Mobile Communities in Ethiopia Seek Fixed Solutions to Their Water and Sanitation Challenges

USAID Water Team
Jul 24, 2018 · 8 min read
In South Omo’s Bena Tsemay in Ethiopia, local women spend less time retrieving water and more time strengthening community bonds due to newly constructed water points facilitated by the local water bureau with Lowland WASH support. Photo credit: Michael Tewelde

Applying the “Internet of Things” to Water Systems

In two of the activity’s three focal regions, Afar and Somali, mechanized boreholes serve as the predominant water schemes. These motorized water points benefit large numbers of communities, so a system failure affects a lot of people. Nationwide inventories paint a bleak picture of water point functionality. In some areas up to 40 percent of water points appear to be nonfunctioning. And the reasons go way beyond water availability — including poor construction, lack of resources, and insufficient manpower for maintenance, repair, and response.

Through subcontractor SweetSense, real-time water system data can be tracked from borehole wells within remote communities directly to the regional water bureaus. Photo credit: Michael Blair
An Afari teenage girl squats down to do her laundry at a solar-powered water point in Adhamdin, Erebti woreda of Ethiopia. Photo credit: Michael Tewelde

Sustaining Solutions from the Start

Water point installation and rehabilitation is the other way the activity is tackling the dire water shortages in the lowland regions, including in South Omo in Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples’ Region (SNNPR) where hand pumps and spring-fed water schemes are more the norm than the larger mechanized systems in Afar and Somali. Lowland WASH prioritizes work in the most drought-stricken areas, and to date has rehabilitated or constructed 76 water systems. The activity is integrating solar-powered solutions into 16 additional pumping systems and training technicians to troubleshoot, repair, and maintain them.

Promoting Sanitation in a Pastoral Landscape

The Government of Ethiopia-endorsed community-led total sanitation and hygiene approach to improve sanitation has its origins in rural villages and has been broadly and successfully applied to the highland communities of Ethiopia. Until Lowland WASH, the process hadn’t been tried at scale in pastoral communities.

The USAID Lowland WASH Activity partners with local grantees like the Common Vision for Development Association to give local communities the tools to integrate sanitation marketing solutions into its sanitation and hygiene activities. Photo credit: Tigist Kassa
Within the harsh environment of Afar, communities use local materials, including their own firewood, to build latrines. Women often carry the burden of building such latrines to help reduce open defecation. Photo credit: Michael Tewelde

Partnering for Progress

Like so many other areas of the globe where resources fall far short of needs, collaborative efforts are required to make up the shortfall. While working closely with national and local governments is an important part of the activity’s mandate, Lowland WASH also actively seeks out additional opportunities to partner with the private sector (SweetSense, Dow Chemical), other donors (such as UNICEF), as well as other USAID activities, such as Transform WASH, Sustainable WASH Systems Learning Partnership, and Feed the Future. These fruitful partnerships have provided the activity with technical support — from the mWater customization and life-cycle costing to sanitation marketing and behavior change efforts to planning and implementing irrigation schemes.




Global Waters

Global Waters tells the story of USAID's water-related efforts around the globe, featuring in-depth articles exploring solutions to local as well as global water challenges, opinion pieces by development professionals, and first-hand accounts from stakeholders and beneficiaries.

USAID Water Team

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Global Waters

Global Waters tells the story of USAID's water-related efforts around the globe, featuring in-depth articles exploring solutions to local as well as global water challenges, opinion pieces by development professionals, and first-hand accounts from stakeholders and beneficiaries.