CPWF Nile 2 Project: Integrated Rainwater Management Strategies

Workshop on Baselining Changes in Planning, Implementation and Collective Action: Research Strategies

Nov 8

Training began with introductions. Eight external participants joined the training and were complemented by ILRI and ODI colleagues. Participants were as follows:

Bayissa Gedefa
Bako ARC
Zerihun Nigussie
Bahir Dar University
Asefa Teferi
Bahir Dar University
Yazie Chanie
Ali Mohamed
EIAR- Holeta
Gerba Leta
Res. Assistant
Mathewos Belissa
Wollega University
Alemayehu Belay
Res. Assistant
Mulugeta Habtemichael
Res. Technician
Kebebe Ergano
Alan Duncan
Andnet Deresse
Ambo University
Mulu Debela
Ambo University
Aberra Adie
Res. Technician
Eva Ludi
Research Fellow
Josephine Tucker
Research Fellow

Following introductions participants broke into break-out groups to discuss the following:

- What do we understand by the term Rainwater Management
- How does rainwater management interact with poverty

Reporting back summarized here.

Eva Ludi then made a presentation outlining what we as the Nile 2 team understand by Rainwater Management

Alan Duncan then made a presentation on some more specific information on the NBDC Nile 2 project.

There followed some questions and discussion. Among points raised were the following

After lunch Alemayehu Belay made a presentation summarizing the results of a scoping visit to the study sites in August 2010.

There followed some questions and discussion. Among points raised were the following:

  • Contribution of livestock to income seems quite high - difficult to disentangle contributions of crops and livestock to income in mixed systems
  • Land use category "other" seems high in Jeldu - this must include forest land

Josie Tucker then made a presentation on baseline activities.

Participants then divided into 3 groups to discuss the kinds of questions that would need to be asked to gather information on the current state of play in the areas of planning, implementation and collective action.

Results of the discussions are as follows:

Josie Tucker then presented project ideas on questions for baseline survey

There followed a final group discussion within study site groups on:

1. Who are the actors involved?
2. What are their roles?
3. How do they currently collaborate?
4. Who is missing who needs to be involved?

Nov 9

Reports were as follows:

Among issues discussed:

  • What about agri-business? Are there agri-business enterprises from whom the smallholder sector could learn?
  • How much is current situation top-down vs bottom up? This is something we will work out through research.
  • Are there existing networks? There is a twice annual research actors meeting in Wellega Zone - but does not involve many actors - mainly focused on research although chaired by Zonal representative.
  • In Jeldu, there are good connections between actors where there is a promising technology e.g. potatoes. But generally there is a disconnect between planning and implementation.

Eva led a plenary exercise looking at the position of different actors on a matrix of interest and influence on rainwater management

Results here

We then had a round of interventions to capture the kind of experience that the various participants have with different research tools. Among tools mentioned were:

  • Focus group discussions
  • Key informant interviews
  • Village surveys
  • Questionnaires
  • Quantitative data collection
  • Wealth ranking
  • Participant observation

All have pros and cons for different purposes. E.g. hh surveys can become boring for respondents - group interviews are more appreciated. But in groups people may be unwilling to share sensitive information. Sampling strategy is very important in the use of these various tools.

We will need to standardize the use of tools across the 3 study sites. Will also need to make good use of secondary data e.g. looking at training material from TVET Colleges, planning guidelines etc.

Kebebe Ergano then made a presentation on the Innovation Systems Framework for assessing innovation capacity

After lunch we had a brief discussion on next steps in terms of the conduct of the baseline research exercise. Alan explained that we need to develop MoU's with various organizations and that the specifics of which organization is contracted to implement this research will depend on discussions at higher level on both the side of the CPWF research team and the partner organizations

The next session was about interview do's and don'ts. In groups participants considered how best to handle introductions, questions, handling difficult situations and managing expectations.

On incentives for interviews, the CPWF core team needs to discuss and work out a policy - needs some guidelines to abide by - maybe a responsibility of the Co-ordination Project.

Josie then made a presentation highlighting some interview tips:

Nov 10

Participants travelled to Ginchi to conduct a field exercise. Three groups were formed:

- interviewing farmers
- interviewing development agents
- interviewing a key informant

Each of the checklists was tested. Within each group one participant took the lead in conducting the interview, one took notes and one observed the process.

Nov 11

We conducted an after-action review to reflect on the process of the field exercise.

Key informant interview

Mulu Debele presented: Ato Kassahun of Holetta Research Centre acted as key informant. The innovation checklist was tested.

  • Scientists/researchers (from Holetta) provide technical inputs e.g. for potato production. Also arrange field visits with different stakeholders.
  • Other actors with whom they interact are GTZ, Farm Africa, Water Action, Save the Children, Hunde. These stakeholders are formed into an innovation platform involving Govt line depts, farmers and various NGO's.
  • Regarding collaboration: positive attitude to collaboration, and recognition that collaboration has helped to overcome problems of manpower, information and financial resources.

Kebebe Ergano and Mulugeta acted as observers:

  • Understanding the questions by the interviewer was an issue - would improve with time.
  • Sometimes respondents answer questions in advance by chance in response to earlier questions. There is then no need to cover these again.
  • Probing. KI mentioned an innovation platform on NRM. Used this opportunity to probe on how it functions, how it was formed, what are future plans.
  • Time was sufficient. Process went well.
  • Lickert scale presented problems for respondent. Sometimes respondents are unwilling to give information rating things like collaboration, habits/practices etc. This can be affected by the status of the respondents. More likely to get reliable information from an office head? Need to try and get personal perspectives from those at lower levels - this relies on making clear in the introduction what is required of the respondents and that the info given will be treated confidentially. It needs to be emphasised to informants at lower levels that they should speak from their personal view, not on behalf of their institution. More points on the Lickert scale might have made things easier? Depends on respondents - better for experts but hard for farmers.
  • Can we capture motivational level through interviews - can only really do this effectively through longer term participant observation. We don't really have the luxury of this kind of longer term research. Getting such information could be easier to derive from FGD's.

Development Agent interviews

Interview 1

Ali Mohammed presented:

  • Some questions were leading e.g. "do you work with communities". Answer is always yes. "are you well co-ordinated". Already assumes there is some degree of co-ordination. This will require some adjustment of the questions.
  • Need some ranking of involvement in different technologies - need to work out which are the most important.
  • Need more time learning context to be able to judge the quality of the responses. Could help to do a community walk with a knowledgeable observer - this could be a useful way of understanding the context. Helps in interpretation of the responses.
  • There is some duplication in the question guide on identifying the technologies and practices being used in the kebele. This requires revision.
  • Suggestion that there should be an open space for other comments / feedback at the end of the question guide.

Alemayehu Belay presented:

  • DA was playing the "smart card" - portrayed a very favourable impression but not sure how reliable the information was. Difficult to get his personal view, and the DA tended to present the role of the group as a whole.
  • Last question was difficult: "What would allow you to be more innovative?" Asked in a number of ways but no satisfactory answer.
  • Issue of definition of rainwater management. Ali presented it very well. But DA didn't fully grasp it.

Interview 2

Asefa Teferi presented:

  • Presented a rosy picture of how planning was done.
  • On land use planning DA indicated that this was strongly considered to the extent that if irrigable land is being under-used it is taken and redistributed. Not clear whether this is within or between households.
  • On choice of technologies: some are imposed - decrees come from above on which technologies to apply. Farmers are often resistant since technologies are imposed e.g. broad bed maker. BBM is given to model farmers for demonstration. The hope is that other farmers will observe and be willing to invest.
  • When asked which technologies were being implemented, the response was Yes to all - but further probing found that some were not currently in use (past or planned).

Aberra Adie observed:

  • Questions were easily understandable.
  • Planning checklists come from Zonal levels and are implemented on farm. DA's assist with the process. According to DA's farmers take the lead and vice versa. The language of DA's is rather formulaic (stating what policy says) and perhaps does not relate to what happens on the ground. Lots of cross-checking required.
  • Some repetition of questions across checklists.
  • Some confusion between terms "innovation" and "technology". We need to sort this out in the checklist

Eva Ludi observed:

  • Good detailed introduction
  • Good active listening.
  • Good probing questions on how effective two-way communication between DA and farmers. DA's try to buck the system a bit by communicating farmer views back to woreda office. We could add a question to the checklist on this 2-way communication.


Mathewos Belissa presented:

  • Defined rainwater management in the introduction.
  • Some RWM practices already happening - diversion of water courses to prevent erosion.
  • Some RWM practices were introduced during the Derg Regime and are ongoing
  • Water harvesting scheme (on farm pond) was imposed 2 years ago. Farmers felt it was imposed haphazardly - very little planning or feasibility study. The cracking nature of the vertisol caused problems. Farmers bore the risks and problems.
  • Inadequate awareness raising, community mobilization, pre-planning involving farmers etc.
  • Regarding planning: farmers have seen the planning checklist but have no idea what happens at the woreda office/DA level. They feel they have no influence on what actually happens.
  • No mechanism for joint problem identification and joint action.
  • Extension system not very responsive - late delivery of seed etc.
  • Some favoritism among DA's for particular farmers. Personal ties important.
  • When asked for suggestions for improvement, farmers suggested stronger community involvement/mobilization including the DAs giving more support to farmers lagging behind.
  • Some innovations have been supported by NGOs (e.g. Farm Africa on gully erosion) - farmers felt NGOs were the only ones giving significant support.

On process Gerba Leta observed:

  • Team spent some time clarification - would be easier on an individual basis.Some language barriers. Sometimes the interruptions were beneficial e.g. to silence dominant voices.
  • One dominant respondent was difficult to handle.
  • Some respondents insisted on going back to earlier points.
  • Diverse views from respondents - some very negative views of DA's which could related to personal grudges.
  • Some respondents were expecting interventions to follow the FGD, which had to be clarified.
  • Interview was very interactive, in particular there was good participation from the one woman.
  • Suggestion that there should be a broader question about stakeholders involved in RWM, rather than focusing immediately on DAs and woreda experts.

From Eva Ludi:

  • Interviews with farmers act as control - to filter information received from other stakeholders - good for triangulation. Fuller interaction with farmers and exploring the issues they face, incentives etc, will come in the later stages of research after the baseline.
  • FGD's are a conversation - inevitable that respondents will come back to earlier issues.
  • Doesn't really work to have more than one facilitator - confuses things. Note taker can take up issues for clarification at the end.
  • Common to find individuals coming to FGD's with an agenda - chance to air grievances, win influence etc. Different strategies to handle: give them a soap box and then ask them to leave.
  • DA's are overstretched - 3 DA's for 1000 households - very difficult to give feedback on things like planning checklists. Sometimes DA's fill plans in offices and then ask farmers to sign. These kind of malpractice are difficult to pick up except by long term participant observation. Most interactions by DA's with farmers are with "model farmers". Some business arrangements between DA's and farmers? There are many issues with how DA's interact with farmers.
  • If you ask DA's to bring farmers for a FGD, they will often bring model farmers or those with whom they have special relationships.

Data quality

Josie Tucker then made a presentation on data quality.

Potential for bias:

  • Respondents may adjust their answers with a view to benefiting from subsequent interventions
  • Personal opinions of interviewers. Only hearing responses that confirm personal hypotheses.
  • Biased samples e.g. only model farmers.

Data analysis discussion:

  • The real challenge is interpretation and analysis of data. We hope to accompany researchers in this process through an analysis write-shop following data collection.
  • There are tricks for analysing qualitative data e.g. by coding statements in interviews across different respondents and then comparing across respondent categories.
  • Quantitative data is more accepted by the R&D community. But qualitative data is also powerful but sometimes difficult for people to accept.
  • Our hypothesis or supposition is that there are shortcomings in planning and implementation of rainwater management strategies and the innovation environment around them; and that adopting a different approach (participatory, cross-sectoral, targeted) will lead to improvements. We would find it difficult to prove or disprove this categorically in such a short project, certainly not quantitatively.

Designing the research

There followed a phase of group discussions by Study Woredas to give some thought to what the research strategy would look like on the ground. Groups were tasked with dealing with the following:

  • Which actors to interview (how many)?
  • How many kebeles and how would you select them?
  • How many FGD's and how to select participants?
  • What documents to collect?
  • What other methods?
  • What roles for team members?

After lunch we had a reporting back session. The flipcharts are here:


  • Would using DA's to facilitate field activities introduce difficulties if there are tensions between farmers and DA's? No real alternative since they are the people on the ground. Need to try and make sure they are not present in FGD's to avoid undue influence and suppressing openness among farmers.
  • Need to consider respondent selection - to be guided by DA's or selected at random from household lists? Could give DA's some crteria to base respondent selection on.
  • As a rule of thumb you can do 2 interviews a day. The plans presented are therefore ambitious. With 15 field days you could do 30 interviews. 1 day per week could be devoted to community walks etc. Need to think about who to interview - experts can handle technical stuff better. Heads could deal with politics of interaction etc. Could have an hour with the head and one with an expert. 55 interviews is stretching it.
  • Size of FGD's: 10-12 is too big. Would prolong the discussions too much. A rule of thumb: 6-8 or less. Don't need representatives from each gote. Not really looking for complete representation; we are more interested in a broad overview of what is going on.


  • Workshop was lively and participatory - not lecture style
  • Different insights from the various institutions
  • Learned a lot about basics of rainwater management and basics of research methods and handling groups
  • Feedback on questions did not find its way into the checklists
  • Nice presentations
  • Good field visit
  • Would be good to get material after workshop
  • Need to know more about the way forward - how much will this group participants in the future. We will burn a CD of materials.
  • Group composition was good - included universities and research centres.
  • Time management was not great.
  • Documents should be quickly circulated.
  • Could have been good to arrive a day ahead to allow accommodation etc to be arranged.