Lack of long-term hydrological monitoring makes it difficult to determine impacts of changing land use on the water dynamics for many catchments in Africa.

Here we use local ecological knowledge (LEK) to explore the impacts of rapid expansion of eucalyptus agroforestry on water security in the Ethiopian highlands. Local knowledge about the impacts of changes in tree cover was collected from farmers (n = 30), extension staff (n = 2) and timber merchants (n = 2) in five kebeles within the Jeldu woreda.

Jeldu has undergone significant land use change over the last forty years. The area was heavily deforested 20 years ago and farmers associate this time with a major change in the water dynamics. Recently the development of a new road to Goja, the main town, opened up the area as a source of timber for Addis Ababa. This has resulted in a substantial expansion of eucalyptus plots adjacent to roads on the upper plateau and in riparian areas where growth is accelerated. Poorer farmers have been displaced on to the sloping land (which used to be woodland) where there is now evidence of rapid soil degradation.

The key findings were that farmers identified significant trade-offs at the plot scale between eucalyptus and adjacent crop fields. They also identified indicators suggesting the sudden increase in eucalyptus cover had accelerated declines in water availability at landscape scales.

The study showed the value of using LEK for exploring immediate landscape scale dynamics in the absence of hydrological monitoring. Whilst there is a degree of uncertainty surrounding the impacts of eucalyptus, this research demonstrated local awareness associated of problems associated with unregulated expansion of eucalyptus woodlots on the water regulating capacity at immediate landscape scales in the Ethiopian highlands.

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Read the paper

See the full proceedings of the NBDC Science meeting


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 national platform on land and water management held its third meeting on 23-24 July 2012 at the campus of the International Livestock Research Institute in Addis Ababa. About 70 participants attended this event and represented Governmental agencies and regional bureaus, research institutes and universities, non-governmental organizations and donor agencies.

After having been established with a specific vision and mandate in the first national platform meeting, the National Platform was further developed in the second national platform meeting, where participants teased out priority work areas for which four thematic working groups are developing an agenda.

This third event offered an opportunity to:

  • Inform a wider audience about the national platform: what it is about, what it aims to do and how it relates to other projects, in particular Africa RISING;
  • Introduce the four thematic working groups and their agenda for the coming months and gather feedback on their rationale and activities.

This meeting was a first for the platform as it was hosted with the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) – more specifically, one of the Africa RISING ‘early win’ projects on ‘Sustainable tree-crop-livestock intensification as a pillar for the Ethiopian climate resilient green economy initiative‘. As a result, the main part of the event was dedicated to this particular project which ties in naturally with the agenda of the land and water management national platform.

The agroforestry part of the event culminated with a panel discussion which discussed some challenges faced in Ethiopia: Weak coordination and integration, climate change, and (insufficiently?) participatory approaches to policy-making. One of the panelists and some  platform members advocated a holistic approach that integrates crops, livestock and agroforestry.

Following these sessions, the four thematic working groups of the national platform introduced themselves, their agendas for the next 12 to 18 months and collected additional ideas of relevant initiatives, actors and documents that could inform their work on institutional innovation, technological innovation, ecosystem resilience and policy support.

The third national platform meeting ended by raising some challenging considerations for the platform itself: How wide or focused should it be? How to avoid duplication and competition with the Sustainable Land Management project funded by the German Development Cooperation Agency (GIZ), how (and perhaps whether) to sustain this platform beyond the Nile Basin Development Challenge…

Expanding a platform to invite other actors and initiatives can be crucial for its healthy development, although it begs the question of the added value and unique selling point of the platform.

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See some pictures from the workshop

Read the notes from the sessions

On Monday 23 and Tuesday 24 July, the national platform for water and land management holds its third meeting.

This third meeting is organized with the project ‘Sustainable tree-crop-livestock intensification as a pillar for the Ethiopian climate resilient green economy initiative‘. The project is one of the ‘early win’ initiatives of the Africa RISING program which aims to transform agricultural systems through sustainable intensification projects in three regions of Africa, including the Ethiopian Highlands. Sustainable intensification of trees, crops and livestock is naturally linked to water and land management and as such it seemed natural to present the project to the national platform meeting.

Next to this part of the workshop, the four thematic working groups identified during the second national platform meeting will present their agenda and planned activities.

In the first national platform meeting, participants defined the rationale, vision and structure of the platform. In the second national platform meeting, the participants grouped according to areas of interest and relevance for the platform, to flesh out an agenda of action. This third meeting should therefore introduce the activities planned, gather feedback, identify additional sources of financial or technical support and finally reinforce linkages between different projects and initiatives that contribute to improving water and land management in the Nile Basin.

Tilahun Amede, Nile Basin project leader is co-editor of a new book ‘Integrated Natural Resource Management in the Highlands of Eastern Africa: From Concept to Practice.’

It documents a decade of research, methodological innovation, and lessons learned in an eco-regional research-for-development program operating in the eastern African highlands, the African Highlands Initiative (AHI). It does this through reflections of the protagonists themselves—AHI site teams and partners applying action research to development innovation as a means to enhance the impact of their research.

This book summarizes the experiences of farmers, research and development workers, policy and decision-makers who have interacted within an innovation system with the common goal of implementing an integrated approach to natural resource management (NRM) in the humid highlands.

This book demonstrates the crucial importance of “approach” in shaping the outcomes of research and development, and distils lessons learned on what works, where and why. It is enriched with examples and case studies from five benchmark sites in Ethiopia, Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania, whose variability provides the reader with an in-depth knowledge of the complexities of integrated NRM in agro-ecosystems that play an important role in the rural economy of the region. It is shown that the struggle to achieve sustainable agricultural development in challenging environments is a complex one, and can only be effectively achieved through combined efforts and commitment of individuals and institutions with complementary roles.

Chapter 1 gives an overview of INRM as a concept and the birth and evolution of AHI, including the methodological framework through which innovations were developed and tested and its results. Chapter 2 provides an overview of farm-level methodological innovations oriented towards participatory intensification and diversification of smallholder farming systems for optimal system productivity (economic, social, and ecological). Chapter 3 summarizes AHI
experiences with a set of approaches employed to operationalize participatory watershed management through an integrated lens which looks not only at soil and water but at a wider set of system components and interations.

Chapter 4 explores lessons learned to date on methods and approaches for participatory landscape governance, exploring how processes that cut across farm boundaries, involve trade-offs between different land users or require collective action may be addressed effectively and equitably. Chapter 5 explores the role of district level institutions and cross-scale linkages in supporting grassroots development and conservation initiatives, including improved coordination and better support to local livelihood priorities and bottom-up governance reforms. Chapter 6 explores methods and approaches for scaling up and institutionalizing integrated natural resource management innovations (e.g., those presented in earlier chapters), as well as approaches for self-led institutional change that can institutionalize the process of methodological innovation and impact-oriented research.

Published by IDRC, ICRAF and Earthscan, the full report can be downloaded from the IDRC institutional repository