-based trainers Tracy Pallant and Katrina Kirkwood. The training was organized by Beth Cullen, Kindu Mekonnen and Alan Duncan as part of a joint project between UNEP, ILRI and Wollo University titled “Enhancing communities’ adaptive capacity to climate-change induced water scarcity in drought-prone hotspots of the Blue Nile basin, Ethiopia” working in the Kabe watershed, south Wollo.

The training was attended by UNEP project members Kindu Mekonnen and Derbew Kefyalew. They were joined by Aberra Adie, Zelalem Lemma and Gerba Leta, involved in the Nile Basin Development Challenge (NBDC) project, and Zerihun Sewunet, a member of the ILRI Knowledge Management and Information Services (KMIS) team.

The training focused on identifying suitable stories, interview techniques, audio recording, basic photography skills, audio and visual editing and web-based publication. Participants used digital material collected from the Kabe watershed to document lessons and experiences from the project and spent a day in Jeldu collecting stories from farmers involved with the NBDC innovation platform work.

ILRI staff who received the training will now be able to use digital storytelling techniques to document and communicate research processes as well as outcomes. It is hoped that the use of digital stories will enable ILRI to communicate research work to a range of audiences in an accessible and creative format.

ILRI researchers are also experimenting with the use of digital stories for participatory monitoring and evaluation. Led by Beth Cullen, a post-doctoral scientist specializing in participatory research methods, cameras have been handed out to community members and development agents in three NBDC sites: Diga, Jeldu and Fogera. The aim is to use participatory photography to monitor the progress of pilot interventions planned by local level innovation platforms. ILRI research staff will work with innovation platform members to create digital stories using their photographs and interviews to capture experiences and lessons learned. These stories will be used to share knowledge between the three sites, between local and national actors and between farmers and researchers.

Some example stories produced during the training can be seen here:

Farmers use Desho grass to feed livestock in the Ethiopian dry season:

Growing Desho grass to feed livestock in the Ethiopian Highlands:

See more of these films from ILRI

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