Newsflash January 2020

On behalf of the Flood-Based Livelihoods Network we are wishing you a fruitful new year 2020. We trust it will be a year in which the network will be able to grow and have impact through increased cooperation and exchange.

We have prepared a new Newsflash for you full with updates from the network from Ethiopia, Pakistan, Kenya and more, including the newest resources and papers published. Feel free to share your feedback, news or ideas with us through

Enjoy the reading!

Reflection on the regional FBLN short course @ Mekelle University, Ethiopia.

The 8th cycle regular international short course entitled “Integrated Watershed Management and Flood-based Farming Systems in ASAL Areas, Horn of Africa” held during 11 – 22 November 2019 at Mekelle University was concluded successfully. 46 experts, of which 9 were female, from Ethiopia, Somaliland and Sudan participated in the short course. All modules were supported by case studies, hands-on exercises, group exercises, video shows and experience sharing among participants. In addition, three days of field work and experience sharing visit was organized to various integrated watershed management practices and successful and failed spate irrigation systems followed by report writing and presentation by participants on observation and reflection. The trainees have applauded the relevance, practicality, content and methodology of the training and promised to apply the knowledge and skill they gained to improve the livelihoods of their lowland communities through FBFS.

Group picture with the participants of the FBLN course @ Mekelle, Ethiopia

FBLN mission to Kenya

A team of senior professionals from the Ethiopian Flood-Based Livelihoods Network and Mekelle University visited Kenya during 27 November – 08 December 2019 to support the design and implementation of two pilot spate irrigation schemes in Turkana and Marsabit Counties in collaboration with GIZ Kenya and County Governments. The assignment also aims at transferring the necessary knowledge and skills to the County experts through an on-job training.

Afar, Ethiopia – Measuring the impact of flood water spreading weirs using the WAPOR translator analysis

Measuring the impact flood water spreading weirs in Afar. In the last four years there has been considerable investment in flood water spreading weirs by GIZ in Afar in Ethiopia. The weirs divert the short duration flood water from the ephemeral rivers and spread these over the land for agriculture, reforestation and rangeland improvement. We are developing a new suite of applications that uses the WAPOR data base of FAO – which is an active repository of ET data (and more).

Here are some early results. With the tools we can see that after completion of the weirs in 2016 there are clear evapotranspiration peaks in the flood season, that were not there before – hinting at the effectiveness of the structures. As a next step we will expand the analysis to other parameters and ground truth it. We are also starting the use of these instruments for other spate and flood based system where investment is planned per required such as Amboseli, Gash and Tihama.

See the website of WAPOR for more info:

Pictures from the DREAM ASAL conference in Afar, Ethiopia

As we shared in the November Newsflash MetaMeta co-organised the DREAM ASAL 2019 conference took place from September 29 – October 3rd. Over 250 participants gathered in Semera, Ethiopia – an enormous outcome. It hosted a large and diverse number of participants: pastoralists and agro-pastoralists, decision makers, international development partners, governmental implementers, civil society experts, researchers, and others. People came from Ethiopia, Uganda, Kenya, Somaliland, Namibia and Pakistan.

During the conference some high quality images were taken showing the surroundings in Afar as well as the effects of rainfall in arid regions. The images are now available through Flickr, With thanks to Patrick van den Akker.

Dry and cracked soils, shortly after a rain shower unique to these arid areas

Road water harvesting in Malawi – recent field visit

The Malawi FBLN chapter has run a pilot in which road run off water is diverted into a small irrigation scheme. The scheme is managed by a group of 23 farmers and has the potential to grow to an area of 20 hectares. As the set-up is first of its kind in Malawi it has been an adaptive learning process but with much potential for upscaling.

The FBLN chapter was recently able to visit the site in Balaka and engage with the farmers as well as Macpherson Nthara who is enthusiastically championing the FBLN and Roads for Water approaches in Malawi.

Strengthening the sides of the channel diverting the water from the road to the field, to slow down the water and avoid erosion of the slopes

Pakistan – combatting locusts

Gulsher Panheer of the FBLN chapter in Pakistan recently shared an interesting item on locusts, and combatting them in Pakistan. He describes a recent situation in Nai Gaj spate irrigation command area in Sindh, Pakistan, where swarms of locusts were threatening a promising harvest in an otherwise dry area. Through timely action and spread of news, interaction with the right government departments and the use of social media and sms-services the right precautionary measures were taken to prevent damage to crops, including making noise using tins, collecting locusts at night using light and digging small ditches around the fields.

The full article can be viewed on and

Yemen – Tihama and the effects of years of conflict

Years of conflict and neglect of the spate channels have caused heavy encroachment by prosopis juliflora leaving the systems in Wadi Rima and Wadi Siham, Yemen, choked.
Creating food insecurity in what was Yemen’s food belt.

Spate channels overgrown with prosopis juliflora

Update on PhDs working on FBLN topics

Kebedde Manjur Gebru who carried out a research with Mekelle University and Utrecht University on the value chains of three value chains – vegetables, sesame and malt barley and the possibilities for small holder farmers, see for his articles.

Anila Perwaiz Memon studied the Impact of Climate Change on Hill Torrents and Groundwater Using GIS Modeling in Kohistan Region of Sindh, Pakistan, which has provided interesting insights for the potential of spate irrigation in Pakistan, see

Abdul Ghani Soomro studied hydrologic assessment of Khirthar National Range using remote sensing and modeling approach. His work can be found on the resources page of the website and will help to understand the flow patterns within spate irrigation systems.

Mara Zenebe also works on FBLN through Wageningen University under the title ‘How Effective is Traditional Floodwater Governance in Flood-based Livelihood Systems? Analyses and Farmers’ Perspectives in Tana River County, Kenya.’ Mara is about to publish her paper, which will become available through the Spate Irrigation website.

Lastly, Elly Arukulem Yaluk has recently started a PhD with Shanghai University. She has in the past worked with the FBLN and also published a blog on theWaterChannel

FBLN curriculum workshop in Sudan

As part of the ongoing Africa to Asia and Back project, under IFAD, the FBLN will organise a curriculum review workshop during which the various institutions which have adopted FBLN or Spate Irrigation in their curriculum will come together to share experiences and fine tune the programs. The workshop will take place under the umbrella of the Hydraulics Research Centre in Sudan.

Roads for Water trainings and new Green Roads for Water website

The Roads for Water network and the Flood-based Livelihoods Network recently organised a series of ‘Road Water Management Training and Experience Sharing Workshops’ in Ethiopia, Nepal and Uganda. During the workshops experiences from within the countries were shared. The presentations from the three workshop can be accessed through the brand new Green Roads for Water website,

Participants and facilitators of the Nepal Green Roads for Water training
Screenshot of the new Green Roads for Water website

Blog on: the ‘Mother of all Ponds’

Roadwater harvesting has the potential to greatly improve peoples livelihoods. We recently came across an inspiring example in Masala, Ethiopia, which is locally referred to as ‘the mother of all ponds’. Access the full case study through the blog on The waterchannel:

Panorama picture of the pond described in the article

Thank you to Emma Greatrix

Emma Greatrix has been closely involved with the FBLN through her work at IWMI in Sri Lanka, which included coordinating the Africa to Asia and Back project. She has recently informed us she will shift jobs within IWMI, which includes handing over the project to a colleague. As FBLN we want to thank Emma for her hard work and for her role in expanding the Flood-Based Livelihoods Network. We wish her all the best in her new role within IWMI/WLE.

Blog on Village Poultry

The difference a village chicken can make in the life of a poor woman is amazing. Safe source of income, independent capital asset, universal delicacy, main source of protein. Eggs ranks high in the list of essential brainfood. They are a major ingredient in diets that stimulate the development of mental capacity in every village all over the world.

One of the ways to support the raring of chicken is the introduction of the ‘hatching pan’, which is an innovation as significant as any basic tool. What it does is simple – it combines a comfortable place for the chicken to hatch its eggs with two small containers that are integral part of it – one for water and one for food. So the hen has food and drinks at hand. This prevents it from rummaging around to still its hunger and quench its thirst and neglect its eggs in the process resulting in a much higher success rate for the hatched eggs.

The FBLN has taken the prototype from Bangladesh to Ethiopia and adapted it for the local circumstances. A full description is available through

Hatching pan which leads to healthier hens and an increased success rate for the hatched eggs

Micro-climate course announcement

MetaMeta, the FBLN and the Water Harvesting Lab of the University of Florence will organise an online course for Water Harvesting for Microclimate Management. Registration is open up to January 15th and more information can be accessed through and

Applications from developing and transitions countries are particularly welcomed, and 10 places will be available free of charge for selected students.

New resources:

Our partners have published several new papers related to irrigation in Yemen, Spate irrigation in Pakistan and making floods to use in the Shire Valley in Malawi:

1. Paper – The Economic Value of Irrigation Water in Wadi Zabid, Tihama Plain, Yemen

2. Paper – Spatiotemporal variability in spate irrigation systems in Khirthar National Range, Sindh, Pakistan (case study) by Abdul Ghani Soomro

3. Paper – Sensitivity of direct runoff to curve number Using the SCS-CV method by Abdul Ghani Soomro

4. Paper  – Revisiting dominant practices in floodwater harvesting systems: making flood events worth their occurrence in flood-prone area. Research paper by Mphatso Malota and Joshua Mchenga.

Newsflash November

Welcome to the November newsflash of the Flood-based Livelihoods Network. We have gathered an interesting and exiting overview of developments and resources from within our network. Feel free to share your feedback, news or ideas with us through
Enjoy the reading!

Reflection on the DREAM conference in Afar, Ethiopia

The DREAM ASAL 2019 conference took place from September 29 – October 3. Over 250 participants gathered in Semera, Ethiopia – an enormous outcome. The conference took stock of the most promising approaches in the arid and semi-arid lowlands of Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa. It hosted a large and diverse number of participants: pastoralists and agro-pastoralists, decision makers, international development partners, governmental implementers, civil society experts, researchers, and others. People came from Ethiopia, Uganda, Kenya, Somaliland, Namibia and Pakistan.

Topics discussed included:

  • Participatory Land Use Planning
  • Land Rehabilitation – Including Flood Water Spreading
  • Rangeland Management, Grazing Management, Carrying Capacity
  • Livelihoods Development – Including Flood Based Farming
  • Water Supply and Disaster Risk Management
  • Controlling or Utilizing Invasive Species – esp. Prosopis Juliflora

Presentations and other resources from the conference are accessible through the 2019 conference website
The conference was a major success with a joint Declaration in the end and working groups working on all the themes to come with improved approaches to be presented in a follow up conference in 2020. More details to follow in other newsletters!

FBLN Short Course at Mekelle University

The Mekelle University will host the annual international training on integrated watershed management and flood-based farming systems (FBFS)  from 11 – 22 November 2019. Over 40 people have registered which is encouraging for the Ethiopian FBLN chapter. A summary of the event and some of the presentations will be published through the FBLN website after the course has finished.

New appointment for Dr. Adel Al-Washali from WEC Yemen

Dr. Adel Al-Washali has been a long term partner within the Flood-based Livelihoods Network, through the Sana’a University. Recently he has been requested by the High Council on Agriculture of the Government of Yemen to develop a national strategy on spate irrigation, starting in the Tihama. This is critically important as this once flood-based food basket of the country is now an area of high poverty with the spate diversion structures poorly maintained in four years of war and the flood channels encroached and blocked by prosopis juliflora. The aim is to ‘build back better’ both physically and institutionally – and come to sustainable and equitable spate water systems.
We congratulate Dr. Adel with this new appointment.

Pasture production with Road Water Harvesting

We have been working on making better use of short duration floods in arid lowland to grow seeded native grasses – so as to boost fodder production in pastoralist areas. This is a new practice we have been working on to introduce in Kitui in Kenya – using the short floods generated from road drainage. The results have been overwhelming! The project team has recently published a series of videos showcasing pasture production in the drylands of Kitui, Kenya. Six farmers share experiences on various aspects: one specializes in milk production, another sells hay, while yet another does seed production and livestock fattening simultaneously. They are all pioneers, venturing into active cultivation of grass. This is a new practice in the area, so they have an important role in their communities, showing and teaching others the importance of pasture production. Watch and learn from these role models….
The blog of the project can be accessed through and also via the Waterchannel

Resolving Land Tenure Issues Under Spate Irrigation; A Case of FBLN Malawi

The FBLN Malawi chapter is working with communities in Balaka District, Southern Malawi to establish a Model Spate Irrigation scheme, using harvested road run-off water. The coordinator of the Malawi FBLN chapter, Macpherson Nthara has produced an overview of the results so far of which a summary is included in the newsflash. The full document is accessible through the website.

Poor water management in fields, prior to the interventions (left), discussions with local leaders (right)

One of the drivers to establish the scheme is the increasing population pressure, resulting in reduced land holding size. The shrinking trend of land holding affects the ability of land users to cope with their problems, including investment on improved technologies for water management e.g. run off diversion structures. Due to the absence of clear land ownership rights, farmers cultivate the land under temporary arrangements and expect the land to be taken away from them during certain growing seasons. In Balaka, it was noted that land owners tend to use the land during the rainy season but they would rent it out during off season. Investing in their land is seen as inappropriate because they are unlikely to reap the benefit of their work.

The Customary Land Act 2006 (CLA) provides the necessary legal instruments to consolidate the many small parcels of land held under customary tenure into a single group-owned entity. The FBLN Malawi Chapter will use this provision to enable irrigation block formation as a foundational intervention for the development of business-oriented Spate irrigation farming. The land which is consolidated will be owned collectively by the group of farmers who have customary use-rights to the land parcels making up the Spate Irrigation Scheme, providing a stable basis for their investments.

Updates from FBLN Pakistan

With Strengthening Participatory Organisations (SPO) and RDF (Research for Development  Foundation) we are working on improving the performance of major spate irrigation systems in Pakistan.

The aim is to ensure fair water distribution – making sure that recent and planned changes in major infrastructure is incorporated to the benefit of all – and at the same time with a network of community organizations introducing better practices – taking examples from other areas. The activities focus on Sindh and Balochistan provinces, but we are in touch with all other Provinces in Pakistan as well.

One promising development is the possibility of marketing high value oils (cold pressed) and in general organic produce (for instance of cluster bean). In Sindh an early breakthrough has been achieved by dovetailing road redevelopment with the requirement of the flood channels – so as to make sure that blockage no longer occur.

Pictures from Pakistan: Roads can block floods, often leading to damage.
Proper design and construction can benefit both the flood as well as the road users.

Organic crops from flood based farming

As in flood based farming rich sediment comes with the floods, usually no fertilizers are required. Also other agrochemicals – in particular pesticides – are generally not used – instead there is a rich tradition of local pest management and selecting the most resistant varieties. This sets spate irrigation systems up for the sourcing of organic crops – especially those used at large quantities in the food industry, such as sesame or guar (cluster bean). See also the Practical Note no 16 on ‘Supply and value chains of organic and niche crops in spate ecologies Consultation paper Spate Irrigation’

We have made first contact with organizations sourcing organic material.

In addition there is also good scope for special organic crops. One main example we are now building the case for is the oil of rucola seed (arugula): this is a high value medication for hair growth, works to control obesity and is an aphrodisiac as well. More to come!

Soil moisture and flood water productivity

We are working to better understand the importance of soil moisture management and water conservation. In the past two years several detailed research studies were undertaken to better understand how we conserve and manage soil moisture. We are now wanting to extrapolate it and based on the WAPOR data base of FAO we are developing a suite of applications that will help assess the bio-mass production, the soil moisture at different depths and volumes of water used productively and non-productively.


Training on Rainwater Harvesting, Organic Farming, Permaculture and Agroforestry

We recently co-facilitated a training for delegates from the Sudanese government, in Nairobi, Kenya. During the training the delegates were exposed to a range of promising approaches, including harvesting floods from roads and utilizing the water for crop cultivation, agro-forestry and methods to enhance water productivity. The training was an excellent opportunity to showcase the results of the work carried out in the recent years and to investigate opportunities for the Sudanese context.
Presentations and other resources from the training are available through the FBLN website.

ICOMOS – Water as a cultural heritage

We are partnering with ICOMOS to establish the significance of spate irrigations system as living and vibrant examples of cultural heritage still going strong. The aim is to ultimately emphasize the importance of such long lasting water systems and make them part of planning future land systems. ICOMOS − the International Council on Monuments and Sites − is the international NGO of professionals, practitioners, institutions, and other bodies committed to and supporting the conservation/preservation of the cultural heritage of all peoples.

New resources

Our partners have published several new videos related to using floods for livelihoods in Myanmar and turning bush into fodder in Namibia:

1. Video – Golden Apple Snail Management, Myanmar

2. Video – Bush Control Namibia: Turning Bush into Fodder

3. Book – Taking the Waters – Soil and Water Conservation among Settling Beja Nomads in Eastern Sudan. PhD thesis from 1995, uploaded on the FBLN resources page.

4. Paper  – Estimation of groundwater potential using GIS modelling in Kohistan region Jamshoro District, Southern Indus basin, Sindh, Pakistan (a case study). Research article by Aneela Memon, et al.

Newsflash September

Professor Yasir Abbas Mohamed Appointed as the Minister of Water Resources, Irrigation and Electricity in the Republic of Sudan

Dear Professor Yasir Abbas Mohamed, we are delighted with your appointment as the Minister of Water Resources, Irrigation and Electricity (WRIE). Heartfelt congratulations from your family members of the Flood-based Livelihood Network (FBLN) Foundation.
Dear FBLN community, as you many of you are aware, in his previous position as the Director General of the Hydraulic Research Centre, Professor Yasir dedicated time and resources and made impactful contributions to the livelihood of the marginally poor flood-dependent and other farming communities in Sudan and across Africa. To our delight and honor, following his appoint as the Minister of WRIE, he immediately reached out for ideas and initiatives that could have lasting positive impact on the lives of the agricultural community and enhance the capacity of water and irrigation professionals at individual and institutional levels in Sudan and the region.
Minister Yasir Abbas Mohamed holds BSc in Civil Engineering from the University of Khartoum and an MSc in Hydraulic Engineering from IHE Delft, the Netherlands. He obtained his PhD with distinction from Delft University of Technology. He has extensive professional experience in water management and has made significant contributions to water management in Sudan and the region.
We once again congratulate Minister Yasir Abbas Mohamed with this important development, wish him well in his new position and look forward to a continuation of the good cooperation.
See for one of his lectures on opportunities in spate irrigation.

picture credit: IHE Delft

Read the rest of this entry »

Agroforestry in FBLS

Special newsflash August 2019

Agroforestry is defined as agriculture incorporating the use of trees. Trees have many different benefits like sequestering carbon from the atmosphere, bringing up water and nutrients from depth, building up soil organic matter and thus soil carbon and improving the microclimate. In FBLS (Flood-Based Livelihood Systems), trees have an important role to play with many different uses that considerably contribute to livelihoods of its people. The main uses are firewood, fodder, timber, edible fruits and fencing. More information on different tree species and their uses can be found in this practical note. To promote the use of trees in FBLS, we will share several successful agroforestry practices in this special newsflash.

Read the rest of this entry »

Newsflash July

Training Mekelle postponed 

The annual international training on integrated watershed management and flood-based farming systems (FBFS) has been postponed. New dates will be announced soon. Keep an eye on our websiteTwitter and Facebook to stay updated.

Read the rest of this entry »