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

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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.

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

The so-called ‘Nile 4’ project aims at quantifying the consequences of improved rainwater management, measuring downstream, cross-scale consequences of successful innovation in the Ethiopian highlands.  On 23 May 2012, this project team organized a coordination meeting with the team of another Nile project (‘Targeting and scaling out of rainwater management systems‘, or ‘Nile 3’ project) to integrate targeting, impact assessment and priority setting between the two teams, as the pressure to integrate Nile Basin Development Challenge work streams is mounting.

Rainfall, one of the many factors the Nile Basin Development Challenge teams are interested in (credits: IWMI/Charlotte McAlister)

The coordination meeting gave a good occasion to review progress so far and identify the building blocks that the two project teams should capitalize on. For the year 2011, the N4 project team has been working on a number of important developments that should benefit the wider Nile Basin Development Challenge program and beyond.

The main research highlights for 2011, which will extend into 2012, include:

  • Modifying the open source Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT) to better represent hydrophysical conditions in the Blue Nile Basin (for use at a whole basin and at the catchment scale of the project). The team has done so by incorporating the concept of ‘topographic index’ into the model routine to account for saturation excess flow and landscape run-off processes, more realistically representing how and where run-off and sediment generation occur within the defined catchment.
  • Developing a first version of the Water Evaluation And Planning (WEAP) model to assess water resource optimization in the Blue Nile. Further plans include the coupling of the WEAP and SWAT models and to run a number of climate change scenarios to gauge possible impacts.
  • Developing a new method for acquiring a 30-year weather data set for anywhere in the world. Currently, most African weather data sets do not feature adequate temporal or spatial resolution, length of recording period and reliable quality of data. This endeavour aims at re-dimensioning the existing Climate Forecast System of Reanalysis (CFSR) dataset as a temporal series of grid points to avoid having to download terabytes of data to access a single point. Cornell University is assisting the project team.
  • Applying and adapting the economic benefits-optimization model ‘ECOSAUT’ in the Blue Nile Basin. This model was originally developed by the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT). The project team also compiled a literature/data source data of economic benefits in Ethiopia (and East Africa) to help scale up this work in the longer run.

The N4 project further documents progress on the overall program wiki and on the CPWF Spatial Analysis and Modelling topic working group wiki.

Fantahun Mengistu-NileBDC stakeholder workshop

Fantahun Mengistu, Director of ARARI

In October 2011, project partners and team members in the Nile Basin Development Challenge  met in Bahir Dar, Ethiopia to reflect on project progress and directions.

We asked Fantahun Mengistu, Director of the Amhara Regional Agricultural Research Institute (ARARI) to share some of the key points and take home messages from the meeting.

In the interview below, he notes that, although Ethiopia has a good national policy framework in place, there are some gaps in implementation at grassroots level: including proper integration between water and agriculture, more emphasis is given to blue than to green water, and fully understanding the farmers and the farmer circumstances – “we need to know very well the farmer.”

Sustainability is a key issue, it needs increased participation of communities, more emphasis on showing short term benefits to farmers, increased attention to integrated hydrological planning at basin and landscape level – we need to ensure that people getting upstream benefits does not mean that people downstream will suffer.

Watch the interview:

See photos from the workshop here.

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 project experiences with the installation of hydrological monitoring sites.

NBDC Brief 10 is a summary  of the story.

A key objective of the Nile BDC is to gain insights into hydrological processes (e.g. water budgets and partitioning of rainfall between soil moisture, groundwater and runoff) in order to inform decision-making about different rainwater management options. To do this, we have established hydrological monitoring networks in three research catchments, one in each of the woreda’s where the research is being conducted (i.e., Jeldu, Diga and Fogera).

We also decided to engage with relevant stakeholders and communities to establish the instrumentation networks. We hope this participatory approach will:

  • instill trust and goodwill amongst the community;
  • provide opportunities for local communities to better understand the hydrological regime of their localities;
    help establish a conducive atmosphere for the flow of knowledge between researchers and the communities and vice-versa.

Some lessons

The three research catchments are almost certainly the most sophisticated hydrological experimental monitoring networks ever established in Ethiopia. As such they should be exploited to the full. If they are to be utilized successfully it is clear that participation from local communities and a range of stakeholders is vital.

Download the Brief

We also interviewed Matthew McCartney (IWMI) about his hydrological work in the project:

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