Speaking at the Launch of the Nile Basin Development Challenge program (29 September 2010), ILRI Director General Carlos Seré explains why ILRI is partnering in a program focused on improved water management in Ethiopia and the Nile Basin.

He emphasized how the type of integrative science envisaged in this Program is in line with directions envisaged for the new CGIAR. He drew attention to a few ILRI lessons from this type of project: that technology alone is not the issue – we also need to understand policies and institutions; that gender is absolutely critical to understand household interventions; that we need good baselines and good impact data; and that we must go beyond diagnostics and the characterization of systems to the identification of drivers of change and key tipping points.

He also emphasized the importance of serendipity … that requires open minds to look at and take advantage of unexpected opportunities and ideas.

In the end, he argued, it all has to achieve impact at scale – which requires more than just the efforts of researchers, it needs many other types of people and skills brought together to innovate along value chains.

View his video presentation:

More information on the initiative is at http://www.ilri.org/nbdc

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In July and August, we conducted a site specific survey and rapid diagnosis in the three selected research sites: Jeldu, Fogera and Diga.

We collected the available biophysical and socio-economic data about the sites and their watersheds and assessed the level of awareness of local actors (farmers, communities, Woreda and NGO staff) in rainwater management strategies.

The team captured detailed information on how the different watersheds in the landscapes function (biophysically and socially), how different landscape components are interacting and how changes in one component could bring about direct and indirect changes in others.

The roles, responsibilities, interactions and the working arrangements of a range of actors involved in rainwater management related research and development investments were also assessed.

The teams used key informant interviews, focus group discussions and field observations to gather relevant information in each Woreda.

The January 2010 workshop was used to kick-off the CPWF Nile BDC research program. Thirty participants from the four NBDC projects joined the workshop. During the workshop, participants worked further on their output logic models and shared their thoughts on the main practice changes and corresponding knowledge, attitudes and skills changes and strategies that their projects aim to address.

Cross-project interactions and topics were identified and discussed, and project groups began work on their Milestones, modifying their Gantt charts as needed. Some of the main implementation cross-basin topics and possible ways to address these were discussed.  Throughout the workshop, participants got a sense of what the CPWF core values are, how the CPWF is implementing this new phase, and how it is different from the first phase concept.

The four NBDC projects have also developed matrices of cross-project overlaps, synergies, areas of sequencing and areas to work together. The teams also developed criteria for site selection within the sub-basin, namely Socio-economic status, RWM challenges, Agro-ecologies, Production systems, Market access, and Diversity of actors (type, numbers, etc.). Based on these criteria, three sites – Jeldu and Diga Woredas (Oromia regional state) and Fogera (Amhara regional state) were selected for landscape level detailed studies.

We also made inventories of other Nile Basin RWM related on-going initiatives, mapping them to our activities. Participants also shared their expectations from the learning ‘Nile 1’ project led by Doug Merry as most proposals designed their work plan with the assumption that there will be an inventory and synthesis of past lessons at the early stage of this phase.

Prior to the Inception workshop, the NBDC team conducted a pre-inception workshop to create a common understanding of the different Nile BDC projects and how they interact with each other and with similar external initiatives. It was also about creating strong linkages to produce the expected outputs and outcomes while efficiently using the available staff and budget.

In June 2010, twenty NBDC team members traveled to one of the selected research sites – Jeldu in the Oromia region to:

  • Gain a first team insight at the watersheds and brain storm with the local officials and partners at the district level;
  • Make a rapid assessment of opportunities and the challenges, including the land use/cover change at some sample locations in the woreda.

The team concluded:

  • The local institutions are relatively weak. There is little ongoing effort to mitigate widespread land degradation owing to the unremitting steep slopes, improper land management and weak social capital;
  • Indications are that the woreda will become entirely food insecure if the current system continues without interventions to arrest land and water degradation;
  • There are several initiatives by external institutions  that do not seem to have found appropriate niches in local systems;
  • The Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research and the African Highlands Initiative did some work in the neighboring district to improve production systems and livelihoods which could be transferred to NBDC sites. There is interest from local officials of the Bureau’s of agriculture, water and land, and from NGOs and other potential stakeholders (e.g. GTZ) to collaborate with us.

The January 2010 workshop was used to kick-off the CPWF Nile BDC research program. Thirty participants from the four NBDC projects joined the workshop. During the workshop, participants worked further on their output logic models and shared their thoughts on the main practice changes and corresponding knowledge, attitudes and skills changes and strategies that their projects aim to address. Cross-project interactions and topics were identified and discussed, and project groups began work on their Milestones, modifying their Gantt charts as needed. Some of the main implementation cross-basin topics and possible ways to address these were discussed. Throughout the workshop, participants got a sense of what the CPWF core values are, how the CPWF is implementing this new phase, and how it is different from the first phase concept.

The four NBDC projects also developed matrices of cross-project overlaps, synergies, areas of sequencing and areas to work together. The teams also developed criteria for site selection within the sub-basin, namely Socio-economic status, RWM challenges, Agro-ecologies, Production systems, Market access, and Diversity of actors (type, numbers, etc.). Based on these criteria, three sites – Jeldu and Diga Woredas (Oromia regional state) and Fogera (Amhara regional state) were selected for landscape level detailed studies.

We also made inventories of other Nile Basin RWM related on-going initiatives, mapping them to our activities. Participants also shared their expectations from the learning ‘Nile 1’ project led by Doug Merry as most proposals designed their work plan with the assumption that there will be an inventory and synthesis of past lessons at the early stage of this phase.

Prior to the Inception workshop, the NBDC team conducted a pre-inception workshop to create a common understanding of the different Nile BDC projects and how they interact with each other and with similar external initiatives. It was also about creating strong linkages to produce the expected outputs and outcomes while efficiently using the available staff and budget