Event


The Nile Basin Development Challenge (NBDC) is coming to an end in late 2013, as will all Basin challenges of the Challenge Program for Water and Food (with the exception of the Ganges basin for another year). The Nile Challenge has generated many rich experiences that we hope will be taken up by CGIAR research programs (such as ‘Water Lands and Ecosystems‘ and ‘Integrated Systems for the humid tropics’).

The NBDC team organized a double event on 14 and 15 November to facilitate the transition to new programs:

  • A dinner for very important persons (VIP) organized on 14 November to discuss the eight key messages developed by NBDC.
  • A ‘Knowledge Watershed’ event at the ILRI campus on 15 November to look at past achievements, current observations and practices and possible next steps.

The VIP dinner was organized with 30 experts in land and water management in Ethiopia, including the State Ministers for agriculture, energy, water resources, and representatives from the World Bank, the Ethiopian Institute for Agricultural Research etc. The dinner was squeezed between presentations of the eight key messages. The messages were presented in two batches of very short and compelling presentations, interspersed with the different courses of the dinner. The invited guests provided some insights about the key messages and were networked ‘in a different way’. An experience appreciated publicly by one of the state ministers and likely to be followed again for other programs.

Amanda Harding moderating the high level panel closing the Knowledge Watershed (Photo credit: Ewen Le Borgne / ILRI)

Amanda Harding moderating the high level panel closing the Knowledge Watershed (Photo credit: Ewen Le Borgne / ILRI)

The Knowledge watershed was run the next day as a sort of share fair with about 80 participants spanning partner organisations and important actors in land and water management. An initial open mic session invited all participants to share what they considered major achievements of the NBDC. Then the eight key messages were presented and discussed around ‘scale stands’ representing the local (woreda/district), regional (sub-national) and national levels.

The Knowledge Watershed ended with a talk show inviting participants representing partners at woreda, basin authority and federal level to discuss next steps and what would happen ideally if a ‘new NBDC’ was to take place. The final cocktails allowed further networking and public thanking for all the actors that contributed to NBDC in the past years.

More information about these final NBDC events at: http://nilebdc.wikispaces.com/reflection5

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

On 23 and 24 July, the Nile BDC organised a regional stakeholder dialogue in Bahir Dar to share emerging findings on land and water management with partners from Ethiopia’s regions and explore how to institutionalize a regional platform for NRM. It built on the messages emerging from the recent NBDC science meeting.

Participants discuss key issues to take forward (Credit: ILRI/Meron Mulatu)

Participants discuss key issues to take forward (Credit: ILRI/Meron Mulatu)

About 55 participants from the regions in Ethiopia where NBDC is active (Amhara and Oromia) and from other regions (Tigray and SNNPR) as well as from federal and international institutions discussed:

  • An overview of NBDC activities in the three pilot sites – Jeldu, Fogera, Diga (presentation by Simon Langan)
  • Major learning from the pilot interventions: tools and practices
  • NBDC messages and their contribution for policy and institutions at the regional level
  • Experiences from other projects:
  • Major challenges in rainwater management in the Abay basin: By Abay Basin experts in collaboration with the Bureau of Agriculture and the Amhara Regional Agricultural Research Institute (ARARI)
  • Institutionalization of a regional NRM platform: Ownership and way forward

Read more about the regional stakeholders’ dialogue on the NBDC wiki,

See presentations and notes from the meeting

More presentations from the: Nile BDC

See pictures from the event

The NBDC sent five representatives including two local innovation platform (IP) members to a special session on ‘engagement platforms’ at the sixth Africa Agricultural Science Week (AASW) organised by the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA), 15-19 July.

The session was organised as a Challenge Program for Water and Food (CPWF) event and featured representatives from the three African basins: Limpopo, Nile and Volta.

Andenet Deresse (instructor at Ambo University) and Dr. Mussie Haile Melekot (professor at Bahir Dar University) represented the Nile Basin Innovation platforms in a talk show hosted by Dr. Lindiwe Majele Sibanda, Chief Executive Officer of the Food Agriculture and Natural Resource Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN).

Watch the video: Harnessing innovations for food security – innovation platforms in Ethiopia’s Nile Basin Development Challenge

With additional support from Zelalem Lema, research officer at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) in Addis Ababa, the Nile delegation also shared some lessons and hopes regarding engagement platforms:

  • Incentives are key! It is difficult for IP members to remain motivated but capacity development on research, networking etc. really helps. Unforeseen incentives that appear along the way also strengthen members buy in and IP teams should pay attention to these.
  • Financial incentives give a hint about sustainability. Will IP members still come to the meetings and remain engaged in the process if we stop paying them? We have to ask these questions early on and find out if people are ready to invest in IPs by themselves. This says a lot about the potential sustainability of these platforms.
  • Formalising IPs is a great way to clarify roles and responsibilities and limit problems of participation. The NBDC developed terms of reference and a legal structure which explained who should be part of it, when and how to meet etc. Despite this, membership turnover did hamper progress and some discussions that had been dealt with in the past kept resurfacing.
  • Balancing long term natural resource management with short term value chain benefits: As an overall take home message, the NBDC team learned that a value chain approach brings short term results and perhaps they should use this approach – around fodder interventions for example – to create good impact and incentives for all IP members.

The session also featured presentations by Dr. Alain Vidal (Director of the Challenge Program for Water and Food) and Dr. Olufunke Coffie (Basin Leader for the Volta Basin Development Challenge). After the IP talk show, participants zoomed in on five different topics: how to set up IPs, how to engage with policy (using IPs), how to scale them up, how to deal with power and representation and finally how to ensure they are working?

These group discussions generated additional insights on issues of purpose, engagement, sustainability and impact:

A thorough analysis upfront paves the way for a good engagement process: a strong situation and stakeholder analysis, assessing social networks and alliances in presence, understanding the local cultural context are all helpful to limit marginalisation of certain groups and ensure their proper involvement in engagement platforms.

The sustainability issue is also sensitive but some measures of connecting ongoing IPs with other networks and platforms, organising field tours, farmer field days, exchange visits etc. offer ways to progressively embed an engagement platform in a wider social environment. On the other hand, as these platforms are multi-functional and dynamic, they may cease to exist once they have fulfilled their purpose. Or they may morph into another type of platform that fills other gaps in the wider system.

Finally, measuring the impact of engagement platforms remains a difficult undertaking, all the more so for IPs that focus on natural resource management (with long term tradeoffs and benefits) as opposed to value chain-focused IPs.

The CPWF morning side event built on a series of 12 draft ‘practice briefs‘ on innovation platforms developed with funding by the CGIAR research program on Humidtropics and harnessing experiences and insights from several years of work with such platforms.

Six months before its formal end as a project, the Nile Basin Development Challenge (NBDC) hosted a science meeting to share ongoing and finalised research results.

Bedasa Eba introducing his paper60 participants met on 9 and 10 July 2013 and reviewed presentations organised around four main themes:

  • Livestock and irrigation
  • Water productivity, hydrological and erosion modeling
  • Rainwater, land and water resources management
  • Institutions, adoption and marketing

In addition, 10 posters were also featured in the science meeting, mainly from PhD and MSc students working in the NBDC. Presentations and posters are online.

Key lessons and conclusions emerging were:

  • The research for development approach adopted by the NBDC and other basins in the Challenge Program for Water and Food (CPWF) is valuable but it has not been able to go as far as planned, especially in terms of getting beyond research outputs towards development outcomes. See more about this in the presentation by Doug Merrey.
  • The Development Agents’ (DA) system has been somewhat left behind but have a crucial role to play and could be revitalised by actors like NBDC to involve DA staff in transdisciplinary research projects that can help move research outputs to outcomes.
  • NBDC research tends to focus on individual or household benefits of certain rainwater management interventions but less attention has been given to collective benefits and tradeoffs between upstream and downstream communities. The debate about on-site and off-site benefits and the link with ecosystem services at landscape level remains open.
  • Similarly, competition for water resources puts the stress on a new phenomenon: it is traditionally easier to promote individual technologies rather than collectively managed schemes (with their high transaction costs). However, adding too many individual pumps in the watershed stresses water resources.

The participants also highlighted a series of research gaps that ought to be taken up by future initiatives focusing on land and rainwater management (RWM). These included: appropriate land use planning, strengthening local agencies to deal with RWM and to plan land use, identifying suitable scalable solutions that are appropriate for a given context or focusing on scalable practices and methods or approaches; improving biomass production.

Finally, they noted that NBDC science remains somewhat scattered but the evidence base collected is an important asset to carry into other initiatives that will build on the NBDC legacy.

The presentations and individual papers featured in the NBDC science meeting will be individually featured on this website – watch this space!

Read conversation notes and links to outputs from the meeting

Discover the presentations and the posters shared at the science meeting

Download the meeting proceedings.

On 21 May, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) convened a sharefair to share lessons, identify promising solutions and ultimately improve the impact of investments in water in the Ethiopia country program.

Participants arrived at the following conclusions:

  1. Partnerships:
    • Projects should ensure better integration between research institutions/researchers, tertiary institutions, and development practitioners
    • Projects can give voice to end-users; through activities and exposing their audiences at the regional and global level to the end-users
  2. Scaling up and out:
    • Engage the right actors from the beginning so scaling is part of the full process
    • Trust and effective communications between stakeholders and partners helps ensure research is used beyond the project cycle
  3. Challenges:
    • Limited local institutional and university capacity
    • Technical challenges in up-scaling; in some cases, the smallholdings are too small
  4. Innovations:
    • Combining traditional, new technologies; integrating new into existing systems
    • Engaging young professional workers into networks/projects

The NBDC team also helped organise this special event.

Read the final report of the Water Grants Share Fair as well as other materials presented

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