Cistern excavated by a women’s group- Borana, Ethiopia
Although East Africa as a whole is a region with significant poverty and stress, many populations are particularly vulnerable for a variety of compounding socioeconomic and political factors and because of their distance from the countries’ capitals and the harsh physical environments they inhabit.
GWI in East Africa is targeting these groups, which include pastoralists, agro-pastoralists, sedentary agriculturalists and internally displaced persons in Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. Pastoralists in East Africa are especially vulnerable, their livelihoods and lifestyle threatened by water sources that are becoming increasingly scarce due to encroachment and appropriation of resources; environmental degradation and climate change; population growth; and social, political and changes both within their communities and the wider areas within which they live. Pastoralists’ traditional methods for managing water use are eroding beneath these pressures. One result is the deterioration of water sources and another is reduced herd mobility.
In an effort to address the water needs of these less mobile herds and pastoralists, many international nongovernmental organizations have raced in to construct new boreholes or water points in ways that have exacerbated environmental degradation and increased interethnic conflict. This is because the wider context of pastoral livelihoods and competition for resources among pastoralists, and between pastoral, agricultural and urban communities has not been understood and taken into account.
Women collecting water from a rehabilitated water point – Garissa, Kenya
Despite the importance of addressing the resource and livelihood challenges that pastoralists face, governments, donors and development agencies chronically overlook this vulnerable population, in part because of the low economic potential of pastoralist areas and in part because development actors lack experience and understanding of pastoralist communities.
Action Against Hunger (AAH), CARE, Catholic Relief Services (CRS), the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and Oxfam America have formed a formal partnership for the collaborative design, development and implementation of the Global Water Initiative within targeted areas of the four countries. The initiative developed for East Africa is referred to as Running Dry – Empowering Poor People to Manage Water in Arid and Semi-Arid Lands.
Running Dry encourages a people-centered and consensus-building approach in promoting holistic solutions for addressing water resource management challenges, namely using the IWRM approach.1 The vision of success is that impoverished populations in dry and semiarid target areas will be able to transform their environments through improved health, food security and livelihoods. This will be achieved through a focus on good governance, sustainable multiple uses of water and risk management regarding water-related shocks.
During the planning phase, partners agreed that the best approach was to concentrate efforts on specific, defined administrative or geographic zones to achieve sustainable change and test the boundaries of effective development. They aimed very high—for 100 percent safe and sustainable water access and total sanitation coverage in project zones—while radically improving the environmental and livelihood context of those areas. This approach helps ensure that project benefits are not concentrated among the most powerful people in a given area and allows us to approach water resource development within the context of a holistic watershed and livelihood zone.
Inadequate water source/water collection – Lira, Uganda
Key results of the first two years of implementation include (a) revitalized and empowered community organizational structures, (b) improved gender balance on water user associations and other community groups, (c) reduced time/labor dedicated toward water collection, (d) rising demand for sanitation services, (e) greater focus on capacity building and risk management strategic objectives (including climate change vulnerabilities) and (f) increased leveraging of resources to support GWI/Running Dry interventions.
In addition, GWI partners have led a wide range of coordination and networking activities with local stakeholders and community members to (a) more effectively manage water-related resources, (b) be more inclusive of local public opinion (specifically marginalized groups) in community-based decision making and (c) mitigate and/or successfully manage water
1 IWRM uses a watershed as a focal point for bringing together the various water users from both public and private sectors, whose interests in water are multiple, divergent and sometimes competing. The expectation is that participatory, deliberate and well-informed planning and decisionmaking concerning the water resource will lead to equitable and sustainable use.