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Published on: 13/12/2013

Following on from the 1st Self-supply acceleration training held in Butajira in September 2013, IRC and partners held a second training course from 1-4 December 2013 in Hawassa, Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples' Region (SNNPR). This training took on a regional focus, given the imminent start of promotion of Self-supply at scale in the region by the Bureau of Water Resources. Together with Oromia, which is also rolling out Self-supply acceleration at the moment, the 'south' is pioneering the implementation of the new approach set out in policy and the One WASH National Programme.

Ato Abbas Mohammed, Bureau Head Water Resources, opened the training, which included participation of water supply process owners from all zones in the region. It also engaged key process owners at regional level and, critically, as we shall discuss below, the Bureau of Agriculture. The main trainers were Lemessa Mekonta (IRC Ethiopia), Eyasu Mamo (BoWR SNNPR), Girma Senbeta (JICA WAS-RoPS project), and Aweke Gulilat (MoWIE) with preparatory work together before the training focused on the development and improvements of two new guidelines that have been developed by IRC Ethiopia. One guideline supports planning for Self-supply acceleration with a focus on software and supporting activities like building up private sector enterprises and monitoring. The other guideline provides information on low-cost technologies for Self-supply. Together these guidelines provided the curriculum for the training.

Starting in December 2013, an awareness-raising campaign on Self-supply in the 'south' will be cascaded down from the region to zones, woredas, kebeles and ultimately, families. In the session on 'creating demand' participants worked through how to use appropriate [communications] mechanisms to reach different audiences at these levels with the right messages.

This campaign is intended to trigger actions that will lead to the development of new water supplies (mainly hand dug wells) by 40,000 households and 16,000 small-groups in the region in the current Ethiopian year through the Self-supply approach.

The training also included sessions and coordination, and during the course, this emerged as one of the hottest issues. It is particularly important given related initiatives planned by the water and agriculture sectors.

The bureaus of both Water Resources and Agriculture are looking for families to invest in Self-supply, or household irrigation as it is known in agriculture. The agricultural sector through its household irrigation strategy aims to develop 380,000 hand-dug or manually drilled wells and has a slogan of 'one family, one well'.

The objectives of these programmes are not exactly the same. Water supply objectives do take account of multiple uses, and recognise it as a crucial driver of family investment, but pay careful attention to water safety and the need to upgrade and manage family wells so that water is safe to drink. Household irrigation strategies in contrast do not take account of protecting wells with an eye to water quality. This is a concern as we know that many so-called 'irrigation wells' will be used for drinking. A lot of wells will also obviously be used for other bulk domestic uses, like washing and sanitation, where water quality is less of a concern. This can make a crucial contribution in supplying the 15 litres per capita needed by every person for domestic uses.

Household irrigation strategies do not take account of protecting wells with an eye to water quality, which is a concern as we know that many so-called 'irrigation wells' will be used for drinking.

Nevertheless, the implementation approaches promoted in Self-supply and household irrigation are almost the same. Both avoid subsidy (except in the case of groups of 10 households in the group-led Self-supply) and both aim to create demand, private sector supply chains and access to micro-finance. Where there is a difference is that agriculture interventions add-on aspects like post-harvest and marketing of crops. The Self-supply approach ignores these important issues just like the household irrigation approach ignores water safety.

What emerged from the training and related meetings is that there is a win-win. Combining the agricultural sectors capacity and knowledge on how to get technologies and information to farmers, with the water supply sectors experience of improving water safety (from proper protection to safe hygiene practices and household water treatment).

Ato Seifu Atnafe from the SNNPR Bureau of Agriculture, and specifically the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Agency which is the responsible unit for household irrigation, made critical inputs during the training highlighting potential linkages and the scope for collaboration.

The technology introduction session also considered the mechanisms for procurement and dissemination of rope and washer pumps, a pump that is being widely promoted at the moment. Major tenders have been advertised recently including the procurement of 20,000 pumps by the SNNPR Bureau of Agriculture to support the household irrigation programme. The water supply sector has also produced pumps in bulk but in smaller batches of a 1,000 or so at a time. How will such pumps be distributed? Nothing is for free according to both household irrigation and Self-supply at the household level (the pump may be free in case of small group Self-supply) but distribution of such pumps will use government rather than private sector channels.

Coordination emerged as perhaps the top issue. One quote that nicely summed it all up was: "Alone we can go faster, together we can go further."

This is at odds with objectives to develop private sector capacity, and risks breaking the link between pump manufacturers and their uses. Supply chain development with people available to repair such pumps and supply spares is a major concern. Another critical technology will be manual drilling and International Development Enterprises shared some of their experiences of developing private sector capacity in manual drilling. IDE have particularly interesting experiences too having themselves gone from an irrigation only focus in their work on manual drilling, rope pumps and related interventions, to an irrigation plus domestic and drinking water focus. Summing up the training in the closing remarks, Ato Abbas promised to take personal and direct follow-up with the Bureau Head of Agriculture, as well as promoting coordination in discussions at the regional cabinet. Indeed reflecting on the training, coordination emerged as perhaps the top issue. One quote that nicely summed it all up was ‘Alone we can go faster, together we can go further”.

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