Books and Chapters


The Nile Basin Development Challenge (NBDC) is one of six global focal basins of the Challenge Program on Water and Food (CPWF). The overall objective of the CPWF program is to increase water productivity and resilience of social and ecological systems, through broad partnerships and research that leads to local impact and wider change.
Within this framework, the NBDC has set out to improve and build on rainwater management strategies as a way to improve livelihoods and reduce poverty. The focus of the work has been on the Blue Nile where rainfed agriculture dominates and over 80% of the population relies on subsistence, rainfed agriculture. In contrast, the downstream countries, principally Egypt and Sudan, are dominated by large-scale irrigated agriculture. However they will also potentially benefit from improvements in rainwater management upstream through reductions in land degradation and associated soil erosion which when transported downstream reduces the efficacy of irrigation schemes.

To meet the Nile Basin Development Challenge, it was found necessary to adopt an outcome logic model in which a range of approaches have been used to generate outputs and outcomes to support policy development and enhance best practices in relation to selected land management. These are briefly presented in summary here with subsequent papers in the proceedings developing the issues in greater a depth.

See the presentation:

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 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.

In the Blue Nile basin, crop cultivation is predominantly rainfed and water availability is highly variable across both space and time. As a result, it often constitutes a limiting factor for reaching full agricultural potential in the region. While one third of the basin is estimated to have no soil moisture limitations, the remaining two thirds are crop water constrained in various ways.

Analysis shows that across approximately 40% of the basin available soil moisture is utilized sub-optimally with smart management and crop water limitations can be alleviated. In contrast, across a further 25% of the basin, water deficits strongly limit plant growth. While rainfed agriculture is still possible in some of these areas, appropriate management is even more important. A great deal of variation also exists in terms of market access for agricultural inputs and produce.

Travel time to markets in the basin can be up to 12 hours. One’s distance to market centres influences the accessibility of farm inputs such as fertilizers, improved seeds and veterinary services. Inaccessibility vs. accessibility to population dense areas also determines the potential for agricultural production and the marketing of crops and livestock products, in particular for perishable produce.

To capture the complexity and heterogeneity regarding both crop water limitations and agricultural market access, this study combines information on rainwater management potential and market proximity to map so-called water investment domains (WID). Context-specific recommendations for each of the domains are provided.

In the short term, the results point to a need for agricultural produce strategies that are spatially differentiated and in the longer term for investment in infrastructure in order to enable full utilization of the agricultural potential across the entire basin. The results are intended to guide policymakers and other rural development actors in the identification of appropriate investment decisions and for improved planning of rural development strategies. Thus, the study aligns to the ‘water-centred agricultural growth’ strategy adopted by the Ethiopian Government, developed in response to the poverty and food security challenges faced in the country.

The approach is widely applicable, easily replicable and can be used to inform decision-makers beyond the Blue Nile basin.

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.

A sourcebook from the CGIAR Challenge Program on Water and Food, entitled ‘Addressing Water, Food and Poverty Problems Together—Methods, Tools and Lessons’ presents more than 50 articles on how to improve ecological and social resilience. One of the articles looks at ‘strategies for increasing Livestock Water Productivity in the Blue Nile Basin‘.

The livestock sector is socially and politically very significant in developing countries because it provides food and income for one billion of the world’s poor, especially in dry areas, where livestock keeping is often the only source of livelihoods. Livestock keeping is a major component of agricultural gross domestic product (GDP), providing meat, milk, income, farm power, manure (for fuel, soil fertility replenishment and house construction), insurance, and wealth savings to hundreds of millions of people worldwide.

However, livestock raising is a major consumer of water. In regions such as the Nile where water is a scarce commodity, and the Nile Basin challenge project worked on strategies to improve livestock water productivity (LWP). LWP is a ratio of the total net beneficial livestock-related products and services to the water depleted in producing them. A water accounting approach was used to develop a livestock water productivity (LWP) assessment framework. This framework was then used to identify strategies for increasing LWP, assessing LWP in the Blue Nile Basin, and suggesting opportunities to improve LWP more broadly.

The article explains the four basic strategies of LWP:

  1. Feed sourcing: One key strategy for increasing LWP lies in selecting the most water-productive feed sources that produce enough feed to meet the animals’ needs.
  2. Enhancing animal productivity: Increasing the ratio of feed energy for production to maintenance has high potential for increasing LWP. In Africa, feed scarcity limits intake, implying that most consumed feed is used to support maintenance, leaving little for production.
  3. Conserving water resources: The primary challenge to conserving agricultural water is maintaining high levels of vegetative ground cover to promote increased transpiration,infiltration and soil water holding capacity and decreased evaporation and discharge.
  4. Providing drinking water: Drinking water must be of high quality and available in small but adequate quantities.

The authors of the article conclude: “Where livestock are important components of farming systems, there is a need to integrate livestock management, crop management, land and water use practices and resource degradation into one integrated framework. The LWP framework is a starting point. When tested in diverse production systems, the generic framework was robust in handling conditions ranging from extensive grazing systems to intensive mixed crop-
livestock systems at local, watershed and basin scales.”

Read the sourcebook article ‘Identifying Strategies for Increasing Livestock Water Productivity in the Blue Nile Basin

Read the full sourcebook at: http://waterandfood.org/sourcebook/

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.

Poor rainwater management (RWM) practices and resultant problems of land degradation and low water productivity are severe problems in the rural highlands of Ethiopia.

The current study was undertaken at Meja watershed, which is located in the Jeldu district of Oromia region. The study investigated rainwater management practices and associated socio-economic and biophysical conditions in the watershed. The existing RWM interventions, their extent and the nature of changes in land use and land cover (LULC) conditions were mapped and evaluated.

Results indicated that over the two decades between 1990 and 2010 there was an increase in the extent of cultivated land and large expansion in eucalyptus plantation at the expense of natural forest and grazing lands. Results indicate that, with few exceptions of RWM interventions practised, there were mainly poor and inefficient rainwater management practices. The overall effect leads to inadequacy of water for household consumption, livestock and for intensifying agricultural production via small scale irrigation systems. Deforestation and poor resource management resulted in soil degradation, reduction of hydrological regimes and water productivities in the watershed.

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.

Considering that agriculture remains a key sector in Ethiopia, commercialization of the sector necessitates improving participation of smallholder farmers in markets, hence improving their incomes and livelihoods.

Promoting smallholder commercialization through cash crop production is one avenue of such efforts. The main argument for smallholder commercialization through cash crop production is that it can allow households to increase their income directly. Sesame in Ethiopia can be taken as a good example in this regard. Although Diga has a potential land and the area is among the few areas which are agro-ecologically suitable for sesame production and productivity in the country, smallholder farmers are not participating actively in its production (constrained by a number of factors).

This study assesses factors determining smallholders’ participation in sesame production in Diga, West Ethiopia. Using structured questionnaires, the data was collected from a random sample of 120 smallholder farmers and analysed by using a double hurdle approach.

After all, this study highlighted that access to credit, farm landholding size, family labour, household assets (oxen, donkey), access to family food for the whole year and proximity to extension service centres significantly influence smallholders’ decision probability of participating in sesame production. On the other hand, access to credit, number of oxen owned and number of active family labour significantly determine the level of smallholders’ participation in sesame production.

The implication is that production potential due to favourable agro-ecological condition is necessary but not sufficient for smallholder farmers to participation in sesame production. Indicating household specific and institutional factors also influence their decision. Thus, if active participation of smallholder farmer is required in the field, institutional innovations should be developed and strengthened—in a way to involve all smallholder farmers.

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.

Next Page »