Blue Nile Hydrosolidarity

Land Use Change and Suitability Assessment in the Upper Blue Nile Basin under Water Resources and Socio-Economic Constraints

The Upper Blue Nile is home to a large human and livestock population that live in diverse biophysical and socio-economic environment. The basin is increasingly experiencing multi-dimensional pressures including population growth, climate change and variability, deforestation, land/soil degradation, as well as increasing upstream-downstream tension on water use rights. Understanding the dynamic interactions of land use and water resources in the basin comes at the forefront of any effort to improving the livelihood and sustainability in the basin.

As part of a study to develop a decision support system for an integrated natural resources management for the Upper Blue Nile basin, methods and techniques are developed to identify land use suitably based on various biophysical and socio-economic factors, and water resources availability in the basin. Possible biophysical and socio-economic land use change drivers on a mesoscale catchment, Jedeb, were identified using historical remote sensing data as well as primary data sources such as field observations, questionnaires and interviewing key stakeholder informants. Then, major land use change drivers were ranked using regression analysis (PCA).

A hydrological model was setup using the Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT) for the Jedeb catchment. Based on the identified high impact land use change drivers and additional factors such as agro-ecological zones and water resources availability (output from the hydrological model), a land use suitability analysis for the catchment was developed using the SITE (SImulation of Terrestrial Environments) generic land use change modeling framework. The land use and hydrological models exchange yearly simulation results to determine land use suitability analysis and impacts of land use change on components of the basin’s hydrology, and vice-versa. Land use scenario was analyzed by assuming a 20% increase in population in the catchment.

Preliminary results indicate a clear shift mainly from grassland land use type to cultivation land use type. It is concluded that the techniques and methodologies used in this study especially for integrating the two models can be used for a more realistic and thorough analysis of land use suitability and water resources dynamics and assessment study. Outputs of this study are used as inputs to develop a spatial decision support system for an integrated assessment and management of land use and water resources in the basin.