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Life is tough in Borana.  According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), there were over one million recipients of food aid between January and June 2012.  Unicef received $6.5m from OCHA in order to supply this food.  Borana is one of the administrative zones of the Oromia Region, in the southernmost part of Ethiopia.  The region is a victim of climate change.  Droughts have been increasing in frequency, and rainfall patterns have changed.  Rains have been coming for shorter periods of time, but with more intensity.  These changes have strained the ability of the local population to cope using traditional methods.  A more resilient and diverse economy is a way to help the local population achieve long-term food security. 

The changing rainfall patterns have led to increased land degradation and conflict over scarce resources.   The Borana people are pastoralists, and cattle comprise their assets.   Diversifying their livestock, and developing new methods of managing farmland and grazing land are vital for the region’s survival.  Educating the local population about climate change is another important step.  The Borana people have been adapting to the region’s shifting climatic patterns for centuries, but the pace of climate change is accelerating.  This has amplified the effects of drought, and is forcing the region’s people to adapt at a quicker rate.  New livelihood strategies must be adopted quickly.

Local people get water from a network of ancient wells called ‘tula’.  Some of the wells are over 30m deep.  The wells tap into the region’s groundwater, and they have traditionally continued to supply water during dry seasons and droughts.  They are known as ‘singing wells’ because of the singing human chains which bring the water to the surface.  But droughts over the past few years have caused some of the wells to run dry for the first time.  Helping villages re-dig and reinforce traditional ‘tula’ wells is a short-term strategy, but in the long-term, a more diverse economy is seen as the key to the region’s food-security.

The United Nations has identified resilience-building projects as the key to establishing long-term food security in the region.  Resilience projects are necessary in order to lessen the vulnerability of the region’s population to natural disasters and the chronic food shortages which accompany them.  Resilience projects ensure that people and livestock maintain access to water during droughts.  One strategy adopted by the Cafod/Sciaf/Trocaire Joint Ethiopia Office is helping villages clear silt from their water sources.  But a longer-term strategy for building resilience is diversifying the local economy.  By helping the pastoralist communities diversify their livelihoods and access markets and credit, family incomes will increase.

Diversifying livelihoods in the Borana region requires developing the economy’s value-chain.  At the moment, cattle are sold at local markets to businesspeople who take them away for fattening.  After the cattle are fattened in another part of Ethiopia, they are sold for consumption on either domestic or international markets.  Teaching Borana herdsmen about the advantages of fattening their cattle locally and then selling them directly to exporters will help the local people to increase their incomes.  The same process applies to the other two value-chains in the area:  the milk value-chain and the non-timer forest products value chain.  There is potential to diversify the Borana region’s economy by developing the skills of local people to produce goods which are further down the value-chain instead of simply supplying raw products to tertiary industries. 

Diversifying the region’s economy and producing goods which are further down the value-chain requires access to capital.  There are many Savings and Credit Cooperative Organisations (SACCOs) in the Borana region, but membership is low.  SACCOs are a way to promote savings in the community.  Savings can be used not only as a means to get through droughts, but also as a way to expand economic activities.  Cafod/Sciaf/Trociare conducted two sensitisation sessions at SACCO offices to increase awareness of cooperative membership criteria and opportunities.  Raised awareness will increase SACCO membership and provide access to credit for the local community.  SACCOs support members to improve product processing, and increase product value.  They also strengthen their market presence through organization and networking, and develop the skills necessary for developing businesses and planning for sustainability.  Community access to appropriate rural financial services will boost small business growth and contribute to local economic development.

Three of CST-JEP’s local partners:  Action for Development, SOS Sahel Ethiopia and Gayo Pastoral Development Initiative (GPDI) will contribute to the establishment of new SACCOs.  GPDI will establish six new SACCOs and support three existing processing and marketing cooperatives (PMCs) focusing on livestock production and marketing.  This effort will raise SACCO membership to more than 11 000 people, 83% of which will be female.  Leaders from the newly established six SACCOs will be given training in organisation and leadership to enable them to fulfil their duties.  GPDI will work with three existing processing and marketing cooperatives focusing on livestock, and will work with these groups on adding value to their livestock through fattening.

Resilience-building projects will allow the Borana region’s population to more effectively get through droughts.  Diversifying the economy and producing goods higher up the value-chain will enable the people there to weather the harsh climatic challenges.

The question of whether international development programmes should aim to strengthen civil society is a tricky one to answer in Ethiopia.  Organisations are allowed to engage in civil society strengthening activities as long as they raise the funds for their organisations from domestic sources.  This limits the ability of foreign governments to influence these policy spheres.  After all, what sovereign country wants to have foreign values imposed on it?  The flipside is that if civil society is ignored by the government, no local efforts to strengthen it may take place at all, and civil society may decay. 

Another important issue regarding development programmes is whether non-governmental organisations should be compelled to limit the percentage of their budgets spent on administrative costs.  Limiting administrative expenditures means that Ngos cannot fill their offices with redundant staff being paid good salaries.  But what constitutes administration?  Is the cost of a teacher conducting a workshop on learner-centred pedagogy considered administrative?  Interpreting ‘administrative’ to mean anything that is not tangible has the potential to limit efforts to improve Ethiopian civil society.

The second phase of the CAFOD/SCIAF/TROCAIRE Joint Ethiopia Office (CST–JEP) Civil Society Programme was initiated in October 2009, and targeted ten Civil Society Organisations. The goal of the programme was to promote the effective representation of Ethiopian citizens through active participation and engagement in civil society networks.  In turn, the programme aimed to facilitate dialogue with government in formulating policy.  CST-JEP intended to achieve this by building capacity within the ten partner organizations.  This three year programme was aimed at institutionalising accountability and transparency in the ten targeted organisations, promoting linkages among them, harmonising and coordinating their national and regional networks, and developing constructive and sustainable relations with government.

One of the major challenges of governance in Ethiopia is achieving downward accountability, with authorities and institutions held accountable to citizens and communities, rather than simply towing the party line.  Institutionalised downward accountability will ensure a more effective and transparent local government that is responsive to citizens.  Civil society organizations should be catalysts in empowering communities and proactively engaging all levels of government.  The cumulative effect of this will be a more inclusive, participatory and sustainable development process.  Yet Civil Society Organisations have difficulty making progress in their efforts on this front due to a relatively recent governmental proclamation which has altered the regulatory environment in which they operate.

The Charities and Societies Proclamation (CSP) enacted by the Government of Ethiopia in early 2009 has created a fundamental change in the legal and institutional setup for operating Civil Society Organisations, by classifying them into categories based on their source of funding, and by limiting their activities based on those funding sources.  The goal of the proclamation is to limit the influence of foreign-funded agencies and to empower locally-funded ones. The proclamation established the Charities and Societies Agency (ChSA) and granted the institution wide-ranging discretionary powers governing the activities of Civil Society Organisations.  Uncertainty surrounding the status of foreign-funded institutions has been compounded as regional governments work to adapt their regulatory policies to match the demands of the CSP.

Foreign assistance in fields such as drought recovery and sustainable livelihoods are welcome, but Article 2 of the Proclamation has identified several “no-go areas” for organisations that receive more than 10% of their funding from foreign sources.  The list of prohibited areas includes a broad range of issues: human rights, justice and women’s rights. For Civil Society Organisations to engage in activities related to these areas, they need to register as an Ethiopian Society or Charity, and raise at least 90% of their operating budget from Ethiopian sources.  This entrenches the sovereignty of the Ethiopian government in formulating policy within these areas.  It also means that Civil Society Organisations registered with the Charities and Societies Agency that receive more than 10% of their budget from international sources are barred from engaging in activities promoting human rights, justice, and women’s rights.

Facilitating trust building and positively communicating with all levels of government are the keys to strengthening Ethiopian civil society. Civil Society Organisations need to cultivate constructive engagement with the government and learn how to creatively link advocacy and policy dialogue with service delivery interventions implemented at the local level.  The support should focus on internal governance; constituency building; local fund raising and income generation; evidence-based research; and practical skills on lobbying and policy dialogue.  Only this way can long–term sustainability be ensured and Ethiopian civil society’s dependency on foreign funding be reduced.

Round one in the world of proposal writing was inspired by the desire to continue the work funded in the Afar Region by the Guernsey Overseas Aid Committee (GOAC).  GOAC provided the funding necessary to build girls’ toilets at two Asaita elementary schools, and also to improve the library facilities at those schools.  In order to continue this work during the coming school year, I applied for a grant from the Alberta Community Initiatives Program.  My proposal was for a $5000 grant, which will be enough for building a girls’ toilet and improving the library facilities at another school.  I figured that since it was the first time putting together something like this, that I would start small and ‘learn the ropes’.

Round two of proposal writing has come at CAFOD/SCIAF/Trocaire.  The proposal is for project matching funds, as Britain’s Department for International Development (DFID) has agreed to match any money raised privately by CAFOD.  This time the budget is $500 000, and though the stakes feel substantially higher, I do have scaffolding because I am working off of a concept note for the project developed by the Sustainable Livelihoods team, and an itemized budget and action plan that have been prepared by the implementing partner organisation, the Oromo Self-Reliance Organisation (OSRA).

The problem addressed by the project is the lack of potable water in Oromia National Regional State, South West Shewa Zone, in the Wolisso and Goro districts by tapping clean ground water by digging new wells, building sanitation facilities, and educating schoolchildren about the importance of clean water and sanitation. Water supply and sanitation coverage in the districts is low and the majority of the people rely on surface water such as small streams and unprotected traditional hand dug wells, which are not potable, to get water for human and livestock consumption.  Essentially, people are drinking untreated water and exposing themselves to water-borne diseases.  Women and children are normally responsible for fetching water and are the most affected by the lack of water infrastructure. They have to travel long distances to fetch unpotable water for household consumption.  

Many people in the targeted districts must take showers and wash their clothes in the same sources of water from which they take their drinking water.  Until recently, most households in the area did not have either private or communal latrines, and open field defecation is still being practiced in the target area. There is a lot of work to be done on appropriate use and management of the latrines, as well as personal and environmental hygiene and sanitation.  Behavioural changes in the community are required.

Most schools in the district do not have any access to a water supply. Some rely on unprotected traditional hand dug wells and rivers for water.  Due to the lack of school water supplies, students have to look for water from the surrounding area when they get thirsty, exposing them to water borne diseases. Appropriate sanitation facilities and hand washing facilities are nonexistent in most schools. If water supply and sanitation facilities can be made available in the schools, they will be able to act as models and influence their communities through outreach activities. Through their students, schools are in touch with a large proportion of the households in the community. The provision of clean water and appropriate sanitation facilities will create an environment that is conducive to learning and teaching. If a healthy environment is created and good hygiene prevails in schools, it will lead to the development of healthy, productive and responsible citizens.

This proposal aims to tackle the problem by establishing Water and Sanitation Committees (WATSAN) which will be responsible for the overall management, operation and maintenance of the facilities. The village level WATSAN committee is responsible for the management and operation of the supply schemes.  Technicians will perform minor maintenance activities for the schemes. Support will be given to WATSAN committees to generate financial resources from community contributions. In addition, creating linkages between the WATSAN committees and water technicians from the district water office will provide continuous technical support on a sustainable basis. The project also aims to select and train hygiene educators for each water point. The educators will be community role models on sanitation and hygiene issues. The project envisages enhancing community participation and involvement in planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation in the project cycle. This will help in the empowering of the community and enhance their ownership of the project at village level, and allow the changes brought about by the project to continue after the lifespan of the project.  This three year project is being undertaken by OSRA as part of their five year strategic plan to improve access to potable water in the Oromo Region.

CAFOD has a strong relationship with the Oromo Self Reliance Association (OSRA).  OSRA has built good reputation by implementing development interventions around similar community and school based water supply and sanitation projects in various districts in Oromia.  This experience has been put to use in developing this project, and the accumulated experience and competence of OSRA will be used to achieve this project’s the intended objectives.

It is envisioned that the community and schools that are mobilizing resources and assisting in the project’s implementation will be empowered to make a positive change in their community.  They will be responsible for setting up the operation and maintenance of the water and sanitation facilities.  The project will be implemented with the active participation of relevant stakeholders from the district water, education, and health offices.

The alignment of this project with CAFOD’s priorities is evidence of why CAFOD should be involved in the effort to improve access to potable water in Ethiopia’s Oromo Region:

Increasing power and influence in local communities – Supporting this work will increase the power and influence in a vulnerable community in Ethiopia’s Oromo Region.  The targeted communities are among Ethiopia’s most disadvantaged, and the Oromo Self Reliance Association will be able to influence the systems, decisions and resources regarding the management of potable water.

Promoting sustainable development – building potable water infrastructure will allow members of a disadvantaged community to access the resources they need to live sustainably, and with dignity.

Achieving peace, security and recovery – accessing potable water will equip the target communities with the resources they need to minimise, survive and recover from the impact of drought.

This project will assist stakeholders to learn about ways to develop and provide access to clean water sources.  Schools will learn about effective methods for improving hygiene and sanitation through the provision of child and gender sensitive latrines, along with hand washing facilities and hygiene education.  This learning will be transferred to local communities as they improve hygiene and sanitation practices and conditions in target community households. 

Working to improve water and sanitation facilities and empowering local communities to take over their management is one of CAFOD’s objectives in Ethiopia.  Projects such as this one are made possible through the Lenten fundraising that takes place in Catholic communities around the world, such as Project Compassion, which takes place every year in Australian Catholic schools.

The CAFOD/SCIAF/Trocaire Joint Ethiopia Office works in partnership with local non-governmental organisations (NGOs).  Some of these NGOs are large, while others are very small.  The Borana Pastoralist Girls’ Education Association is a small one, but it deserves to have its voice heard.

The Borana region is in southern Ethiopia near the Kenyan border, and it has been in the news over the last couple weeks because of a simmering ethnic conflict between the local population and settlers from Ethiopia’s Somali region.  Somali people have been displaced by the ongoing fighting in Ethiopia’s there, and have sought a new life in the Borana region.  The people of Moyale, Borana are resentful of having to give up valuable grazing land for their livestock to the newcomers, and this has led to violent disputes.  Last week, the Federal Police were brought in to calm the situation, but it remains tense and off limits to travel.  The Borana lifestyle was difficult without the added violence. 

The pastoralist lifestyle of the Borana region is fraught with challenges:  inconsistent rainfall patterns and drought, fluctuating prices of commodities, and lack of value chain infrastructure.  These struggles leave most of the region’s people eking out a living with subsistence farming. Like other Ethiopian communities, the Borana pastoralists are victims of poverty, HIV/AIDS and other chronic diseases.  Despite the Ethiopian government’s prioritisation of remote regions such as Borana, the effort made so far in supporting pastoralist girls’ education is inadequate.  Marginalised sections of the population face the additional challenge of having to survive in the region without the traditional support of family.  Orphaned pastoralist girls in the Borana lowlands must the region’s harsh challenges on their own. 

Pastoralist girls in Ethiopia’s Borana region have a low rate of education enrolment.  In order to complete school, these girls must not only pay for tuition and medical care, but must also find a way to live within a reasonable proximity of the school.  If marginalised female students do not have extended family living in a town, there is little opportunity for them to attend school.  The caregivers and extended families of girls in the Borana region usually lack the resources to pay for education beyond the primary level, and this limits the opportunities these girls have to break out of a cycle of poverty.  There is low awareness of this problem within the community, at least partly because most community members are already affected by economic problems of their own.  A substantial number of households are eating two or fewer meals per day.  As a result, marginalised females in the region are highly likely to drop out of school.  Education is the only way for Borana’s pastoralist girls to break out of this cycle of poverty.  A top priority for the Borana Pastoralist Girls’ Education Association is to re-enroll girls who have dropped out of school for financial reasons. 

The Borana Pastoralist Girls Education Association (BPGEA) aims to tackle the challenges faced by pastoralist girls in graduating from secondary school.  The BPGEA aims to promote pastoralist girls education in rural Borana, provide access to education in the region for marginalised girls, and to protect them from exploitative labour.  The BPGEA plans to expand its support by providing lodging and bedding for pastoralist girls attending secondary school, and it is doing so with the assistance of a small grant provided by the CAFOD/SCIAF/Trocaire Joint Ethiopia Office for the purchase of beds and linen.

The BPGEA is a relatively new organisation, and was formed in 2011.  It has been certified by the federal government’s Charities and Services Association. The initial project aim for the BPGEA is to assist fifteen marginalised girls from remote areas whose families cannot afford to pay for school.  In some cases this marginalisation has come about because the girl is orphaned, but girls whose caregivers suffer from a disability or who live in abject poverty also qualify for support.  The BPGEA has plans to expand its services after the initial fifteen students graduate, and it hopes to continue supporting the girls’ post-secondary educations, so that they may graduate to better lives.

CAFOD/SCIAF/Trocaire Joint Ethiopia Office Trade team summary brochure:

Here is a summary brochure for the Sustainable Livelihoods team at the CAFOD/SCIAF/Trocaire – Joint Ethiopia Office: