Sunday, August 27, 2017

When watershed management changes life : the example of Abraha Atsbeha watershed

During the last workshop in Northern Ethiopia, we also made a half day field visit to the Abraha Atsbeha watershed, a few kilometers away from Wucro, in Tigray Ethiopia.

It is one of the classical northern Ethiopia success story of watershed rehabilitation. More than 25 years ago, farmers were poor, and regularly had full crop failure or because of drought or because of flooding.

About 20 years ago the community started rehabilitate their area. They started with re-planting tree and bushed on the hills and within the delta.
infiltration pond in the forest

Today, where there used to be bare land, there is a forest. There are clear rules on who has the right to use the forest. The area where we were standing was made available for land owners, while on the other side the area was given to landless people. The forest is used in different ways : to keep bees, to feed leaves to livestock during the dry season, to collect wood and provides benefits to people.
infiltration pit

The delta is also where water used to accumulate and the lack of infiltration used to lead to devastating floods. Today, ponds and pits collected the water from the hills and let the water infiltrate slowly. No floods were experiences over the last years.
a well in the lowland of the landscape
More importantly, as a result of the water infiltration, ground water started to reappear in the lower part of the watershed. Today, farmers have shallow wells with water the whole year round. Around the shallow wells, today households have home gardens where vegetables and fruits are grown for home consumption. Home gardens have therefore a big impact on food diversity and therefore not only contribute to food security but also to improved nutrition on one of the area where people used to be malnourished.
guava orchards

Taking a second look at the landscape, one can also sees tree orchards with papaya, guava and citrus appearing that are bigger than the home gardens. Farmer have invested water and effort to grow more fruits, and some of them today make good income from selling fruits to Wurko and Mekelle.

the community leader explaining the interventions done to rehabilitate the watershed
The community leader told us that at the beginning, 25 years ago, few people thought that if was worth investing into rehabilitation, but they had nothing to loose, so they have tried, and they have won. Today, there is sufficient water the whole year round, that can insure production of high value crops such as fruits. They are proud to have made it, and are happy to show case how watershed management can change lifes.

The cropping area that used to get flooded

Thursday, August 24, 2017

One day in 2030 or how to get participatory economic indicators

During the recent participative stakeholder workshop, not only we have tried to understand how stakeholder see their own production system involving in the future but also trying to understand what success would look like.

Traditionally, economist used GDP at national level, and income or ownership of assets to measure success. More money and more assets means wealth and therefore is success. Yet, the people we work with value many different things, such as family life, the access to traditional food, or getting a given position within the community. So success is more than money and we need to identify how this success can be measured.

two ladies making sure that their vision is taken into account into the future storylines
On the second day of the workshop, my colleagues of mine asked the stakeholder participant in stakeholder groups with similar interests to write down the story of one or two successful virtual characters, and describe a usual day in 2030.From that storyline, participants will have identify what are the indicators that the two characters are successful.

In Burkina Faso, the dairy processing lady was married to the butcher of the area. Their life will be shaped by a traditional Muslim life rhythm. Children will have access to schools, family will be supported by hired staff, and mobility will be improved as the family will own a car or at least a motor bike.

storyline from the pastoral group
the second part of the storyline

For the pastoral community, the successful life meant that they could maintain their traditional lifestyle but also with some modernization, such as aluminum mobile parks, motorbikes for improved mobility and cleared access rights to pasture.

From those storylines, many indicators could be identified. Participants then made an individual vote for the most important ones. Interesting in Burkina Faso, these were religious indicators, such as being able to visit Mecca, being able to follow Muslim rules and improved mobility, whereas in Ethiopia, high education for children and the adoption of new technologies came out more importantly.

The selected indicators from the different groups in Burkina Faso
To me, it was a new approach to get information from stakeholder about what they value, in a way that is very appealing and easy to stakeholder. I am quite impressed by the results we got.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Talking like them : collecting information from local decision makers

Last months were busy, i went to Ethiopia and Burkina Faso to implement a participatory stakeholder workshop with local decision makers, including local government, extension service, but also farmers, input seller, traders, processors, farm organizations and other NGO intervening in the area.

The objective of the first day was to understand how these decision makers see and categorize the livestock production in their area and to what extend they see that these systems will be changing over the next 15 years in view of the still doubling of the African population. 

The banner describing the project in French for all the events in Burkina Faso
Why do we need to know this? The DFID funded project i am working on, foresees the parametrization of the CLEANED tool, to allow decision makers to simulate different livestock intensification option and get multiple environmental indicators along water, greenhouse gazes, biodiversity and nitrogen content of soils. This model will only be of use to the decision makers if it actually reflects their understanding of the livestock production systems or practices. Too often standard models are brought to local level without adjusting them to the local context and the local understanding. In other words, we need to make sure that the model talks like they do in order to be useful.

A group mapping the production systems in Ethiopia
On the first day of the workshop, we used a so called snowballing negotiation, two people try to agree which are the major livestock practices or production systems in the area. When they agree the find an other group of two and re-discuss and negotiate in four. Then they find another group of 4 and negotiate in 8. Then there is a facilitated plenary negotiation about which are the local practices or production systems, and how they can be grouped to make four working groups.

Then in four working groups, each group discusses one identified practice or production system. They map on printed maps where the system/practice is found and in a reporting sheet note the characteristics in terms of breed, adoption rate, number of animal, feed basket, manure management and input/output markets.

A group presenting results to plenary In Burkina Faso 
In the afternoon, the participant write a letter to the future generation describing how livestock keeping will be done in the future and aims at identify completely new practices/productions system that are not observed today. If such a new production is found then a group will need to take it up. otherwise the same group discuss the evolution of the production by 2030, mapping possible changes on the map.

Wondering what we have learned from this process? stay posted the up-coming posts will discuss this!