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The Impact Initiative has closed. This website has now been archived and will no longer be updated.

Water-security in Ethiopia and the emotional response of pastoralists (WEEP)

Research Partners:

Photo: Pastoralists in the Afar Region, Ethiopia. Photo credit: © WEEP, Cranfield University.
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Principal Investigator: Paul Hutchings. Lead Organisation: Cranfield University.
Co-Investigators: Barbara C. Van Koppen (International Water Management Institute IWMI); Alison Parker (Cranfield University); Bethel Gebremedhin (International Rescue Committee, IRC)

Pastoralists are farmers who raise livestock, and move their herds in search of fresh pasture and water supplies. There are 12 million in Ethiopia and they are often in extreme poverty. Unfortunately the pastures they use are disputed and they often come into conflict with other land users. The changing climate is altering resource availability and this can make the conflicts worse. The government is trying to persuade them to diversify their farming activities and grow arable crops as well. This can restrict their access to water resources, increasing their water insecurity.

Conventional water access data focusses on water for domestic uses, rather than water for livestock. It also enumerates the water access of an entire household which may not be relevant when some household members are away from home for extended periods with the livestock. It does not seek to understand how people experience their water use, or prioritise it for different uses.

This research will seek to understand the emotional response of pastoralists to this water insecurity. It will compare three types of habitation: those dominated by pastoralists, mixed habitations and those where pastoralists form a minority. Through focus groups and related activities researchers will seek to understand how water use by all groups can be rewarding, stressful or disappointing. These responses will, be used in the second stage of the project to develop an easy-to-administer a survey tool where users are asked to rate their experience regarding water use on a Likert-scale. The results of this will be compared to more conventional indicators, for example those used by the World Health Organisation and UNICEF to monitor progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals.

The findings will be used to influence water policy and practice in Ethiopia. Globally, the research will be used by people who are trying to provide water holistically for both domestic and productive uses.

Further Resources:

The Joint Monitoring Project of the World Health Organisation and UNICEF have been monitoring access to improved water supplies since the start of the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) period, producing country-level data. Whilst providing an essential overview on progress towards the MDGs and now the Sustainable Development Goals, it has been recognised that they are focusing only on domestic water uses and somewhat oversimplified and have been extended to a "water ladder". A related and more realistic "multiple-use ladder" has also been developed for MUS supplies. This research will take that approach a step further by studying how emotional wellbeing relates to water access and holistic water security as experienced by people, especially pastoralists. It will look within the household unit to understand the services experienced by different household members including those away from home tending livestock. As indicators tend to drive water sector strategy, developing improved indicators is the best way to ensure research impact.

Providing water in a holistic way, meeting both domestic and productive needs, has particular benefits for pastoralist communities. Although the Multiple Use Services (MUS) approach considers people's multiple water needs for multi-faceted wellbeing, including healthy livestock, a holistic indicator that integrates water-related wellbeing is still lacking. This research will provide such an indicator and ensure it is embedded within the MUS community.

In Ethiopia, the government perceives pastoralists to be vulnerable to climate change, poverty and conflict and hence is encouraging them to practice agro-pastoralism. However this change to a more settled lifestyle is forcing them to rely on a smaller number of water points which might not have sufficient water for their needs throughout the year. This research can help inform policy on pastoralist livelihoods, not just in Ethiopia but globally.

Primary theme: 
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Project Status: 
Grant Category: 
Research Grant
Fund Start Date: 
September 1st, 2017
Fund End Date: 
March 31st, 2019
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Fund Value: