Report


The current paper discusses the use of hydrological modelling tool to understand sustainable land management interventions in the Blue Nile basin of Ethiopia.

A micro-watershed named Mizewa with a drainage area of 27 km2 in Fogera district was selected and instrumented with hydrological cycle observation networks in the year 2011. The SWAT hydrological modelling tool was used to simulate landscape-wide Soil and Water Conservation (SWC) investments.

Simulations of the selected investments modelled in this analysis suggest that improvements in infiltration, decreases in surface runoff and decreases in erosion are achievable in the watershed. Further simulations suggest that a landscape-wide approach of terrace and bund construction has the greatest effect in terms of decreasing surface runoff, decreasing sediment yield and increasing groundwater flow and shallow aquifer recharge.

A comprehensive landscape investment of terraces on slopes greater than 5% and bunds maintained on slopes less than 5% would decrease surface flow by almost 50%, increase groundwater flow by 15% and decrease sediment yield from erosion by 85%. However, constructing terraces in areas with greater than 5% slope (without constructing bunds in areas under 5% slopes) has a similar effect whereby surface flow and sediment yield decreases by 45 and 83%, respectively and groundwater flow increases by 13%. Residue management also has a significant effect on surface flow and erosion in the Mizewa watershed. Average annual surface flow decreased 17 when adopting residue management on all agricultural land and 26% when coupling terracing on steep slopes with residue management in mid-range slopes.

These analyses provide the foundation for understanding feasible outcomes given a more comprehensive investment strategy. Results stemming from the current work can be paired with household level socio-economic data in order to assess program investment alternatives taking into account household constraints to Sustainable Land and Watershed Management (SLWM) investment and maintenance on private and public lands.

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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 paper examines the advance time of furrow irrigation at Koga.

Koga irrigation scheme was developed to irrigate about 7004 ha. Furrow irrigation is the recommended method for the distribution of water. However, furrow irrigation has inherent inefficiencies due to deep percolation on the upper end and runoff at the lower end of the furrow. These losses depend on furrow length, furrow gradient, surface roughness, stream size and cutoff time. These factors play significant role to influence the advance time of irrigation and the operation rule of the scheme.

The experiment was conducted during 2012 irrigation season in two periods (February and April). The advance time of irrigation was monitored at three discharge rates and four furrow gradients at 90–110 m furrow length. The required discharge was measured using RBC flume. The average advance time at respective discharge rates of 0.3, 0.6 and 0.8 litre/sec range from 290–460 min, 150–437 min and 100–294 min during 1st irrigation; and 115–370 min, 78–189 min and 43–217 min during 2nd irrigation. The advance time vary greatly among the discharge rates when the furrow length increases. The advance time of water at 0.5, 1.0, 2.0 and 2.5 % gradients was 236, 181, 197 and 398 min at 1st irrigation and 163, 175, 220 and 88 min at 2nd irrigation respectively. Furrow gradients and surface irregularities result in great variation of advance time. The advance time becomes shorter when the field gets smoother during 2nd irrigation. Under non-levelled and irregular field conditions, 0.6–0.8 litre/sec application rate can be suggested to irrigate 30–40 m furrow lengths in order to improve application efficiency above 60% and to optimize the daily operation rule of the overall scheme.

The result of this study indicates the relevance of examining the furrow length, discharge and application time recommended in the feasibility study of irrigation schemes.

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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.

Mixed crop–livestock farming system is a major livelihood strategy in most sub-Sahara African countries. Low water use efficiency and water scarcity characterize the dominant rainfed agricultural production system in the densely populated highlands of Ethiopia. Improving water productivity in the rainfed system is among the ways of overcoming the water scarcity challenge.

This study was conducted in Meja watershed, located in Jeldu district, West Shewa in the Ethiopian part of the Blue Nile Basin to estimate economic crop water productivity based on agro-ecology and crop management practices. The watershed was classified into three landscape positions (local agro-ecologies) and major crops representing at least 70% of each landscape position were identified through discussion with farmers and development agents.

Five farmer fields were randomly selected for each major crop and crop management practices implemented by the farmers were monitored and yield (grain or tuber and straw) was measured at harvest. The local market value of the crops and the production cost was estimated based on the local market value for labour and other inputs. CROPWAT model was used to estimate effective precipitation based on weather data generated using NewLocClim and crop characteristics.

The result indicated that the landscape positions, crop variety and management practices significantly influenced the net economic water productivity. The net economic crop water productivity for barley, wheat, tef, sorghum and maize grains and fresh potato tubers were 3.31, 2.45, 3.09, 3.01 and 5.20 and ETB 13.56 m-3, respectively. Similarly, physical water productivity of the crops ranged from 0.47 for teff to 9.98 kg m-3 for fresh potato tubers. Hence, farmers can enhance economic benefit from the land and water resources they are endowed with rainfed by using improved agronomic practices that could raise grain/tuber and biomass yield. Enhancing improved input use, improving access to market for outputs and integrating livestock with crops may further augment the benefit at system scale.

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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.

Understanding the basic relationships between rainfall, runoff, soil moisture and ground water level are vital for an effective and sustainable water resources planning and management activities. But so far there are no hydrological studies in Meja watershed that aims to understand the watershed characteristics and runoff generation processes.

This study was conducted to understand runoff generation processes and model rainfall runoff relationship in Meja watershed having a drainage area of 96.6 km2. The watershed is one of the three research sites of International Water Management Institute (IWMI) developed in early 2010 in the upper Blue Nile Basin of Ethiopia. In the study, primary data of soil moisture, shallow ground water level, rainfall and runoff were collected from the hydrological monitoring network in the watershed. Hydrological models like HBV and RRL SMAR were configured to understand the relationship between rainfall and runoff in the watershed.

Relationships between rainfall, soil moisture, shallow ground water level and discharge were developed to understand runoff generation processes in the watershed. According to one year and three months data, there is no strong daily rainfall and runoff relationship (r2 <0.5) in Meja and Kolu which is nested sub-watershed; this may be due to abstractions such as irrigation and human interventions in the watershed. Ground water level and runoff has strong relationship (r2> 0.65) in monthly basis of Kolu nested sub-watershed but there is moderate relationship of rainfall and ground water level. There is strong linear relationship of rainfall and monthly averaged volumetric soil moisture in most layers of Meja and its nested sub-watersheds. The general relationship between runoff and monthly averaged soil moisture at different layers in Meja watershed and Kolu is strong and linear. Analysis of rainfall runoff models indicated better performance of HBV than RRL SMAR model.

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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.

Termites are a major pest in the semi-arid and sub-humid tropics. They pose a serious threat to agricultural crops, forestry seedlings, rangelands and wooden structures. In Ethiopia the problem is particularly serious in the western part of the country, specifically in Wollega Zones of Oromia Region. In the past, several attempts were made to reduce damage caused by termites, including extensive termite mound poisoning campaigns. These interventions not only had a negative effect on the environment, but were also largely ineffective.

Based on previous work in Uganda showing that adding organic matter to the soil diverts termites from the plant and functions as alternative feed source, a project was commenced by the Challenge Program for Water and Food (CPWF). In partnership with IWMI and Makerere University, ILRI and Wollega University took the lead in working with local stakeholders to identify sustainable solutions to address the termite problem in Diga, Ethiopia. The research consisted of two major activities; 1) a baseline study to better understand the relation between land use, water, termites and local institutions; and 2) the design and testing of identified interventions.

The baseline findings indicated that termite damage depends on various biophysical and socio-institutional factors, which requires an integrated, but also targeted, termite management approach; two termite species are locally recognized, but level of knowledge highly varies among farmers within and between kebeles. Various trials were designed for on-farm experimentation using cattle manure and crop residues as alternative feed source for termites in combination with other cultivation techniques.

The result obtained indicated that application of cattle manure and crop residues increases the organic matter content of the soil by 24.5 and 13.9%—grain yield of maize by 38.8 and 16.7% and reduces termite count per plant by 29.6 and 21.6% as compared to the control treatment, respectively. The results are in line with farmers’ own evaluation of the trials. Results and implications are discussed.

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


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.

The quantity and position of trees in a landscape can have significant impacts on farm soil and water resources.

Here we present a synthesis of local knowledge studies conducted in three micro-catchments of the Blue Nile Basin (Diga, Fogera and Jeldu Woredas) exploring natural and anthropogenic drivers of tree cover change. In total more than 90 purposively selected farmers were interviewed, whilst focus group discussions and feedback sessions were held with larger groups.

Local knowledge revealed that all three sites suffered from rapid deforestation of native tree cover over the last 20 years. All three systems were recognized by farmers as declining in agricultural productivity. The decline of native forest in Jeldu was found to be more rapid than the other two sites, partially due to market pressures from the capital city. Fogera and Diga were found to have remnant native forest still present, although certain tree species had disappeared completely due to over-exploitation for their products. This was associated with population expansion which has driven land cultivation into more marginal land (such as steeper slopes and marshy lowlands), resulting in land degradation and heightened pressure on common grazing land.

The farmers demonstrated detailed agro-ecological knowledge on how the physical attributes of trees impacted on water and soil resources. Farmers were able to describe the impacts of loss of native tree cover on erosion control, river bank stabilization, protection of headwaters and water quality improvements. There were knowledge gaps on how to integrate native trees into the cereal and horticultural cropping systems.

The research findings suggest some potential policy changes and intervention strategies to reach farmers and increase understanding of the functions of trees in watershed management according to on-farm niches and ecosystem service provisioning.

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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.

Most farmers in the Blue Nile Basin depend on unreliable rainfed agriculture and are vulnerable to climate variability. Lack of appropriate rain water management in these areas prevents smallholders from addressing the consequences of flooding during the rainy season and droughts during the dry season. This is in turn a major contributory factor to food insecurity and poverty.

Addressing these issues entails designing, targeting and prioritizing rain water management strategies. In support of this, we developed a generic methodology for out-scaling and prioritizing interventions in agricultural systems. The methodology entails a multi-stage and iterative process of:

  1. diagnosis and selection of options,
  2. characterization of the options,
  3. identification of the recommendation domains and out-scaling potential of these options,
  4. assessing the impacts along different dimensions and on different groups of people.

This paper describes how we applied this methodology in the Blue Nile Basin. We consulted several national stakeholders and identified the ‘best-bet’ options as they are currently being promoted by the SLM program. A next step entailed the description and characterization of the options. Previous knowledge about bio-physical and socio-economic conditions influencing suitability was collated, while field studies were undertaken to increase our understanding of adoption of these options. Matching this characterization data with a spatial database allowed us to map the suitability and feasibility of rainwater management options and strategies. For the last stage, the impact assessment, we identified the most-likely-to-be-adopted strategy for each of the watersheds based on the feasibility maps. We translated this into maps compatible with the SWAT model.

Results from the impact assessment should eventually feed back into the assessment of alternative options. The framework is applicable in many different forms and settings. The steps can be gone through qualitatively in a multi-stakeholder setting while the process can also be done quantitatively. It has a wide applicability beyond the Blue Nile Basin.

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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.

Understanding soil hydraulic properties is crucial for planning effective soil and water management practices.

A study was conducted to evaluate the effects of different biochar and charcoal treatments on soil-hydraulic properties of agricultural soils. Biochar and charcoal treatments were applied on 54, undisturbed soil-columns, extracted from three-elevation ranges, with replications along three transects. Daily weight losses of freely draining soil-columns and soil moisture contents, at five tensions, were measured. In addition, field infiltration tests and soil analyses for particle size distribution, bulk-density and organic carbon content were conducted. Moreover, five year event precipitation data, from the watershed, was analysed and exceedance probability of rainfall intensity was computed.

Results show treatments reduced soil moisture contents, for most of the cases. However, treatment effects were significant only at lower tensions (10 and 30 kPa) and within two days after saturation (p<0.05). On the other hand, relative hydraulic conductivity (Kr) coefficients, near saturation, of amended soils were higher than the control. Acidic to moderately acidic soils with high average clay (42%) and low organic carbon contents (1.1%) were dominant. Infiltration rate ranged between 1.9 and 36 mm/h, with high variability (CV = 70%). At the same time, storms with short duration (< 15 min) and high average intensity (6.3 mm/h) contributed for 68% of annual precipitation (1616mm/year).

Dominant soil properties and rainfall characteristics suggest that infiltration could be a major problem on considerable number of fields, in the watershed. This implies, on such fields, constructing physical soil and water conservation structures alone will not reduce runoff and erosion effectively, unless soil infiltration and permeability rates are enhanced through integrated soil management approaches.

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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 uses Tobit and Logit models to examine the impacts of selected small-scale irrigation schemes in the Lake Tana basin of Ethiopia on household income and the likelihood of poverty, respectively.

Data for these analyses were collected from a sample of 180 households. Households using any of the four irrigation systems had statistically significantly higher mean total gross household income than households not using irrigation. The marginal impact of small-scale irrigation on gross household income indicated that each small scale-irrigation user increased mean annual household income by ETB 3353 per year, a 27% increase over income for non-irrigating households.

A Logit regression model indicated that access to irrigation significantly reduced the odds that a household would be in the lowest quartile of household income, the poverty threshold used in this study. Households using concrete canal river diversion had higher mean cropping income per household than those using other irrigation types.

Key challenges to further enhancing the benefits of irrigation in the region include water seepage, equity of water distribution, availability of irrigation equipment, marketing of irrigated crops and crop diseases facilitated by irrigation practices.

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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.

Agricultural productivity in Ethiopian highlands is constrained mainly by high climate variability. Although use of soil and water conservation technologies is recognized as a key strategy to improve agricultural productivity, adoption of technologies has been very low as farmers consider a variety of factors in their adoption decision.

This study assesses the adoption pattern of interrelated rainwater management technologies and investigates factors that influence farm household adoption and scaling-up of rainwater management technologies and draws recommendations for policy. Our results show that rainwater management technologies are interdependent to each other implying that technology adoption decisions need to capture the spillover effect on the adoption of other technologies and have follow a multi-dimensional approach. Moreover, our results suggest that instead of promoting blanket recommendations, it is important to understand the socio-economic, demographic characteristics and biophysical suitability of the rainwater management technologies.

Although impact of gender is likely technology-specific and generalization is not possible, our result indicates that male-headed households have a comparative advantage in rainwater management technologies adoption in the Nile Basin and suggests the need to address the constraints of women farmers to give them an opportunity to actively participate in rural economic activities.

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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.

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