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Video Note: ILRI's Beth Cullen on Innovation Platforms, Participatory Videos, and the Nile Basin Development Challenge

Watch the latest Agrilinks Video Note featuring Dr. Beth Cullen of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI).

The Nile Basin Development Challenge (NBDC) is funded by the CGIAR Challenge Program on Water and Food (CPWF). The aim of the project is to improve the resilience of rural livelihoods in the Ethiopian highlands through a landscape approach to rainwater management. The Challenge comprises five linked projects:

  • Learning from the past
  • Developing integrated rainwater management strategies
  • Targeting and scaling out of rainwater management innovation
  • Assessing and anticipating the consequences of innovation in rainwater management systems
  • Catalyzing platforms for learning, communication and coordination across projects

Watch the interview below to learn more about the Nile Basin Development Challenege and other activities that the project uses to further its reach across the Ethiopian highlands.


Learn more about innovation platforms from the NBDC below or visit nilebdc.org.

An innovation platform is a network of different stakeholders who come together to exchange knowledge and develop joint action to bring about change in livelihoods and natural resource management. The growing interest in innovation platforms recognizes that improvements to farmer livelihoods and environmental integrity depend not just on on-farm technologies but on wider institutions, markets and policies. Improved land and water management practices can often be more readily and sustainably achieved by addressing these wider issues than by a narrow focus on changing farmer behaviour, but addressing them requires the involvement of a wide variety of stakeholders from communities, government, NGOs, research and private sector. Although this approach may require more patience the results are likely to be more sustained and far-reaching. 

The types of issues that can be dealt with in an innovation platform can include:

Developing market chains: bringing together different actors along the value chain including producers, input suppliers, traders and regulatory bodies can help to identify and address bottlenecks along the value chain. Addressing these bottlenecks can directly benefit producers and increase incentives for farmers to invest in more market-oriented production for improved livelihoods.

Natural resource management enhancement: land and water issues tend to have a strong landscape dimension. The practices of upstream users can have important effects on downstream users. Also, small-scale irrigation schemes and soil and water conservation structures often affect multiple users and require collective action. Innovation platforms can provide a useful way of dealing with these landscape-level issues.

Innovation platforms are more than just places to talk. They need to lead to changes in farmer practice if they are to be effective. As part of the IFAD-Fodder Adoption Project an innovation platform in Ada'a focusing on livestock feed issues catalyzed increased use of improved fodder varieties but also led to sourcing of improved dairy breeds and enhanced milk marketing arrangements.

Bio: Beth Cullen

Dr Beth Cullen has joined ILRI as a post-doctoral fellow with PLE. Beth will be based in Addis Ababa and will work on the Nile Basin Development Challenge Projects and the SLP Crop Residues project.  She is an anthropologist and recently completed her PhD at the University of Durham UK. Her PhD research was conducted in Ethiopia and her thesis title was “By the Community, For the Community: An Investigation of Participatory Video with Karrayyu Oromo pastoralists in the Awash Valley, Ethiopia”.