Improved water and land management in the Ethiopian highlands and its impact on the downstream dependent on the Blue Nile

This paper introduces and highlights some results of a multi-institutional collaborative research project under implementation related to “Improved water and land management in the Ethiopian highlands and its impact on downstream stakeholders dependent on the Blue Nile”. In the Nile Basin, water from the Ethiopian highlands, particularly from the Blue Nile (Abay), has in the past benefited downstream people in Sudan and Egypt in different ways – agriculture, livestock, industry and electrical power. However, such free benefits are now threatened due to dramatically changing land, water and livestock management practices upstream. High population pressure, lack of alternative livelihood opportunities and the slow pace of rural development are inducing deforestation, overgrazing, land degradation and declining agricultural productivity. Poor water and land management upstream reduces both potential runoff yields and the quality of water reaching downstream. The result is a vicious cycle of poverty and food insecurity for millions in the upstream; and poor water quality, heavy siltation, flooding, and poor temporal water distribution in the downstream threatening livelihood and economies in the downstream. It is widely recognized that improved water management in the Abay Basin will significantly increase water availability for various stakeholders within the basin. Key research questions raised in the project include: What are the successful interventions that help improve productivity and reverse degradation? What are the impacts downstream? What are the opportunities and constraints enhancing rural livelihoods and food security? Focusing around these questions, intermediate results related to meteorological, hydrological and physical based basin characterization, methodologies for erosion and sediment modelling, water availability and access for various production systems are presented. Synergies and complementarities with Nile Basin shared vision and subsidiary action projects, particularly with the Eastern Nile are also highlighted.

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Paper presented at the Ethiopia National Nile Development Forum, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 20-21 March 2008
Conference Chapters/ Papers

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