Evolution of WLRC

The Soil and Water Conservation Project (SCRP) that evolved into Water and Land Resource Centre, Addis Ababa University (WLRC, AAU) was established in 1981 by scientists and development specialists. The SCRP was led by the University of Bern, Switzerland and Ethiopia’s Ministry of Agriculture, and its aim was to generate knowledge on the technical, ecological, economic and social dimensions of land degradation, and thereby support the government’s and other partners’ soil and water conservation initiatives. The SCRP project was implemented in seven model watersheds distributed across the highland part of the country. After in the form of different projects and at different scopes for many years, in 2011 SCRP evolved into Water and Land Resource Centre (WLRC) through a bilateral agreement signed between the Government of Ethiopia and the Swiss Development Cooperation (SDC). The goal was to build on the decades of experience and efforts of SCRP and other agencies on water and land resources management and research in Ethiopia. Besides the six (i.e., minus the station in Eritrea) experimental watersheds that were established by SCRP, WLRC added the Gerda and two high-mountain (in Semen Mt.) hydro-sedimentology observatories in 2013. In 2016, WLRC was affiliated with AAU with autonomous status. In 2017, the Centre, in collaboration with Farm Africa, established three stations in Bale eco-region and co-run them for two years. Recently, seven hydro sedimentology stations are established at Kunzila and establishment of three stations in Waghimira Zone of Amhara Regional State was in progress until it was hampered by the war TPLF inflicted in the Zone. In these observatories, WLRC monitors meteorological and hydrological data on sub-daily or daily time scales. In addition, WLRC presently has six micro learning watersheds and one hybrid meso-watershed where intensive participatory integrated watershed management and observatory functions are implemented with strong livelihoods improvement component. These are sites for action research, and aimed at promoting live learning and feeding evidence into relevant national policy- and decision[1]making processes.

Since its establishment, the Centre has made outstanding contributions in the areas of water and land resources management. To name just a few, through empirical studies in its learning watersheds and observatories, and other research sites, WLRC has:

  • generated extensive knowledge products and innovative water and land management approaches and shared them with partners and stakeholders in different forms of publications, databases. The studies cover a wide range of topics in the domains of water and land resources, such as national scale water and land resource assessments, watershed scale investigations of water and sediment dynamics, landscape management and ecosystem services, and climate change impact studies
  • extensively applied and promoted ILM, IWLRM, at watershed/landscape levels;
  • designed and developed innovative platforms like EthioGIS and its updated versions of LandScale; also contributed Exit Strategy and Performance Assessment for Watershed Management projects;
  • established state-of-the art knowledge management system on water and land resources, named WALRIS (Water and Land Resource Information System) to support cross-scale policy making, policy dialogue and design of resource-based development interventions;
  • provided professional and community services, technical backstopping and capacity building to the agriculture and water sectors, including on how to improve sustainability of the GERD, community-based organizations and other agencies dealing with sustainable natural resource development; and
  • established effective partnerships and collaborated with many other like-minded research organizations and sources of research finance in undertaking its research activities

It is now heading to becoming a recognised centre of excellence or knowledge-for-development hub on sustainable management of water and land resources.