ICARDA’s Community-Based Rainfed Watershed Management project aims to unlock the great agricultural potential of the Amhara region of Ethiopia and empower its farmers to improve their livelihoods while adapting the production system to climate change. ICARDA is working in the Gumara-Maksegnit watershed since 2009 by synergistically implementing projects funded by different donors (ADA, CGIAR, and IFAD). These projects include:

  1. “Unlocking the potential of rainfed agriculture in Ethiopia for Improved Rural Livelihoods” (ADA-ICARDA, 2009-2012).
  2. “Combating land degradation and improving productivity through integrated watershed management, monitoring, and community participation” (CGIAR CRP–WLE 2012–2016).
  3. “Reducing land degradation and farmers’ vulnerability to climate change in the highland dry areas of northwestern Ethiopia” (ADA-ICARDA, 2013–2016).
  4. “Strategic Interventions to Simultaneously Reduce Women's Drudgery, Youth Unemployment, and Ecosystem Degradation” (CGIAR CRP–WLE 2014–2016).
  5. Integrated Agricultural Production Systems for the Poor and Vulnerable in Dry Areas (IFAD-ICARDA, 2014-2016).

An under-developed and low performing agriculture sector is directly responsible for food insecurity. It is important to boost the performance of the agriculture sector and to demonstrate effective community management of rainfed watersheds, which directly determine the productivity. This project works with communities in the Gumara-Maksegnit basin, a typical watershed in the upper catchment of the Blue Nile River and Lake Tana. Using a holistic approach, the project has implemented, tested, and fine-tuned soil and water conservation interventions, constructed rainwater harvesting ponds, introduced improved crop varieties and agronomic practices, and more. Already communities are seeing the benefits. There is less soil erosion and runoff. Harvests are better.

The first phase of the project (2009 – 2012) identified and tackled many of the most urgent problems. The project’s following phase has evolved to deal with wider socio-economic issues providing the foundation for establishing a sustainably managed watershed that communities themselves can carry forward.