Africa


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

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

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.

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.

ILRI’s Beth Cullen was recently interviewed by the USAID Feed the Future Agrilinks web site about innovation platforms and participatory video.

Read the interview

Watch the video:

ILAC brief 14 'Engaging scientists through institutional histories', inspiring this work

The Nile Basin Development Challenge (NBDC) is in its final phase and its various teams are poised to document the interesting aspects of the work completed in the past years.  These crucial documentation efforts include a keen look on the institutional environment in which the NBDC has tried to bring about technological and indeed institutional innovation.

After experimenting with ‘most significant change‘ stories in 2011 and 2012, in late 2013, the NBDC project dedicated to Catalyzing platforms for learning, communication and coordination will undertake the development of institutional histories, under the supervision of Pamela Pali, poverty gender and impact specialist. All NBDC project teams should contribute to these efforts that will aim at unraveling the institutional conditions that have affected the work of NBDC as a whole. Institutional histories are an element of monitoring and learning work in the program.

What do we mean by institutional histories?

Institutions are the rules, norms, conventions, incentives and sanctions that govern activities which assume particular importance when organizations with different histories, cultures and mandates work together as is the case with the partners whom the Nile basin project collaborates with.

Institutional histories are a narrative of the ways of working that stem from rules, conventions, and routines governing behaviour (see ILAC brief 14). New working practices of different organizations must be documented because strong technological narratives tend to ignore the role of institutional change in achieving progress.

Institutional innovations are crucial for research organisations to cope with changing development agendas which demand partnerships with non-research organisations in the innovation system. Institutional histories draw institutional lessons from what works or does not work and promote new working practices.

Different types of organisations must work together for an institutional innovation to emanate because the rules and norms of working together must change for an institutional innovation to occur.

In the Nile Basin Development Challenge (NBDC), the development of institutional histories shall start at a later date in 2013.

More information on our wiki

By Pamela Pali.

The Nile basin development challenge (NBDC) of the CGIAR Challenge Program on Water and Food (CPWF) is integrating gender into its respective projects.

Within each NBDC project gender, is integrated in two key areas: Social gatherings, meetings and workshops, and research implementation which include modelling, surveys, technology, monitoring and evaluation and reporting. The use of gender disaggregated data will be highly encouraged for all surveys conducted to show the differences in roles played by men and women in rain water management strategies.

Gender focal point persons have agreed to work on this agenda for each of the Nile projects. They will ensure and advise within their respective Nile projects that gender is integrated into reporting and implementing social gatherings meetings and workshops and research implementation.

Gender is integrated into the NBDC in order to:

  • generate a basin wide understanding of the extent to which gender has been internalized and acted upon by Nile BDC team members;
  • assess the extent to which gender has been integrated into the delivery of gender-sensitive research, research results, and development;
  • identify and share information on mechanisms, practices and attitudes that have made a positive contribution to mainstreaming gender in an organization and;
  • identify room for improvement and suggest possible strategies to better implement the action plan for the integration of gender.

A gender audit checklist developed by the Volta and Andes basins is being adapted by the Nile basin members.

More information on our wiki page

By Pamela Pali.

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