NBDC key messages

(During much of 2013, as the NBDC was moving towards its close on 31 December, the team tried and distilled a series of 'key messages' coming out from NBDC work, as the overarching legacy of this Challenge project in Ethiopia. During that process and those months, this page was used to keep track of the ongoing development of these key messages. This page lists chronologically, from most recent to oldest stage, the messages that were identified).

Final NBDC messages

The final eight (8) key messages are available:

The updated version of these messages after the National Platform meeting of February 2013

Read the final draft list of key messages
The previous draft list of messages was available on: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1-KsHp0DR4S7KnMS7QqOplcD5nwAoFhVGrzgj_LJzL10/edit?hl=en_US

All 38 initial messages

(In a first attempt, during a team meeting, key messages were identified and developed and Doug Merrey spent some time improving these very much over time).

Submitted by
Evidence eg. Data, discussion, model, IP
What needs to be done / next steps
Comment eg. Scale, user, target user group,
strength of evidence
We know a lot about the performance of individual technologies
(N1 set of +400 references)

Ethiopian Highlands, fairly strong evidence
We know that the current quota-driven top down implementation strategy is not much better than previous authoritarian approaches
N1, N2, other refs

Fairly strong, with Tigray a possible exception needing exploration
We do not know how to design a more demand-driven approach integrating local knowledge and new knowledge that can work at scale
Need new ideas,evidence

Needs action research
To ensure sustainable intensification of livestock in the Blue Nile, attention should be paid to alternative value chain coordination models such as innovation platforms for organizing knowledge, skills, services, inputs and outputs.
N2/N3 farm household survey

The efficacy of innovation platforms in tackling the bottlenecks and missing links that hinder innovation in agricultural value chains needs to be evaluated
The current quota system for natural resource management interventions makes it difficult for woredas and kebeles to plan the most effective natural resource management approaches in their area. Top-down and bottom-up planning processes are theoretically integrated at woreda level, but the resulting plan often mainly reflects the top-down quotas.
Baseline study on NRM planning and implementation

This is an issue for discussion with policymakers at regional and national level to explore alternative, more flexible approaches.

It is also important to consider local level capacity for more flexible planning and what kind of support would be needed.

This issue is explicitly recognised in the new draft Agricultural Extension 5 year strategy, which proposes greater community involvement in planning. Are there opportunities to trial/support how this might work in practice?
Woreda and kebele level staff responsible for NRM and supporting farmers in land management have limited information (in some cases at least) on basic questions such as how to determine fodder requirements of cattle, which limits their effectiveness. DAs in particular follow a ‘formulaic’ approach to NRM – in part because their knowledge and skills is very limited, in part because they fear of departing from (implicit or explicit) standards
Experience of working with them on the IP fodder interventions, observations / interactions with DAs in other contexts

Possibility to facilitate a discussion between woreda level staff, regional/national government (MoARD, BoARD), TVETs and organisations that might provide this knowledge (agricultural research system, ILRI, universities)? Could some additional training be built into TVET curricula? Again the draft Agricultural Extension Strategy highlights the need to improve TVETC training of DAs so this could be an opportunity to engage.
Innovation platforms (with seed money) are stimulating action and bringing stakeholders together, but ensuring real representation of farmers and communities in woreda level discussions needs explicit and ongoing attention, or these processes are not likely to transform ways of working to be more participatory.
Observation of IPs; research on power dynamics of IPs which included community interviews. (For the most part community members were not aware of the IP, had little say in its activities, and saw its pilot interventions as an NGO project – apart from a few handpicked model farmers or even kebele chairmen who.)

It would be interesting to compare with the experience of other basins (or other projects) which have worked with IPs or similar processes. This is a lesson for the future of the IPs – it is not enough to set them up and expect transformation, this requires continual engagement, significant investment, and a willingness on the part of all stakeholders to try new ways of working – and for other projects looking to do something similar. Long term effectiveness of IPs needs further research.
The DA system in theory is a good one and havign 3 DAs per Kebele is commendable. They lack, however, adequate – and required – support from Woreda Experts – who hardly travel out of the Woreda capital – because of lack of resources.
Baseline and experience / observations from other research context

A discussion with DAs and Experts on incentive systems might yield interesting insights – some of which might not be very practical (e.g. had we motor bikes and per diem of course we would visit the Kebeles every day....but there mith be other systems of rewarding government staff for their efforts that could be picked up and brought to the attention of the authors of the draft extension strategy
focus on outputs only instead of outcomes of interventions, no attention whatsoever on quality and longevity (sustainability) of interventions and reasons why they are not surviving one rainy season
Baseline and evidence / observations from othe rresearch contexts

A change in attitude is required whereby DAs and woreda experts are less measured by quantity / target achievement but rather by quality of the work they do. A discussion on the usefulness of report cards might be interesting. And a quick assessment of international experience – Im sure there are countries where DAs are appraised on the quality of their work too and not just on the quantity – so what lessons could be learned?
There is large overlap in engagement areas/action sites among key players in land and water management in the Nile Basin; there is also large overlap in type of interventions and approaches, leading to duplication and reinventing the wheel. This provides scope for sharing and learning to enhance improved coordination within and across sectors. So far however, information exchange and learning is very limited due to lack of incentives. A national platform that stimulates both horizontal leaning (at various level) and vertical learning (between local, regional and national) level is needed, which looks at experiences, lessons learned, challenges, and how these can be addressed and linked to (regional and national) policy level
Early 2011, interviews were held with key players in the Nile BDC (MERET, ENIDP, SLM, PASIDP, CRS, RAPID); there has also been a landscape assessment of type of organizations, roles etc by Seife et all; they both show the overlap, while the first one shows lack of incentives, and what should be in place to make this happen; this could possibly be strengthened with experiences in the national platform meeting and the assessment of (policy) demand by Belay. (not sure yet how to bring this all together to get a key message out).

National platform, but this may focus at different levels (esp. regional/national) and include horizontal learning (e.g. through thematic working groups); target groups, highly divers, but focus on planners/politicians, but also cross-learning between NGOs, ministries, universities, research organizations, donors…challenge will be to involve private sector. The evidence is scattered, and we need to pull this together.
Participatory tools and processes can complement IP’s and play an important role in bridging communication gaps between stakeholders as well as addressing issues of representation and power.
Community engagement work (Jeldu and Diga), participatory video exercise (Fogera), WAT-A-GAME (Fogera)

Experience to date with IPs for improved RWM demonstrates that continual facilitation from ‘neutral’ brokers is required in order to meaningfully tackle the political and institutional issues associated with NRM in an Ethiopian context. However, there are challenges around sustainability and the resources required to sustain this depth of engagement in the longer term. There is therefore a need to build the capacity of local actors to replicate and sustain such processes without external support. A range of tools have been piloted with local level platforms and results indicate that these tools can play a role in facilitating more genuine participatory engagement. However, these tools must be simplified and made more user-friendly in order to be effectively utilized by local stakeholders. The impact of these tools still needs to be validated and work needs to be done to assess their impact on stakeholder knowledge, attitudes and practices on a longer term basis.
Current thinking about how to ‘scale-up’ best practices is problematic and there is a danger of reinforcing current blue-print approaches. More emphasis should be placed on developing ‘processes’ that can be undertaken by stakeholders at local level which incorporate agro-ecological and socio-economic specificities and combine scientific and local knowledge.
N1 Report, baseline study on NRM planning and implementation, change in NBDC project design away from establishing ‘model watersheds’ to working with innovation platforms, community engagement work to identify priority NRM issues for joint action, WAT-A-GAME workshop (Fogera), discussions with stakeholders during IP meetings

The importance of developing strategies which are tailored to local situations has been highlighted by the baseline study on NRM planning and implantation in addition to community engagement and IP pilot intervention work. Systematic research is needed to evaluate potential tools and processes that can aid a more tailored approach with stakeholders at different levels of the policy and implementation chain. Once validated a ‘suite’ of tools combined with ‘process recommendations’ could be developed with a user guide for piloting. Replicating this approach at woreda level throughout the country would achieve impact at scale whilst taking into account local dynamics. It would also support current policy regarding decentralization and participation by ensuring that local level stakeholders (woreda administrators, local experts, DAs and farmers) have more control over the design of RWM strategies, thereby avoiding further unsuccessful ‘blueprint’ approaches.
More can be done by researchers to combine quantitative and qualitative data as well as scientific and local knowledge about RWM practices to ensure that appropriate recommendations are made by planners and implementers.
N1 report, baseline research on NRM planning and implementation, multi-disciplinary and cross-basin collaboration on Volta ComMod work, IFPRI working paper, MA student research assessing the role of traditional RWM practices in Diga

It is essential that quantitative and qualitative data are better integrated, for example validating outcomes of bio-physical modeling exercises (RWM strategies and their impact on the landscape) with farmers and other stakeholders to get a more in-depth understanding of their feasibility and potential impact on landscapes and livelihoods. Scientific research outputs from the NBDC project will ultimately be strengthened through better triangulation of different types of data and knowledge.
This is particularly important when considering issues of adoption. It is clear from quantitative and qualitative work on adoption of RWM strategies that there are concrete reasons for lack of adoption of certain practices, e.g. time taken to see benefits and negative impacts on landscapes and livelihoods. Therefore in order to avoid promotion of inappropriate interventions, which serve to further undermine farmer confidence in RWM approaches, the advantages and disadvantages of certain practices need to be clearly understood and made clear to communities and local level implementers so they can better tailor strategies to local circumstances.

This would be aided by a scientific evaluation of current recommended RWM practices and traditional RWM practices. As the N1 report highlighted, there is considerable evidence that many of the soil and water conservation structures promoted to date have low or negative returns and are often not perceived positively by farmers. Interestingly MA research supported by the NBDC project assessing the role of traditional land management practices in improving cropland productivity found that traditional biological and physical land management practices play a significant role in improving cropland productivity by better matching management practices to local crop and soil conditions. There is more scope for research in this area.
Hydrologic, water resource planning, economic, and crop/livestock models can be effectively linked to provide robust integrated impact assessments of proposed rainwater management strategies.
Calibrated biophysical (hydrologic and crop/livestock) models were linked with economic factors to produce a basin-scale impact assessment using indicators for water and sediment flows at key locations in the basin, as well as economic effects across the basin, from proposed RMS interventions.

Integrated modeling was performed under the NBDC at the basin scale, with the target geographic region being the Blue Nile Basin. Results are useful for informing basin-level policy and planning processes.
At a meta-level perhaps, a LOT of the process and participatory communication experimentation work has yielded rich lessons (as well as products and games, and tools and insights) that we can apply beyond NBDC (and probably not now IN the NBDC, due to time constraints)
Interest from other projects

Potential scale of impact is massive - Humidtropics, WLE, L&F and maybe other CRPs. Also in projects like Africa RISING, LIVES, etc. [and probably beyond CGIAR and our partners].

What's needed: critical documenting and packaging and synthesizing of the products/processes ; spreading/deepening capacities and expertise (especially to replicate / transform / improve on these);

'evidence' they work?
integrated now in key message 31

Simon and Randall
The generation of primary biophysical data is fundamental to delivering potential future scenarios generated by mathematical models that are believable and as credible as possible
Based on undertaking both fieldwork data collection at a range of sites and using a number of models at different scales

Researchers and policy advisors
There is a need and an expressed desire to have a range of capacity building activities beyond formal 'certificate' based learning and more informal and hands on learning across a range of stakeholders
Based on our experience of working in partnership with universities Ministries, regional authorities and communities

Donors, research providers
Regarding ‘key messages’ from NBDC, in the context of examining what future there might be for this work as well as achieving great outcomes this year: I suggest we need an ‘overarching” key message supported by a limited number of specific ones. My take is we actually know quite a bit about individual technologies’ performance, and we know that the current approach to implementing RWM in Ethiopia, while not a “failure” in any sense, is not doing well at achieving the larger outcomes that are wanted by all parties. The key issue for me is that the current approach is too supply-driven, not demand-driven, does not effectively integrate local knowledge and scientific knowledge, and does not have the tools needed to help local groups design an effective landscape intervention program. Since NBDC has developed some interesting tools and has confirmed again the ineffectiveness of the current quota-driven system, my suggestion is that we focus on proposing a “new RWM paradigm:” a demand-driven approach integrating local and scientific/external knowledge, using tools to help groups examine scenarios, and providing “smart subsidies” – those that compensate people for actions whose benefits may primarily accrue to others (usually downstream), or are a “public good,” or will not kick in for quite some time. This would involve a process of pilot testing the new RWM paradigm, using Innovation Platforms [more inclusive and representative ones than in the recent example reported], user-friendly versions of the models and games developed by NBDC, offering on a pilot basis different incentives for DAs etc. [my solution to the DA incentive problem, proposed in the N1 report, is to give the local farmer-clients a strong voice in performance evaluations], and making use of the idea of seed funds for IPs. It probably also would require attention to watershed institutional arrangements for longer-term management.

Something like this could be elaborated and developed as a proposal to the Ethiopian government, and with their endorsement, to WLE. [It could also be adapted to one or more of the other African basins making it a more ambitious and comparative program.]
Evidence is from all the work done so far
Refine it, then validate through national platform
This becomes the theme or goal of a proposal for the future to WLE, possibly on an African cross-basin basis.
At basin scale, diversity can be summarized into 9 dimensions, namely, topography, access to education, remoteness, rainfall erosion potential, agricultural dependency, demographical processes, institutions, household composition and off-farm income. Taking into consideration these dimensions, the 3 study sites are relatively similar at basin scale. This does not mean that they might not be very different when analyzed at finer scales.
similarity analysis

Adoption of rainwater management technologies has a lot of interdependencies and requires a holistic approach. The suitability of rainwater management technologies is likely to be influenced by the landscape. Site-specific bio-physical and agro-ecological but also socio-economic characteristics are important to consider in the adoption/scaling-up of rainwater management technologies, i.e. “one size does not fit all”.
N1 report, stakeholder consultation

Extension workers, community leaders and policy makers are potential users of this result
The participatory watershed management guideline from the government is a very extensive database covering water crop and trees. This database is still very actual but could be completed with some more livestock related practices. It reports very well about biophysical suitability conditions but is not covering socio-economic and institutional drivers. Literature is often contradicting results on those drivers. It is therefore difficult to add them to the database .
N3 rainwater management practice database

Analysis confirms that improved access to market, extension services and credit increases the probability of adoption of rainwater management technologies. Reasons for non-adoption are, however, very context specific, therefore it is essential to identify the right entry point in each community. Communities generally have rational reasons for non adoption of rainwater management strategies. Farmers are also well aware of the practices that are suitable in their agro-ecology.
N3 focus group discussion, N2/N3 farm household survey, adoption maps

Communication tools are needed in order to learn from stakeholders about the complexity of rainwater management; these include games. Games can break hierarchies and allow people from different back grounds to interact with each other on an equal base. One example of such a game is the happy strategies game. The initial Happy Strategies game can be adjusted to different objectives and different type of participants.
Happy strategy game, first N3 partner consultations

Regional feasibility maps are critical to identify areas which are biophysically and socio-economically for targeting of RWM interventions and particular strategies. Data availability is therein a big challenge. We could not easily get country data and this led to the use of global and regional datasets. Integrating the user/experts knowledge increases the credibility of the produced maps
N3 partner consultations, leaning event, Nile goblet tool

Having a centralized and complete database (for geographical and non geographical data) for Ethiopia reduces significantly the workload and can benefit many other project. Nile-Goblet is an attractive way to share our practice and well as geo-database.
quick water tool could be produced in less than a month
extend IWMI database to non geographical data

Tools that allows stakeholders to introduce their expert knowledge (such as Nile Goblet tool) significantly increases the credibility of scientific work.
learning event of the technological innovation TWG

Scaling-out tool (maps/Nile Goblet) can reach the farmers only if the national research works more closely together with the extension service/Kebele representative (as the latter often do not have electricity, or computer to use our tools).
N3 field work and trainings

There is a huge demand for more geographical literacy (GPS, GIS) not only among our partners but also internally. (See Simon's comment 18, training should be competence based and does not need to be formalized)
N3 surveys, GIS training (internal and external)

different approaches are needed to train people from different back ground.
Not only are RMP interconnected at farm scale but also at landscape scale. Therefore holistic approaches should be applied within manageable waterscheds Rainwater management practices can be combined into strategies by combining practices that together increase soil and water conservation, water infiltration and water productivity of the landscape. Multiple RWM interventions should be considered by farmers, with combinations of practices defining a strategy which is most appropriate for the biophysical and socioeconomic conditions.
results from Happy Strategies played at different scales
as wells as N2/N3 farm household survey

farm and landscape scale
Six dimensions, namely risk coping, access to credit, labor and animal power exchange, natural resource management, conflict resolution and information sharing allows to categorize informal institutions in Ethiopia. The functions of informal institutions include risk reduction (incl. market failure) and conflict resolution. Risk reduction institutions are Iddr, Mehaber, women's associations. Market failure institutions are Eqqub, labor and animal power exchange. Conflict resolution institutions are Gada, elder's group. Generally, in each community there is one institution that most people rely on, but it is a different one in each community. It is therefore difficult to map out social capital based on informal institutions.
report on informal institutions from Kiros

Interdisciplinary research implies developing jointly research approaches. If this is not done in the project development phase, then only multidisciplinary research is possible, i.e. allowing to make loose links only (vs integrated approaches) between different scientific approaches as well as qualitative and quantitative data.
set up with different project components, monthly meeting, comment 13 from Beth and 14 from Randall

N3 work could not formally use N2 data, but many lessons/evidence was considered while developing the tools. There is a loose link (would a more integrated approach have lead to better recommendations/outcomes?)
At Blue Nile basin scale, possible RMS are consistently underestimated due to the inaccuracy of available data. This implies that impacts might also be underestimated.
N3 focus group discussion look for(develop)
approaches to link data across scale
tool like HS, Nile Goblet for microwatershed allow to address partly this issue.
In most parts of the basin,
the total amount of rainfall is sufficient to allow sustainable intensification of rainfed agriculture. In some regions in the northwest and the east, however, agricultural potential is limited by total available rainfall. In some areas with in principal sufficient total rainfall a comparatively low NDVI indicates that the full potential can only be achieved with suitable RMW interventions. The large spread of NDVI values in areas with insufficient total rainfall indicates that RWM interventions may help to upgrade rainfed agriculture although production will always be water limited.
Analysis of NDVI and P/PET

Adoption of dairy technologies-improved dairy cow, AI services, improved forages and collective marketing of milk- is mutually interdependent and the dairy technologies/practices are complementary to each other
N2/N3 farm household survey

Needs action research
The number of active labor force, oxen ownership, financial asset and access to ICT increase probability of adopting dairy technologies. Shortage of farm land and smaller livestock holding increases the probability of adopting dairy technologies. Also dairy interventions are most likely to be adopted in areas close to market centers and farmers’ training centers
N2/N3 farm household survey

Needs action research
Our analysis shows that adoption of improved dairy technologies has a positive impact on food security and household expenditure in the study areas. This confirms the potential role of technology adoption in improving rural household welfare.
N2/N3 farm household survey

Possibility to facilitate a discussion between woreda level staff, regional/national government (MoARD, BoARD), TVETs and organisations that might provide this knowledge (agricultural research system, ILRI, universities)?
Could some additional training be built into TVET curricula?
Again the draft Agricultural Extension Strategy highlights the need to improve TVETC training of DAs so this could be an opportunity to eng