Ethiopia’s policies and programs on sustainable land and water management have evolved over several decades and have had important positive impacts on land management and livelihoods.

These policies and programs can be further transformed and integrated into a new paradigm that will better enable poor smallholder farmers to improve their food security, livelihoods and incomes while conserving the natural resource base.

Implementation of the eight core elements of this paradigm will greatly improve the long-term benefits of the Sustainable Land Management Program and related interventions in Ethiopia.

At local levels it will enable rural women and men to improve their incomes and livelihoods. At national level it will help raise the rate of agricultural growth while conserving precious natural resources.

Essential elements
Eight elements make up the new paradigm. Success is most likely if all of them are included in an integrated way. A landscape or watershed perspective is central to the new paradigm.

  1. Empower local communities and develop their leadership capacities to achieve long-term benefits and sustainable outcomes.
  2. Integrate and share scientific and local knowledge and encourage innovation through ‘learning by doing’.
  3. Strengthen and transform institutional and human capacities among all stakeholders to achieve the potential benefits of sustainable land management.
  4. Create, align and implement incentives for all parties to successfully implement sustainable innovative programs at scale.
  5. Adapt new models, learning and planning tools and improved learning processes to increase the effectiveness of planning, implementation, and capacity building.
  6. Integrate multiple rainwater management interventions at watershed and basin scales to benefit rainwater management programs.
  7. Attend to downstream and off-site benefits of rainwater management as well as upstream or on-farm benefits and costs.
  8. Improve markets, value chains and multi-stakeholder institutions to enhance the benefits and sustainability of rainwater management investments.

Download the brief

Read the full technical report “A new integrated watershed rainwater management paradigm for Ethiopia: Key messages from the Nile Basin Development Challenge, 2009–2013


There’s a widespread belief that termites are a major threat to rural livelihoods and agricultural production in Est Africa. Is this true? How do termites affect agricultural water and land productivity? What practical options exist to reduce the apparent economic and human costs associated with perceived destructive behaviour of termites?

The CGIAR Challenge Program on Water and Food (CPWF) studied these issues as part of a Nile River basin wide collaborative research program extending from 2003 to 2012. Initial success in rehabilitating degraded rangelands led to the establishment of a new CPWF Research into Use (RIU) project ‘Uptake of integrated termite management for rehabilitation of degraded rangeland in East Africa’. The RIU project started in 2012, extends into 2014, and collaborates closely with Nile Basin Development Challenge.

This brief explains the history of these initiatives and objectives of the project.

Read the brief 

Read the technical report No. 9 “Integrated termite management for improved  rainwater management: A synthesis of African experiences

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