In late 2013, the Nile Basin Development Challenge developed eight key messages. Taken together, these messages form a new paradigm that can help further transform policies and programs and better enable poor smallholder farmers to improve their food security, livelihoods and incomes while conserving the natural resource base.

The first key message from the Nile Basin Development Challenge is to ’empower local communities and develop their leadership capacities to achieve long-term benefits and sustainable outcomes.’ Participatory design and planning on rainwater management interventions ensures key issues are addressed, the right pilot interventions are taking place and provides long term solutions with the commitment of everyone.

See the overall digital story ‘An integrated watershed rainwater management paradigm for Ethiopia: Key messages from the NBDC‘.

Download the brief covering the full set of key messages.

Read the full technical report “A new integrated watershed rainwater management paradigm for Ethiopia: Key messages from the Nile Basin Development Challenge, 2009–2013

This digital story was produced to communicate the key messages resulting from the Nile Basin Development Challenge (NBDC). The Nile BDC aimed to improve the livelihoods of farmers in the Ethiopian highlands through land and water management and was funded by the Challenge Program for Water and Food. The eight key messages constitute a ‘new integrated watershed rainwater management paradigm’ and are based on the outputs and outcomes of trans-disciplinary scientific research for development.

ILRI’s Beth Cullen was recently interviewed by the USAID Feed the Future Agrilinks web site about innovation platforms and participatory video.

Read the interview

Watch the video:

From 4-6 May, some 70 people working with the Nile Basin Development Challenge convened in Addis Ababa with three objectives in mind:

  • Assess science progress of the NBDC program and projects
  • Review and strengthen project synergies and progress
  • Reach consensus on core concepts and approaches

To foster integration across the various projects, the workshop was organized around 5 cross-cutting themes:

Theme 1 looked at rainwater management strategies and aimed to clarify the key concepts and shared undersatnding among the various teams.

Theme 2 looked at  various research and development processes key to the success of the projects: platforms, innovation systems, networking, learning, policies, and institutions.

Theme 3 looked at livelihoods impacts, who the projects are targeting, gender dimensions, and how to integrate these concerns across the various projects

Theme 4 looked at water and productivity aspects – and modeling – to achieve a better understanding of the system at sub-catchment to basin scales.

Theme 5 looked at environment and ecosystem impacts, examining how we link rainwater management strategies with broader environmental health and ecosystem functions and notions of resilience.

During the sessions, we organized three ‘hard seat’ interviews with colleagues attending the workshop.

The final session looked across the projects at issues of communication and capacity building and reflected on progress towards the workshop objectives.

In the synthesis session Shirley Tarawali (see below) highlighted two overall lessons from the workshop discussions: First, the broad science concepts have been articulated but still need to be translated into practical realities on the ground. Second, issues of cross-project and cross-theme integration need to be addressed realistically to ensure synergies.


Workshop notes and materials are posted on the project wiki

Workshop presentations are on slideshare

Video reports from the discussions are online


Between 7 and 13 May, 2011, the Project ‘4’ of the Nile Basin Development Challenge (NBDC) will organise a week-long workshop on modeling in the Program. The aim is to bring together the project modeling teams to discuss emerging issues and work together on current technical challenges and cross-cutting issues.

Particular issues include scales of model applications; linking productivity and economies; linking productivity and hydrology; populating the ECOSAUT model with scarce data; and specific model technicalities such as how to incorporate RMS and how to couple SWAT and WEAP.

The workshop starts with a one day field trip to Jeldu on Saturday 7th May.

The first Partner’s Technical Workshop on the Mapping, Targeting and Scaling out of rainwater interventions in the Ethiopian Highlands project was held March 28-29 2011 on the ILRI Campus in Addis Ababa.

With participants from national partners, the meeting promoted discussion and exchanges on rainwater management related experiences amongst partners. It also provided an opportunity for preliminary identification of agricultural practices relevant for improved targeting of interventions.

During the workshop, discussion was driven by concrete objectives of moving towards a common understanding of rainwater management strategies, in addition to identifying and categorizing currently implemented and potentially effective agricultural practices.

The information gathered throughout the workshop will help define and support a structure to prioritize practices in the Ethiopian Highlands with regards to environmental settings and adoption factors.

Moreover, the discussion contributed to generate a conceptual outline of the spatially explicit decision support tools along with project output products ensuring capacity building beyond the project duration and scope.

Download the meeting report

An important  ‘project 1’ of the Nile Basin Development Challenge was to carry out a review of past experiences with rainwater management systems in the Ethiopian Highlands.

This report is now available for download.

The study is based on a review of nearly 400 sources, including policy papers, project documents, and research studies. We have approached the subject from a broadly historical perspective, tracing changes in policies and strategies from the 1970s to the present as policy makers, implementation agencies and development partners learned from experience. The authors also traced the results and outcomes of associated research programs and identified knowledge gaps. They provide recommendations regarding policies and implementation strategies, and for research.

Download the main report

Download the annexes

As we embark on the NBDC project on Integrated Rainwater Management Strategies – Technologies, Institutions and Polices, one of our early activities will be to undertake a baseline survey to understand what is currently going on.

This project seeks change in the way in which rainwater management strategies are planned and implemented. We are also looking at ways of spurring local innovation through the use of innovation platforms. We hope this will lead to a more joined up approach to rainwater management that will connect different landscape elements such as livestock, crops and trees. We also look for better connections between technologies and the human factors surrounding them.

But before we look at ways of bringing about change, we need to know how things are currently done. This is where our baseline survey comes in. Back in November 2010, we held a workshop with a range of national partners to develop a survey tool to assess planning, implementation and innovation aspects of rainwater management. This led to a series of checklists for various key informants and focus groups (see related blog post).

We are now about to go to the field to conduct the survey and our national partners are ready to go. We plan around 20 days field work at each site – our research partners will be accompanied by scientists from the NBDC team. Following collection of qualitative field data we plan a further analysis workshop with national partners to help us synthesize the findings.

Alemayehu Belay will be co-ordinating this effort with backstopping from Katherine Snyder and Eva Ludi, both of whom plan to go to the field. Alan Duncan and Josie Tucker will keep a watching brief from their bases.

Outputs from this project