Serious land degradation and associated poverty have been major development challenges facing Ethiopia and the Eastern Nile sub-region at large. Although past attempts that were made to tackle land degradation have brought about considerable success, there is still a long way to go to address this important challenge both in the country and in the sub-region. Some of the key deterring factors are:
- The available information on water and land resources both in the country and in the sub-region, which can be used for proper planning of land management practices, are highly fragmented, incomplete or obsolete. This is partly related to the lack of a systematic collection, storage and circulation of information, as well as sectorial and compartmentalised approaches to water and land use and management. All abovementioned realities hampered the development of integrated and sustainable solutions. As a consequence, regional, bilateral, national and local agreements, policies and interventions were often not based on accurate knowledge and a sound analysis of the situation.
- Lack of research-supported, participatory and integrated watershed development for learning, i.e., ‘Learning Watersheds’ that addresses the serious land degradation problem, is another challenge, which negatively affected the documentation and up-scaling of best practices in the country and the sub-region.
- Limited efforts and experiences to understand the diverse processes of land degradation under different agro-ecological and farming system set-ups through long-term monitoring and data generation.
- Weak capacity and awareness of local land users and local institutions on integrated watershed development, data generation and management, including data sharing to address the problems of land degradation and associated poverty challenges.
Rationale for the establishment of the WLRC and key functions
In response to the above key shortcomings, the Water and Land Resource Centre (WLRC) was established in 2011 as an institution associated to Addis Ababa University based on the bilateral agreement between the Government of Ethiopia and Swiss Development Cooperation (SDC). The Resource Center is an initiative to fill the above-mentioned gaps, and it seeks to establish a robust information management system for water and land resources of the country. Building on past experiences of the University of Bern (about 30 years) supported by SDC and other agencies on water and land resources management and research in Ethiopia, the resource centre is intending to improve the generation, processing, and dissemination of data on hydro-sedimentology, meteorology and land management and the transformation of data into useful knowledge in order to help informed planning and decision making processes. It also provides related information and knowledge on socioeconomic settings, land use and land cover of the country and sub-regions.
The WLRC is an autonomous centre at the national level focusing on the Ethiopian Highlands, with a transboundary view on the entire Eastern Nile Basin. It is governed by the Ethiopian Government and international partners, affiliated with Addis Ababa University since 2011, and associated with the Centre for Development and Environment (CDE) of the University of Bern. The WLRC is generating and managing knowledge about IWLRM, hydro-sedimentology, and governance, enhancing the capacities of key stakeholders concerned with water and land management. The RC outputs provide evidence-based information and knowledge, and powerful products for policy and practice on water and land management, which influence the national and international debate and development and policy actions. We intend to build model cases of knowledge-based IWRM policy which are known at international level.