Green Climate Fund invests in increased resilience for rural communities in rural Ethiopia

3 May 2024 by The Water Diplomat

Ethiopia Climate resilience project

The Green Climate Fund is currently entering the final phases of a project to increase the drought resilience of rural communities in Ethiopia who are facing risks in their water supplies and their livelihoods.  The project, which is valued at U.S. $ 50 million with a life span of five years, is intended to reach 1.3 million beneficiaries, both through improved water supply for potable water & irrigation, and management systems and by investing in the rehabilitation of degraded ecosystems in the vicinity of water sources. 

Ethiopia is a country which has high levels of climate related risk: 60% of the country consists of dryland areas which are experiencing increasingly unpredictable rainfall patterns, whereas a large proportion of the rural population is dependent on rainfed agriculture. A historic drought in 2015  threatened 10% of the country’s population and since the droughts that started in 2022, humanitarian needs are 40% higher than the previous drought period.

Climate projections for the country show high levels of uncertainty, and it has been estimated that droughts alone can reduce total gross domestic product (GDP) by 1% to 4%, while the effects of environmental degradation such as soil erosion can reduce agricultural GDP by 2% to 3%. Without strong adaptation measures, climate change-induced impacts are projected to result in a loss of GDP for the country.

In response, the project has been designed in line with Ethiopia’s Nationally Determined Contribution - the country’s climate action plan to cut emissions and adapt to climate impacts. The main objective of the project is to increase the resilience of the targeted rural communities to the adverse impacts of climate change by introducing new approaches to water supply and management systems which will increase the productive capacity of the community as well as the carrying capacity of the water ecosystems. Before the project began, in the target area, only 27% of the population had access to improved water sources and 43% of the population relied on unsafe water sources. In addition, only a small minority of households practice irrigation agriculture.

In the field of water supplies, the project involves the introduction of solar powered groundwater pumps, groundwater monitoring systems, boreholes and small-scale irrigation schemes. To supplement this, in the area of catchment area conservation, upstream soil and water conservation structures and watershed protection is taking place through the construction of bunds, trenches, terraces and the planting of trees. This controls runoff water during rainfall events, reducing erosion and increasing the infiltration of water into the soil which increases the ground water balance as well as improving soil fertility. In parallel, the establishment and legalization of watershed management cooperatives is underway to ensure the sustainable management and operation of the project infrastructure as well as the restored landscapes.

The project is designed to have a direct impact on 330,000 people across 73,000 households, by providing year-round access to reliable and safe water supply. In addition, the project aims to improve food security for 990,000 people indirectly through landscape protection measures that will replant trees on 5,000 hectares of land within a broader programme to rehabilitate 7,850 hectares of degraded land. Activities are to be implemented across 22 districts (Woreda’s) which have been preselected on the basis of a national disaster risk profiling census that was implemented throughout Ethiopia. Across the districts there is a total of 66 villages (Kebeles) in which village committees are active on behalf of the project. The project will focus on women and in particular female heads of households (30% of the households in the region are female headed) to increase their resilience and unleash their untapped potential as key stakeholders and community leaders in their own right.

The project is currently in a phase whereby tangible results are being achieved, including the provision of clean potable water through deep well drilling, spring development, hand dug wells and shallow wells with solar powered pump systems for the targeted communities. Given that the project main objective is supporting resilient livelihoods in the face of the adverse impacts of climate change, these activities contribute significantly to Ethiopia’s Climate Resilient Green Economy Strategy as well as its Long Term Low Emission Development Strategy .

Mr. Mikyas Sime from Ethiopia’s Ministry of Finance stated that “The project's emphasis on women, particularly female heads of households, recognizes their untapped potential as key stakeholders and community leaders. This is crucial in building resilient and sustainable communities. Communities across Ethiopia are gaining access to reliable and safe water supply, and food security is being improved for nearly a million people. These results contribute to Ethiopia's Climate Resilient Green Economy Strategy and Long-Term Low Emission Development Strategy. The project promotes climate smart small scale irrigation approach which capable the impacts of climate change, and enhancement of production & productivity. As the agriculture sector contributes around 35% of the country’s GDP, the project is a major milestone to shift the rain fed agriculture practice to climate smart agriculture approach.”