In late 2011, all projects in the Nile Basin Development Challenge prepared ‘most significant change’ stories from the first phase of operations. One of the stories looked at project experiences with the installation of hydrological monitoring sites.

NBDC Brief 10 is a summary  of the story.

A key objective of the Nile BDC is to gain insights into hydrological processes (e.g. water budgets and partitioning of rainfall between soil moisture, groundwater and runoff) in order to inform decision-making about different rainwater management options. To do this, we have established hydrological monitoring networks in three research catchments, one in each of the woreda’s where the research is being conducted (i.e., Jeldu, Diga and Fogera).

We also decided to engage with relevant stakeholders and communities to establish the instrumentation networks. We hope this participatory approach will:

  • instill trust and goodwill amongst the community;
  • provide opportunities for local communities to better understand the hydrological regime of their localities;
    help establish a conducive atmosphere for the flow of knowledge between researchers and the communities and vice-versa.

Some lessons

The three research catchments are almost certainly the most sophisticated hydrological experimental monitoring networks ever established in Ethiopia. As such they should be exploited to the full. If they are to be utilized successfully it is clear that participation from local communities and a range of stakeholders is vital.

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We also interviewed Matthew McCartney (IWMI) about his hydrological work in the project:

Multi-stakeholder conversation on land and water

In late 2011, all projects in the Nile Basin Development Challenge prepared ‘most significant change’ stories from the first phase of operations. One of the stories looked at how water-focused collaborative research in Ethiopia by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) has evolved over the past 8 years.

NBDC Brief 9 is a summary  of the story.

It started with research on livestock-water linkages during CPWF Phase I (2004-2008), continued through further analysis of crop-livestock production systems within a BMZ-supported project on water productivity in crop-livestock systems (2007-2009), and now has a broader rainwater management (RWM) focus on landscapes and the institutional linkages needed to achieve change through the Nile Basin Development Challenge (2010-2013).

We have seen the research agenda move from water productivity to crop-livestock-water system productivity that strives for an optimal balance in allocating water resources for crops and livestock.

Rainwater management as integrating framework

The ‘rainwater management’ concept that emerged seems to be attractive to people and organizations in Ethiopia. In particular we see uptake by those who promote watershed management as a key natural resources management strategy but end up doing soil conservation structures. RWM strategies also help national institutions move from a rainwater harvesting focus towards integrated rainwater management, and from surface water management towards integrated blue and green water in the landscape.

This broader concept, with institutional, technological and political dimensions, calls for a wider participation of actors at farm, landscape, national and regional scales. Beyond the wider involvement of different actors, it calls for a greater emphasis on overall sustainable landscape productivity that addresses water depletion, land degradation, low productivity and institutional capacity. It has inserted new thinking in ongoing national programmes, including the multi-donor forum on ‘Sustainable Land Management’ which is integrating water in the national land management agenda.

Closer to home, this emerging RWM concept is influencing members of the NBDC team – in terms of methodology and working approaches, particularly by moving people away from disciplinary-based research towards integrated landscape management. Shifting the focus away from research and landscape components towards wider system approaches has also brought scientists at IWMI and ILRI together in a particularly long-lasting and productive collaboration, to the extent that the two groups in Ethiopia operate as one in several projects.

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Playing the ‘happy strategies’ game

In late 2011, all projects in the Nile Basin Development Challenge prepared ‘most significant change’ stories from the first phase of operations. One of the stories looked at our communication experiences to document some of the changes we introduced and how we progressed.

NBDC Brief 8 is a summary  of the story.

As in the other basins, the Nile Basin Development Challenge comprises several linked projects – each with different leads, participants, partners and outcome logics.  Getting good communication among the various actors and partners is essential for the whole program to operate, and to have impact.

To serve these needs, we started our communication activities ‘inside’ the Challenge. In the past year, we have started to change the ways that our research knowledge is captured, shared and communicated. We are also changing the knowledge sharing behavior of project staff – by encouraging and supporting them to adopt a wider, richer – and ultimately more effective and ‘impactful’ – set of tools and approaches to project interaction, documentation, reflection, and learning.

The first priority – and our most significant progress – has been ‘inside’ the Challenge.  We are also using knowledge products, face to face meetings and extended communication approaches to communicate ongoing activities to wider audiences, nationally and beyond. The idea is to create the audience and demand for the science that we will ultimately produce. An important spillover to the ‘outside’ is in the area of communication where several changes in approach (or decisions) are directly linked to our activities.

In the story we identify five ‘promising’ changes:

  1. Project and event planning and reporting
  2. Documenting discussions and events
  3. Using different meeting formats
  4. Publishing open products
  5. Spillovers to other organizations

How significant the changes?

So far, this is difficult to judge and assess. Several individuals have become keen adopters. We are able to generate more ‘raw material’ on the various project activities that we can use to build communication products and stories. Photos, presentations and reports have all become accessible to project staff without barriers; smaller activities that would normally remain invisible are reported and shared. Project coordination and event preparation is more transparent and participatory, with minimum email traffic, and outputs shared in accessible ways.

The main challenge is to make ‘open sharing’ the default ‘setting’ for all project staff – many people are not used to documenting and sharing what they do and learn on a regular basis on open spaces.

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See the communication  ‘toolkit’ we use

Read a related news item on communicating agri-water research