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Planning for Self-supply acceleration at woreda level in Ethiopia: what are the issues to address?

Published on: 03/03/2016

The government should support the local private sector, facilitate households loans and stop unsustainable subsidies.

The government needs to become comfortable with playing the role of an enabler, allowing the market for Self-supply to develop, removing obstacles that prevent the local private sector to operate, facilitating access to loans for households to raise demand, while holding back on non-scalable subsidies that don't provide sustainable solutions.

IRC together with the Millennium Water Alliance (MWA) and its partners is supporting the development of Self-Supply Acceleration (SSA) plans in seven districts. The development of this plan is a joint sectoral collaborative process involving Water, Agriculture/Irrigation, Health, Small and Micro Enterprises, Micro-finance institutions, Women and Children Affairs and District Administrations at woreda level. The plan itself includes selecting potential areas and locally appropriate technology options for Self-supply promotion and identifying activities for demand creation, private sector development, loan facilitation, and inter-sector coordination and learning.

A favourable policy environment

Government policies in Ethiopia have provided an opportune moment to promote Self-supply. The Water Sector has recognized Self-supply as a potential service delivery model that will reach about 30% of the rural population that are currently without access to water supply (Sanitation and Water High Level Meeting, 2012). Strategies and guidelines are developed and focal persons assigned at national and regional (sub-national) levels (MoWE, 2012). Within the agriculture sector, Self-supply has become an extension of the annual soil and water conservation campaigns. Under the motto "one well for one rural household" or "one alternative water source for one household" people are encouraged to develop their own wells for household irrigation (discussion with woreda sector offices, 2016). It has turned into one of the strategies to develop resilience at household level to the recurring drought affecting many parts of the country.

An inter-sectoral coordination issue

The culture of developing household wells is increasing from time to time. A baseline done by IRC with Millennium Water Alliance's (MWA) support, at the end of 2015, shows an increase in well construction in the last 2-3 years, in many of the programme districts. However, most wells are traditional, unprotected wells developed by households with no technical support. Some are close to latrines. The hygiene and sanitation situation is mostly appalling. The water office is interested only in fully protected wells developed for drinking purposes, while the agriculture sector is not concerned beyond the irrigation use of the wells. Yet, a significant number of the wells are used for multiple purposes: irrigation, drinking water, livestock and sanitation and hygiene uses. The SSA plan encourages an incremental upgrading of traditional wells by households, as their income allows, and provides a ladder of technology options. Inter-sectoral coordination between Agriculture and Water is also one key issue to be addressed in the Self-supply acceleration planning.

Non-scalable subsidies and limited private sector development

Planning for Self-supply acceleration involves raising households' awareness and then demand to invest in Self-supply facilities. The discussion on how to raise demand brought to the surface the unintended outcomes of subsidizing household well construction, introduced by NGOs as well as some government implemented and donor-funded sector programmes, which has reduced effective demand or people's willingness to pay. Ensuring the provision of basic services, including water supply, should primarily be the responsibility of government. However, in some of the programme woredas, the non-targeted subsidies that haven't taken account of household income status or interest, have led to waste, non-use or inappropriate use of the materials given.

The absence of a strong private sector engaged in provision of products and services for Self-supply was another issue to contend with during the planning. In the programme districts, as elsewhere in the country, the government has taken upon itself the role of freely distributing water lifting pumps and household water treatment products (filters and chemicals) to rural households, though on ad-hoc basis for lack of sustainable funding. This in turn has hampered the development of a local private sector in the rural towns for supply of pumps or household water treatment technologies, and households are not willing to pay for those products.

Implementing the plan of Self-supply acceleration at woreda level will mean learning to do things in a different way. The government needs to become comfortable with playing the role of an enabler, allowing the market for Self-supply to develop, removing obstacles that prevent the local private sector to operate, facilitating access to loans for households to raise demand, while holding back on non-scalable subsidies that don't provide sustainable solutions.

The SSA plans, which are developed to be an integral part of the woreda WaSH programme, came up with district specific solutions to some of those issues. Their success depends on effective collaboration of all MWA partners, including the sector offices at the district level. Commitment in follow-up of the action plans is essential, in order not to lose the momentum gained during the plan preparation. The results of the implementation will be monitored, and changes and impacts assessed by IRC and partners. At the end of the year we will share the outcomes.

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