What’s the status and potential of rainwater harvesting in Ethiopia?

One of the primary objectives of the Ethiopian water policy is developing the country’s water resources for economic and social benefits of the people, on an equitable and sustainable basis. This pursuit of water security follows many strategies, one being prominent: rainwater harvesting.

This strategy has gained wide acceptance among policy agents and development agencies. It’s not a new strategy in Ethiopia, either. The country has a long history of rainwater harvesting. In this tradition, people’s rain-fed agriculture (crop production and animal rearing) is supplemented with small-scale irrigation at community and household levels.

Ethiopia has a big potential for benefiting from rain fed agriculture even in drought prone areas. Rainwater in flash floods, surface runoff and the ephemeral rivers can be captured and stored much more often, using multiple water harvesting technologies (sand-dams, ponds, sub-surface dams, dug-wells, in-situ and roof catchment among others). However, there is a strong need for extensive training of farmers and for effective and adequate investments at the smallholder farmer level.

What are examples of rainwater harvesting projects ?

There are, for instance, the projects of these five Ethiopian development organisations:

  • The Ethiopian Catholic Church-Social and Development Coordinating Office of Harar (ECC-SDCOH/HCS);
  • Action For Development (AFD);
  • The Ethiopian Rainwater Harvesting Association (ERHA);
  • Research inspired Policy & Practice Learning in Ethiopia (RiPPLE);
  • The South Ethiopia Peoples’ Development Association (SEPDA).

They have taken up 3R (Recharge, retention and Reuse) and MUS (Multiple Use Services) as the frameworks of operation for the regions Oromiya, Somali-land (Dire Dawa), SNNPR and Afar.

The geographical focus is important, as these are some of the driest regions in Ethiopia, with frequent and prolonged droughts. Target sectors here are agriculture and ecosystem management – for livelihood enhancement, safe water access and food security. The primary goal is to explore, enhance and optimise local rainwater harvesting technologies and to strengthen local capacities to sustainably manage the productive assets.

Ethiopia has a big potential for benefiting from rain fed agriculture even in drought prone areas, however there is a strong need for extensive training of farmers and effective and adequate investment at smallholder farmer level. Rainwater in flash floods, surface runoff and the ephemeral rivers is captured and stored using multiple water harvesting technologies (sand-dams, ponds, sub-surface dams, dug-wells, in-situ and roof catchment among others).

Learn more: contact RAIN at info@rainfoundation.org.

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