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Citizen science in community-based watershed management: An institutional analysis in Ethiopia

Lookup NU author(s): John Gowing, Dr David Walker, Dr Geoffrey ParkinORCiD


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© 2020, by IWMI. Agriculture is the mainstay of Ethiopia's economy contributing to 41.5% of the gross domestic product (GDP). Growth of the sector depends on efficient and sustainable use of natural resources such as water and land, which calls for the monitoring of these resources. Hydrometeorological monitoring can provide the information needed for early warning, and preparing and responding to weather-related natural disasters, thereby supporting development of the agriculture sector. In Ethiopia, the Basin Development Authority (BDA) and the National Meteorology Agency (NMA) are the two state organizations responsible for collecting hydrological and meteorological data, respectively. Through a proclamation in 2018, the Ministry of Water, Irrigation and Energy (MoWIE) delegated BDA to collect, process, analyze and disseminate hydrological data. It has been reported that BDA and NMA have limited capacity (financial, technological, human and others) to (i) set up new network stations; (ii) install modern equipment; (iii) rehabilitate existing stations; (iv) cover running costs of network stations; (v) conduct regular supervision of monitoring stations (e.g., to provide feedback and take corrective action on time, if needed); and (vi) monitor several hydrometeorological parameters. For these reasons, network stations under these organizations are sparsely distributed, causing data coverage issues across a country as diverse as Ethiopia. For example, even if BDA is responsible for managing the country's water resources, due to limited capacity, it tends to focus only on monitoring large rivers and does not take into consideration small rivers. However, data from small rivers in micro-watersheds are crucial for people's livelihoods and local water security. Overall, the limited capacities of both BDA and NMA have an impact on the quality and continuity of data. These organizations are not represented at lower administrative levels (e.g., woreda, kebele and community levels), and there are no institutional arrangements in place that could facilitate engagement of the community, both of which lead to hydrometeorological data gaps in the country. Therefore, the authors suggest that institutionalizing engagement of communities (non-scientists) in hydrometeorological monitoring (citizen science approach) has the potential to address part of the data gaps in Ethiopia. This study, therefore, examines the existing institutional arrangements for hydrometeorological monitoring and the practices followed by BDA and NMA. Also, it investigates the possibilities of embedding a citizen science approach into regular monitoring conducted by these organizations for addressing the hydrometeorological data gaps, particularly at micro-watershed levels. Data and information for the study were collected through a literature review, and in-depth discussions held with key informants at federal, regional, basin, sub-basin and network station levels. Based on the assessments, adopting and institutionalizing a citizen science approach for some of the monitoring tasks could address part of the data gap issues in Ethiopia. According to key informants, there is potential to embed the approach into the institutional structure of the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) for hydrometeorological monitoring of small rivers in micro-watersheds, due to the following reasons: (i) MoA has a high demand for hydrometeorological data from small rivers to be used for small- and micro-scale irrigation development, and for measuring the impacts of watershed development interventions on water resources; and (ii) MoA has an institutional structure from federal to community level that supports the engagement of communities in development interventions. However, effectively embedding the citizen science approach into regular monitoring of MoA depends on the clear distribution of mandates; developing legal, ethical, methodological and quality frameworks; and developing clear data sharing and incentive mechanisms involving all partners (e.g., MoWIE, NMA, BDA and MoA).

Publication metadata

Author(s): Nigussie L, Haile AT, Gowing J, Walker D, Parkin G

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: IWMI Working Papers

Year: 2020

Volume: 191

Print publication date: 31/12/2020

Acceptance date: 02/04/2018

ISSN (print): 2012-5763

ISSN (electronic): 2478-1134

Publisher: International Water Management Institute


DOI: 10.5337/2020.207

Notes: ISBN 9789290909026


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