Innovation platforms to enhance participation in rainwater management: lessons from the Nile Basin Development Challenge with a particular focus on political economy and equity issues

Research reports and studies
October 2014
Eva Ludi, Josephine Tucker
The NBDC aimed to improve the resilience of rural livelihoods in the Ethiopian highlands through a landscape approach to rainwater management and established innovation platforms in three sites: Diga and Jeldu in Oromiya Regional State and Fogera in Amhara Regional State. Baseline research conducted prior to platform establishment showed that planning and implementation of natural resource management activities are generally top-down in nature and geared toward meeting sectorial targets, with weak coordination between sectors and little scope for tailoring activities to local conditions and livelihoods. The innovation platform approach aimed to help foster more collaborative approaches to rainwater management, using practical interventions as an opportunity to pilot new ways of working. Yet, innovation platforms are an inherently political space as they bring together different stakeholders with different interests, and in this case they were inevitably imbued with highly unequal, existing power relations between government and citizens, which are characteristic of the Ethiopian context.

A small fund for implementing pilot rainwater management activities was made available to each platform in order to create an opportunity for testing collaborative and participatory ways of working. All platforms selected livestock-related interventions, focused on the control of free grazing combined with planting of fodder plants on soil conservation structures in communal land, cropland and backyards. These pilot projects provide an opportunity to study the workings of the platforms in action, to discover more about the dynamics of relationships both within platforms and between platforms and communities and to learn about the effectiveness of innovation platforms as an approach to foster more integrated, participatory and equitable natural resource management.