WRI Africa and WRI's Water Program launched a new project on May 17, 2022. The project — centered on the Tana Sub-basin in Ethiopia and the woredas of North Mecha, Farta and Dera in the Amhara Region — is funded by the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation and implemented in partnership with the Millennium Water Alliance, Wateraid and the Abbay Basin Development office. It aims to improve water governance in the basin and project districts and promote healthy watershed management by strengthening water and climate data systems, analytical and management capacities and cross-sectoral coordination.

The project launch was accompanied by a two-day training delivered by the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) covering key topics in integrated water resources management and water and land governance, including principles, practices and implementation modalities and the links with the landscape approach.

Water Insecurity in Ethiopia

Ethiopia is vulnerable to recurring drought and water scarcity due to high variability in rainfall and water distribution. Other factors — including climate change, increasing demand for water, land degradation and more — are exacerbating water scarcity, undermining the natural resource base on which sustainable growth, livelihoods and water access depend. As the second-most populous country in Africa, water is central to Ethiopia's development, with potential to drive growth and reduce poverty through investment in irrigation, hydropower and agroindustry.

The Tana Sub-basin is part of the Abbay Basin, which is one of Ethiopia's 12 major river basins, and lies within the Amhara Region. It is a populous area identified as a growth corridor for Ethiopia because of its vast productive potential. Lake Tana, found at the center of the basin, is also a valuable source of freshwater for the region and the river Abbay (Blue Nile).

However, access to clean and reliable sources of water is a challenge for those living in the sub-basin. Rising water withdrawals, agro-industrial pollution, environmental degradation — particularly in the form of deforestation, devegetation and soil erosion — are reducing water availability and jeopardizing economic activities and the livelihood and wellbeing of communities.

Improving Water Resources Management in the Tana Sub-basin

To solve these challenges, it is critical to improve cross-sectoral coordination and the planning and decision-making processes around water. Decision-makers need to consider water's multiple uses and users, the risks to water sources and the hydrological systems within which they lie. However, technical, operational and financial constraints exist, including inadequate data and analytics, limited capacity to pursue water-wise planning, and lack of institutional frameworks for coordination and participation in water-related decisions.

Through the Tana Sub-basin project, WRI will:

  • Enhance data and analytics to help officials at the basin, region and district level understand current and future water risks and better prepare for and manage those risks.
  • Support capacity-building efforts for water- and climate-wise learning, planning and decision-making.
  • Promote on-the-ground interventions in watershed management and water safety that lead to more secure livelihoods and water resilience.
  • Promote coordination among stakeholders, decision-makers, practitioners and other partners in the water resources management and water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) spheres to enhance critical linkages with integrated water resources management.

Through the project, WRI will also promote a more holistic approach to water resources management that considers the underlying drivers of water risk and the protection of landscapes and freshwater sources. Healthy watersheds help sustain a stable, safe supply of water, and should be considered integral to water service delivery systems.

For more information, visit our Water for Sustainable Development in Ethiopia Project Page, or contact Francesca Battistelli and Zablon Adane.