In Ethiopia, Pact supports communities to peacefully improve water access

October 22, 2019

Amibara woreda, in Ethiopia's Afar Regional State, has a desert climate with little rainfall. Compared to national and regional standards, Amibara’s water ranks among the lowest for access, quality, adequacy and availability. As a result, community members are forced to travel long distances to fetch water from unprotected, often contaminated sources.

The lack of water affects everything: food, health, education and children’s futures.

“There was a huge water problem in our woreda,” explains Workineh Abebe, the district water, irrigation and energy process owner. “The health center didn’t have an adequate supply. It used to get water once in two weeks’ time. This situation highly affected the health service that the center could deliver for more than five kebeles.”

In many kebeles (or villages) in Amibara, water scarcity was an old problem, made worse by an ongoing drought and a lack of resources to maintain and expand the existing water system. The water problem also triggered ethnic conflict with a neighboring community, leading to threats to livelihoods and survival. 

Abdo Seid has served as head of Amibara’s health center for four years. “I am used to facing the challenge that shortages of water brought to us,” he says. “There was not a direct line for the health center. We used to share the line with the largest community in the district.”

Abdo adds, “The problem affected mothers and children. During delivery, if there was no water, there would be a sanitation problem, which exacerbated complications and disease.”

The situation began to change when the SIPED II program stepped in to build community-government engagement to improve basic services in the area and to introduce participatory natural resource management tools and practices in three of Amibara’s kebeles. Funded by USAID and implemented by Pact, SIPED II is increasing the resiliency of Ethiopian communities to manage and respond to conflict. Aimed at building an enabling environment for sustainable development, SIPED II is based on the idea that resilient states – constituted by resilient communities – are capable of absorbing shocks and managing challenges while maintaining political stability and preventing or minimizing violence.

SIPED II supported the community to establish the Woreda Project Advisory Committee (PAC) with the aim of providing strategic guidance and advice concerning the design, planning, implementation and monitoring of the citizen-government engagement process. The Woreda PAC in collaboration with a technical committee conducted a participatory community needs assessment and identified water and sanitation as significant stressors.

This led to the Andido Kebele Communal Water Points Expansion and Capacity Building Micro Project to provide a reliable, sufficient water supply to all local residents. The project upgraded and expanded the capacity of the existing water supply system in Amibara’s Andido kebele by installing 3,800-meter-long pipelines to connect to water points where people live, along with additional rehabilitation, transformer installations and improvements to existing cattle troughs and a generator house.

Andido is one of the three kebeles in Amibara where such micro projects were successfully completed, including serving the Amibara health center.

“Until recently, bright yellow jerry cans were everywhere, on main roads and dirt roads, carried by hand or piled high on donkey carts being led on long journeys,” Workineh says. “Now, thanks to the SIPED II project, we have a full-time pure water supply. Currently, we can manage the project by ourselves. We got all the necessary equipment, materials and trainings in the course of the project, so we will sustain the service in the future through our effort.” 

Women and children seeking care at the health center now enjoy water and sanitation. “The project further benefits nurses and health extension workers who live around the health center,” Abdo explains. “Now we have a 20,000-liter container inside the health center. We are planting seedlings around the health center to make it a green and conducive environment.”

Abdo adds, “Usually conflicts emanate from unfair resources distribution, and our community had been the victim of some ethnic conflict across the neighboring community due to lack of water.”

Now, he says, because the water projects equitably engaged and serve local communities, those conflicts are a thing of the past.

Lead photo: Abdo Seid plants seedlings on the grounds of Amibara’s health center.