Poor rainwater management (RWM) practices and resultant problems of land degradation and low water productivity are severe problems in the rural highlands of Ethiopia.

The current study was undertaken at Meja watershed, which is located in the Jeldu district of Oromia region. The study investigated rainwater management practices and associated socio-economic and biophysical conditions in the watershed. The existing RWM interventions, their extent and the nature of changes in land use and land cover (LULC) conditions were mapped and evaluated.

Results indicated that over the two decades between 1990 and 2010 there was an increase in the extent of cultivated land and large expansion in eucalyptus plantation at the expense of natural forest and grazing lands. Results indicate that, with few exceptions of RWM interventions practised, there were mainly poor and inefficient rainwater management practices. The overall effect leads to inadequacy of water for household consumption, livestock and for intensifying agricultural production via small scale irrigation systems. Deforestation and poor resource management resulted in soil degradation, reduction of hydrological regimes and water productivities in the watershed.

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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 soil erosion studies conducted in Ethiopia are focused on quantification of sediment and lack specific information on temporal and spatial variability of sediment and its associated plant nutrients loss. This study was therefore quantified and characterized runoff and sediment along with estimated the on-site financial cost of erosion in terms of its concomitant crop yield loss due to the nitrogen and phosphorus lost in consequence of erosion.

Data on discharge and runoff samples for sediment concentration and nutrient content was collected at three monitoring stations (Melka, Galesssa and Kollu) in Meja watershed in Jeldu district, in the Ethiopian part of the Blue Nile Basin. Daily samples collected during the rainy season were analysed in the laboratory of Ambo University for sediment content of runoff, particle size distribution of the sediment and nitrogen and phosphorus content of both the sediment and runoff. Preliminary results indicate that both runoff volume and sediment concentration vary with space and time. While the maximum runoff volume was recorded in the middle of the rainy season, sediment concentration decreased towards the end of the rainy season in response to increased ground cover. The average suspended sediment concentration during the rainy season was 3.0 ± 1.1, 2.2 ±1.3 and 1.4 ± 0.9 g L-1 while the total sediment yield ranged from 74 t km-2, 248 t km-2 and 604 t km-2 at Melka, Galesssa and Kollu, respectively. The financial cost of erosion was estimated at 595, 510 and 2475 ETB ha-1 from Melka, Kollu and Galessa, respectively.

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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.

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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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.

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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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.