River of Learning Share Fair, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Linking food systems and water resource management to bring about a new paradigm for sustainable development

On 16th October 2013, to commemorate World Food day and achievements made in agricultural water management sector in celebration of their tenth anniversary, the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) hosted a ‘River of Learning’ share fair. The series of meetings to be held over the next 3 days gathers farmers from across Ethiopia, and over 100 people from the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research CGIAR centers and various partners, including IFAD, to integrate knowledge on water and natural resource management through the exchange of experiences and assessments of common activities to improve and coordinate future efforts.

The chairperson for the Water, Lands and Ecosystems steering committee said that the share fair was an opportunity to gain an insight on the future challenges to be addressed by partners over the next ten years.  Increased economic productivity has brought about a negative impact on the environment, calling for a paradigm shift to place sustainability at the centre of development initiatives. He encouraged a grand experiment to be undertaken amongst CGIAR’s and partners to connect efforts and strategically make a major change to development efforts, emphasizing that agriculture can be a part of the solution to build resilience and support sustainable development and natural resource management within key regions, such as, the Nile Basin. 

Linking efforts to bring sustainable development to the fora, and the World Food Day, speakers stressed the importance of promoting sustainable food systems as a means to drive about new changes and dynamic efforts amongst water, lands and ecosystems partners. Farmers do not degrade land out of their own volition, and it was emphasized that inequitable power dynamics determining farmer's access to basic services and socio-economic resources, cause them to degrade land. Addressing socioeconomic marginalization will ensure conservation of land and water resources for future generations. Hedrom Haileselassie Assefa, a farmer from Mekele region pressed all stakeholders to transform their thoughts into action saying, “let this discussion not remain in the air, let it become a reality because we are fighting against a common enemy, poverty.” These key points beckon the question of how practitioners can centralize sustainable development within ongoing IFAD initiatives.

The event was an opportunity to openly exchange ideas and information amongst water management stakeholders as display booths, learning cafes and interactive forums were established to exchange knowledge, explore potential areas of collaboration and partnerships. For example, participants were invited to write their significant achievements and place them on the “communal river of learning” board sparking discussions on achievements, and the way forward amongst water management efforts across the African continent. Discussion and exchange over the next three days will focus on strengthening the Nile Basin Development Challenge, a partnership with national actors to address land and water issues at a landscape scale; IMAWESA – an IFAD-funded water management best practice network across east Africa, and the Global Water Initiative. 

An interactive board mapping stakeholder’s water resource management  achievements over the past ten years.

Participants inquiring about water and resource management activities in Ethiopia, at the IFAD exhibition stand at the ‘River of Learning’ Share Fair.