Understanding the land use and land cover changes (LULCCs) and their implication on surface hydrology of the Dinder and Rahad basins (D&R, approximately 77 504 km2) is vital for the management and utilization of water resources in the basins. Although there are many studies on LULCC in the Blue Nile Basin, specific studies on LULCC in the D&R are still missing. Hence, its impact on streamflow is unknown. The objective of this paper is to understand the LULCC in the Dinder and Rahad and its implications on streamflow response using satellite data and hydrological modelling. The hydrological model has been derived by different sets of land use and land cover maps from 1972, 1986, 1998 and 2011. Catchment topography, land cover and soil maps are derived from satellite images and serve to estimate model parameters. Results of LULCC detection between 1972 and 2011 indicate a significant decrease in woodland and an increase in cropland. Woodland decreased from 42 to 14 % and from 35 to 14 % for Dinder and Rahad, respectively. Cropland increased from 14 to 47 % and from 18 to 68 % in Dinder and Rahad, respectively. The model results indicate that streamflow is affected by LULCC in both the Dinder and the Rahad rivers. The effect of LULCC on streamflow is significant during 1986 and 2011. This could be attributed to the severe drought during the mid-1980s and the recent large expansion in cropland.