Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Groundwater in Ethiopia: Features, Numbers and Opportunities

Groundwater has a huge potential increasing resilience and incomes of the rural poor in Africa. Indeed it gives the possibility to smallholders to access water during the dry season and maintain home gardens (http://catherinepfeifer.blogspot.ch/2012/06/success-and-failures-maksenit-watershed.html), adding a cropping season or insure sufficient drinking water for the household and livestock.

Unfortunately very few data are available about groundwater in Africa and more particularly in Ethiopia. The recent global African map by  MacDonald et al 2012 (http://catherinepfeifer.blogspot.ch/2012/04/accessing-ground-water-is-easiest-way.html) is a good step but remains relatively non detailed. Seifu Kebebe a researcher from Addis Ababa University, has looked into more details into groundwater in Ethiopia and has just published a book about it.

This book obviously fills a huge gap for water management in Ethiopia!

More about this book and be found under the following links : 
The International Water Management Institute in Addis Ababa, per courtesy of Seifu has access the groundwater maps presented in the book. Please contact the GIS team or myself for more information about these maps and conditions of access.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

are we going to face a global food crisis?

What are will the consequences of the American drought on the world food prices? and how will this impact on the poor?
A good report from Aljazeera :

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Modern traditions : todays livestock transhumance in Swiss Alps

Livestock transhumance has a long tradition in the Swiss Alps. Livestock moves from the valley bottom slowly upwards to the Alps at the beginning of the summer. As fodder is consumed, the livestock moves further upwards. When fodder is consumed on the highest location, or when first snow starts falling, the livestock moves downwards, and somewhere end of September is back at the valley bottom. In order to not carry milk down to the valley, it is transformed into cheese on the Alp. Often there is no electricity in the Alps and therefore cheese is produced manually, without milking machine and using fire to heat up the milk.
Sertigtaal, near Davos, Switzerland
Bringing the livestock to the Alps is therefore time and cost intensive in a world where intensive livestock production implies an industrialized production using imported soja or maize as fodder in a system where most of the cows never see the sky.

Grazing cows in the Sertigtaal near Davos
Nonetheless the tradition of transhumance in Switzerland still exists, and i met a farmer near Davos who showed me how the tradition has been modernized and industrialized.

Nowadays, there are mobile milking machines or milking wagons that make use of a generator for getting the electricity. With the installation i visited, 10 cows can be milked simultaneously. It takes about one hour to milk the 50 cows. The milk is directly transferred to a cooling container.
the mobile milking installation (milking wagon) for 5 cows, two of them are in use

the milking wagon from the side, the farmers stands in between the two "milking wagon" where the cows are standing for getting milked

The farmer does not live in the Alps anymore. Thanks to the good road he can come with is car every morning and evening. He also carries back the milk to the Valley where it will be processed into cheese. Because Alp milk has a special taste and gives particularly good cheese, the milk from the Alps is processed separately to produce Alp cheese, which can be sold above the average cheese price.
in front the tank to bring the milk to the Valley, in the the back the generator

To make it more profitable 6 farmers decided to work together and bring 200 cows of which 50 are dairy cows to the Alps and are managed by one. These dairy cows give an average of 15 litter milk per day and are fed on the alpine grass only.
the generator and the fuel tank

Great to see that even very old traditions can be maintained and modernized!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

What's the future for GPSs?

GPS have changed how we collected data. Nowadays, all farm household surveys are geo-referrenced (coordinates of the farm) allowing to locate precisely the location. With the increasingly available geographical layers farm data can be related to bio-physical conditions, such a soil, rainfall, proximity to road, ...
Also GPS have taken over our lifes, most new mobile phones have one, most of the people in the developed world orients herself with a TomTom.

What is the future of this technology? and what are the risk? how to tick your GPS? Here some answers :

Monday, August 6, 2012

benefit sharing mechanisms in the Blue Nile Basin

These are my last hours in office before my home leave, the occasion to clean up and close down everything. A recent look at my drafts on my blog reminded me that since last November I wanted to write a post on benefit sharing mechanisms in the Blue Nile. Somehow i never wrote this post that now fit very well the topic as my last post was about payment for ecosystem services for Kenyan pastoralists (http://catherinepfeifer.blogspot.com/2012/08/benefit-sharing-mechanisms-kenyan.html) .

 During my field trip in November, we went to Hamusit (Amhara region, near Tana Lake), and we visit a dam, which water is used downstream for an irrigation scheme.

Dam near Hamusit
The watershed was one of the best managed watersheds I had ever seen in Ethiopia. Everywhere soil and stone bunds could be found. All the bund were vegetative bunds, upon which beans where growing. As bean are nitrogen binding they improve soil fertility. The whole plant can also be fed to livestock, that get more protein rich fodder and therefore will give more milk. Also inter-cropping could be found, maize was planted with beans.
the stone bunds

Fascinated by this very well managed watershed, i asked my Amharic speaking colleague to talk to a farmer passing by. We discovered that the people who are profiting from the irrigation schemes, come upstream for about 20 days to help the upstream farmers to build and maintain the bunds. The farmer explained that if the watershed is not well managed than siltation of the lake (created with the dam) will be too important and the capacity of the water reservoir will decrease. As the farmers downstream are the one who profit from having more water in the reservoir so they have to dedicate some of their time working on the fields of the up-stream farmers.
the vegetative soil bunds
By digging further it turned out that this was a governmental scheme organized by the DA that obliged farmers downstream to contribute to the up-stream farmers. 
Whether is is smart to have a top-down approach or not, is beyond the discussion here. Fact is that the farmers who benefit from better up-stream management contribute the up-stream management of the watershed. This is nothing else that a benefit sharing mechanism, which does not make use of cash payment but takes the form of labor exchange. 

This benefit sharing mechanism in Hamusit made me rethink the mass mobilization program of Ethiopia. This program mobilizes all farmers in one regions during a certain amount of days, during which they have the obligation to build bunds and terraces for free, independently of the ownership of the land. The objective is to get the whole watershed well managed, and help farmers who own land on the slope to build the right structures. 
Bunds and terraces will increase infiltration of water, conserve soil moisture and decrease run-off. Downstream farmers on the lowland will have more water as form of groundwater or river thanks to these structures. As the lowland is usually flat, there farmers do not need to build  the labor intensive terraces and can benefit from structure built upstream. So is the Ethiopian mass mobilization not a form of benefit sharing mechanism, which aknowledges that the benefit might be diffuse and cannot be quantified for each farmer separately? 

Food for thoughts when talking of benefit sharing mechanism... it is not always about money... and it can take unexpected forms...

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

benefit sharing mechanisms : a Kenyan success story

Benefit sharing mechanisms is becoming a more and more important topic both in science and in political discourses. Benefit sharing mechanisms are used to "set the incentives right". This is when one agent does not have a personal interest is doing something or not doing something though it would actually contribute to a social benefit (benefit to others). Payment for ecosystem services is one way to implement benefit sharing mechanisms.
Whereas in the developed world, payment for ecosystems services are usually enforced by the government (an example of payment for environmental services are the voluntary agri- enviroental schemes), examples in the developing world are still rare.
Last week on Aljazeera I came across one amazing example in Kenya, where benefits from tourism is shared with pastoralists. A fund to which tourists contribute is made to pay pastoralist to not give there land for tourism activities and make sure that sufficient open space is maintained for wildlife. It is good example from Kenya on how one can share benefits and give pastoralists a secured income for preserving their land :