On the final day of the Third International Forum on Water and Food, I was fortunate to participate in a very interesting and informative discussion regarding the role of participatory video in CGIAR Challenge Program on Water and Food (CPWF) projects. ILRI’s Beth Cullen presented some ideas and expereinces from her work in Ethiopia (see the presentation)

Read the full blog post by Natalie Bowers …

View a poster on participatory video in the Nile BDC:


An innovation platform is a network of different stakeholders who come together to exchange knowledge and develop joint action to bring about change in livelihoods and natural resource management. The growing interest in innovation platforms recognizes that improvements to farmer livelihoods and environmental integrity depend not just on on-farm technologies but on wider institutions, markets and policies. Improved land and water management practices can often be more readily and sustainably achieved by addressing these wider issues than by a narrow focus on changing farmer behaviour, but addressing them requires the involvement of a wide variety of stakeholders from communities, government, NGOs, research and private sector. Although this approach may require more patience the results are likely to be more sustained and far-reaching.

The types of issues that can be dealt with in an innovation platform can include:

Developing market chains: bringing together different actors along the value chain including producers, input suppliers, traders and regulatory bodies can help to identify and address bottlenecks along the value chain. Addressing these bottlenecks can directly benefit producers and increase incentives for farmers to invest in more market-oriented production for improved livelihoods.

Natural resource management enhancement: land and water issues tend to have a strong landscape dimension. The practices of upstream users can have important effects on downstream users. Also, small-scale irrigation schemes and soil and water conservation structures often affect multiple users and require collective action. Innovation platforms can provide a useful way of dealing with these landscape-level issues.

Combining talk with action

Innovation platforms are more than just places to talk. They need to lead to changes in farmer practice if they are to be effective. For example, as part of the IFAD-Fodder Adoption Project an innovation platform in Ada’a focusing on livestock feed issues catalyzed increased use of improved fodder varieties but also led to sourcing of improved dairy breeds and enhanced milk marketing arrangements (see fodderadoption.wordpress.com).

How could innovation platforms be useful in the NBDC programme?

The NBDC programme proposes to catalyse formation of local innovation platforms in our three study sites of Diga, Fogera and Jeldu. We would see these meeting 3 or 4 times a year or as needed. They will bring together actors at woreda level such as various government line departments (including those responsible for agriculture and water), NGO’s, private sector actors, researchers, community representatives and others. The platforms could also include actors from outside the woreda as the agenda broadens.

The aim will be to jointly identify constraints to improving land and water management at each site and then plan some practical joint actions to deal with them. The platforms would also provide a mechanism to seek resources to implement practical interventions identified within the platforms. As the platforms develop we could also link them to a national platform to provide a communication route to national actors. We seek local collaboration and co-development of these innovation platforms. We see the role of NBDC as catalysing initial formation of innovation platforms and then learning lessons about what makes them work.

By Alan Duncan

Download this as a brochure (also in Amharic, in Oromifa)

During today’s Nile Basin Development Challenge ‘science and reflection’ workshop in Addis Ababa, IWMI’s Matthew McCartney interviewed Boru Douthwaite (CPWF) about plans for the 3rd International Forum on Water and Food to be held in South Africa in November 2011.

Just why – and where – is it being held? What format will it take? What can we expect to learn from such an event?

View the interview:

During today’s Nile Basin Development Challenge ‘science and reflection’ workshop in Addis Ababa, ILRI’s Shirley Tarawali interviewed Larry Harrington, CPWF Research Director about the role of research and science in the Challenge Program on Water and Food.

What’s the research focus and approach of the CPWF? How do the projects learn across basins? What’s the balance between ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ science in the Program? How does research on sustainable intensification and markets fit in? How do you see the notion of resilience? What does the future hold for the CPWF in the new CGIAR? How important are the difference in reflection processes between the Basins?

View the interview:

During today’s Nile Basin Development Challenge ‘science and reflection’ workshop in Addis Ababa, ILRI’s Alan Duncan interviewed Bharat Sharma (IWMI) about research on integrated watershed management in India and its relevance for Ethiopia and the Nile BDC.

What does integrated watershed management mean? What are some of the successes, and the key factors leading to them? Can any of these be transferred to other countries? How relevant are they for Ethiopia?

View the interview:

On 3 February 2011, team members from the Nile Basin Development Challenge joined a one-day ‘Share Fair’ in Addis Ababa. Organized by the International Water Management Institute (IWMI), the event brought together 10 Agriculture Water Management projects to present their objectives, intended outcomes, products, timelines, stakeholders and geographical focus.

Each of ten participating projects presented a summary of their aims, activities, target groups, and perceived ‘unique selling points’ and areas where they face challenges.

Drawing on the strengths and weaknesses identified by the projects, participants then explored potential collaboration, with a focus on Ethiopia where all are active.

The event was strongly supported by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) – that funds several of the projects and wished to see greater synergies and learning across the various projects. It was facilitated by Nadia Manning-Thomas from the CGIAR ICT-KM Program (Nadia’s blog post)

The collective ‘unique selling points’ shared by the agri-water initiatives profiled at the event included:

  • We are a network not a project;
  • We employ open source sharing;
  • Our focus is on practical and do-able activities;
  • We focus on institutional contexts;
  • We have objective solid evidence from the field;
  • We are strong in climate, hydrological and water resource modeling;
  • We are strong in anthropological research;
  • We are strong in hydro-geological and socio-econonmic assessments;
  • We work closely with national and regional partners to spur widespread innovation, policy influence and institutional strengthening;
  • We employ cross-basin learning, knowledge sharing and continual communication for adaptive management;
  • We are expert in capacity building in Agwater management and in knowledge sharing skills;
  • We have an AgWater Management platform that people can use;
  • We will be able to provide local and specific assistance to farmers, in quasi real time; Our resources will be transparent (on the web);
  • We are able to implement new ideas quickly;
  • We have the largest water-related video collection on the web.

The collective ‘challenges’ points shared by the agri-water initiatives profiled at the event included:

  • How to operationalize demand-responsive, participatory, inclusive learning alliance/platform;
  • How to avoid ‘business as usual’;
  • How to develop creative and effective outreach;
  • How to translate findings to useful information;
  • How to cope with a massive scope in a short duration;
  • How to convert complex information into slick messages;
  • How to sustain functional partnership beyond financial incentives;
  • Can real small farmers do anything with the information we provide;
  • How can we engage with people beyond the water world;
  • how to derive actionable projects and results from our research messages.

Participating projects were:

View the ‘report’ of the meeting as two powerpoint files: