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/

NBDC Reflection and Roadmap workshop, 21-22 May 2012, ILRI Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (photo credit: ILRI/Zerihun Sewunet).

NBDC Reflection and Roadmap workshop, 21-22 May 2012, ILRI Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (photo credit: ILRI/Zerihun Sewunet).

On 21 and 22 May 2012, the Nile Basin Development Challenge (NBDC) team held a reflection and road map meeting with 24 participants from the four projects that make up the NBDC as well as from the Management Team of the Challenge Program for Water and Food (CPWF).

Participants reported on progress (see a report from the ‘Nile 4’ project), assessed whether NBDC is on the right track, identified the NBDC’s comparative advantages, crucial gaps and potential adjustments and, finally, developed an action plan that integrates monitoring and impact assessment and folds into a ‘sunrise strategy’ as the NBDC (and its parent CPWF) is scheduled to end in 2013.

The keywords for this important meeting have been: alignment, integration and indeed sunrise.


The pressure to deliver science and show results is mounting in the CPWF generally. For the NBDC this means the component projects should emphasize and deepen collaboration and synergies with one another.


Beyond internal alignment of the different projects, a major challenge is to ensure the NBDC is integrated with other research and development initiatives – as both outlets to disseminate its research results and to engage audiences around the research insights gathered so far and the tools and approaches developed by the various NBDC teams.

The Africa RISING program and initiatives by e.g. the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations or the United Nations’ Environment Program were some of the initiatives mentioned that could help pave the way for the sunrise strategy.


Although the program comes to an end in late 2013, the team wants to see this not so much as a sunset but rather as a sunrise, the start of a new and exciting period. During the meeting, the team started brainstorming a vision for 2014 and beyond, which builds upon the different innovation platforms – which should also be further integrated.

The way to the sun?

The comparative advantage of the NBDC was seen to lie in the combination of research outputs and development outcomes, the integrated approach at multiple scales and the program’s reputation for its knowledge brokerage function. Mobilizing these assets through a ‘sunrise strategy’ will stimulate integration and alignment in the best possible way.

The meeting was documented through notes on the wiki and some photos  from the meeting.

Nile Basin Development Challenge at the IFWF3

Nile Basin participants reflect on the IFWF3

With a 45-person delegation, the Nile Basin was well-represented at the third International Forum for Water and Food. The Forum, which took place in Thswane, South Africa, from 14 to 17 November 2011, brought about 300 representatives from the six river basins of the CGIAR Challenge Programme on Water and Food, as well as a host of other international actors.

The Nile delegation was not only strongly represented physically. It also actively contributed to the forum in various ways and reported about it on blog posts, through video and on Twitter …

1. Leading and facilitating a couple of Forum sessions:

2. Contributing to a host of other Forum sessions:

3. Organising four sessions during the Share Fair:

4. Organizing a NBDC stand:


Nile Basin Development Challenge briefs on display

Posters focusing on the different Nile projects were exhibited at the stand. Moreover, two NBDC technical reports on the review of development of key national policies with respect to rainwater management in Ethiopia prepared by Ethiopian Economics Association and on promoting improved rainwater and land management in the Blue Nile (Abay) basin of Ethiopia were distributed at the stand. Seven briefs of the Nile were also distributed.

5. Contributing to the social reporting of the Share Fair with about 300 tweets, three videos, ten blog posts, various pictures and capturing the presentations. Read a related blogpost.

On the final day of the event (Thursday 17 November), the whole group gathered to review the insights garnered by the whole team during the week and to devise ways forward, building upon what happened at the Forum. Among the great results achieved, the NBDC team is involved in various topic working groups either to lead (livelihoods, spatial analysis modeling) revitalize (multiple use systems) or support (resilience).

In addition, under the leadership of Basin coordinator Tilahun Amede, a group of representatives from the three African basins will coordinate the development of a publication synthesising evidence produced on the topic of rainwater management in Africa. Amede is also heralding discussions with other basin leaders to consider setting up a network that would extend cooperation around rainwater management on the continent.

The next National Platform meeting (19 December 2011) will be a crucial moment to bring together all these results to the wider group of stakeholders in Ethiopia, including the young professionals who were empowered to join decision-making processes regarding water and food management during the Forum.

The Nile delegation has now flowed back up to its familiar banks but the knowledge confluents of the age-old Nile are growing in all directions. The next year may see the Nile banks, and its people, flourish with new ambitions.

Our pictures.

All Nile presentations and posters

Our blog posts.

Our videos

See also the Forum website.

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 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:

From 4-6 May 2011, project teams from the Nile Basin Development Challenge meet in Addis Ababa in a ‘science and reflection workshop.’ We asked Deborah Bossio from the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) to explain the purpose of this meeting.

Why this meeting? According to Bossio: The NBDC was launched just over a year ago and this meeting is an opportunity for participants to review progress, gaps and plans.

It is organized around several main themes:

First, to get clarity on the key ‘rainwater management’ concepts and frameworks for analysis and how these are best made operational across the various NBDC projects. She highlights scale as a major research challenge – we work across various scales, from local, through landscapes, to basins, with impacts beyond. We need to be sure our analysis and results work across scales.

Second, to examine our experiences with key enabling processes, such as innovation system platforms, policy dialogues, co-learning processes, and stakeholder workshops.

Third, we will review the ‘nuts and bolts of the science’ – how are we doing in relation to water productivity and hydrology, livelihood impacts, and ecosystem services

The 3 main outcomes she aims for are: 1) common understanding among participants of basic concepts and frameworks; 2) ideas and plans how we can take forward the results already emerging from the various projects; and 3) an assessment of our scientific progress, the quality of the research, and gaps identified that need attention.

Watch the video: