ASSP / East Africa / Environment / Ethiopia / Extension / Food Security / Gender / ILRI / ILRIComms / Innovation Systems / Livelihoods / Livestock-Water / NRM / Participation / Research / Water / WLE

Power, partnership and participation: Nile Basin Development Challenge in summary

Practical training to farmers about forage management at Kolugelan, Jeldu (Photo credit: ILRI / Aberra Adie)

Farmers getting trained on forage management at Kolugelan, Jeldu (Photo credit: ILRI / Aberra Adie)

The Nile Basin Development Challenge (NBDC) was one of six challenges comprising the CGIAR Challenge Program on Water and Food (CPWF).

In the second phase of the program (2010-2013), research in the Nile basin (mainly Ethiopia) focused on sustainable land and water management to “enable poor small holder farmers to sustainably and equitably improve their food security, livelihoods and incomes while conserving the natural resource base”.

The NBDC was led by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and the International Water Management Institute (IWMI).

The complexity of land and water management in Ethiopia meant that the NBDC adopted a landscape approach “based on the recognition that people living in complex agro-ecosystems have multiple objectives and priorities.” Further a participatory learning-oriented systems approach was used to identify, test and scale up interventions.

Key messages – one integrated ‘paradigm shift’

In late 2013, the NBDC team identified eight key messages emerging from the project that will  help tackle poverty and degradation of natural resources as ‘business NOT as usual’. These were:

  1. Empower local communities and develop their leadership capacities to achieve long-term benefits and sustainable outcomes.
  2. Integrate and share scientific and local knowledge and encourage innovation through ‘learning by doing’.
  3. Strengthen and transform institutional and human capacities among all stakeholders to achieve the potential benefits of sustainable land management.
  4. Create, align and implement incentives for all parties to successfully implement sustainable innovative programs at scale.
  5. Adapt new models, learning and planning tools and improved learning processes to increase the effectiveness of planning, implementation, and capacity building.
  6. Integrate multiple rainwater management interventions at watershed and basin scales to benefit rainwater management programs.
  7. Attend to downstream and off-site benefits of rainwater management as well as upstream or on-farm benefits and costs.
  8. Improve markets, value chains and multi-stakeholder institutions to enhance the benefits and sustainability of rainwater management investments.

Outcomes and lessons

Beyond these eight key messages, some outcomes and lessons generated by the partners are captured in a Nile Basin summary produced by the CPWF. Some of the lessons include:

  • Develop, communicate and clearly internalize the program’s outcome logic and theory of change – as it can be a powerful learning conversation tool
  • Research for Development (R4D) differs significantly from CGIAR’s normal understanding of ‘applied research’ and requires a shift in behaviour
  • Pay attention to gender from the design all the way to implementation, with gender specialists involved as senior scientists
  • Partnerships matter throughout the program, from local to international level, and they require a consistent and committed point-of-contact
  • Not all innovations are the same: participatory planning tools, user-friendly Geographic Information Systems and the very implementation of an R4D approach seem to have been the most important innovations in NBDC
  • Knowledge management and communication can significantly strengthen learning and sharing towards adaptive management, provided top management is committed to it

From legacy to influence

As much NBDC work is getting integrated into CGIAR research programs on Water, Land and Ecosystems and on Integrated Systems for the Humid Tropics, this Nile Basin summary is a neat and short review of some essential issues that NBDC has left as a legacy to influence land and water management in Ethiopia and the wider Nile Basin.

Read the full Nile Basin Summary

More on the NBDC

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