Bench terraces have guaranteed food security for his family

FarmerFor 15 years, Rajabu Mjingo, 55, owned two acres of land, which lay idle and unproductive. The land is positioned on a slope, which created a harsh environment for farming, and he did not know how to handle this region. He focused his efforts solely on the piece of land immediately surrounding his home – which was relatively flat – to grow maize and beans.

His fortunes changed two years ago, when he was chosen as the farmer from the Same district, Tanzania, and was one of more than 60 champion farmers GWI EA selected to undergo training on how to increase their production and crop yields. The soil and water conservation techniques they learned included mulching, terracing, rainwater harvesting, plant spacing and planting in rows, number of seeds per hole, double digging, minimum tillage and cover cropping. In an area that receives a minimum of 400mm of rainfall a year, retaining soil moisture is key.

Shortly after the training, drought struck Same district. However, with his new found knowledge, Mjingo constructed bench terraces on his steep plot of land and planted maize. A majority of the farmers in his region failed to grow any crops that season, which caused food shortage in their households. They had to find alternative sources of food. Mjingo, on the other hand, harvested 5 bags of maize, each weighing 100kg.

When he saw the benefits of the bench terraces, Mjingo decided to expand his area of cultivation from half an acre to one acre of land. He plans to cover all three and a half acres with terraces by the end of the year. With the terraces done, he concentrated on the agronomy practices of spacing, mulching, composting, planting in rows and minimising the number of seeds per hole. The result: healthy ears of maize.

Rajabu Mjingo1Last year, he planted beans on 5 terraces and reaped 4 tins of 20kg each, he kept one tin for home consumption and sold the rest at Tsh20,000 ($11) each. From this, he earned a total of Tsh60,000 ($33).

“Beans are profitable. My cost of production was kept to a minimum because I used family labour,” says the former Bangalala village chairman.

“It’s the dry season and the ndiva (water dam) is dry. I planted stuka maize variety which is commonly used during the short rains period because it’s relatively drought resistant,” he says, adding, “Although the lack of rains has affected the quality and quantity of yields, there has been a big change because of the practices I applied.”

Further evidence of benefits he’s reaping is found in the fact that Mjingo used to cultivate 5 acres of maize and reap only 3 bags of maize. Today, he’s confident that if he constructed more bench terraces on 2 acres of land, he would get enough food to take him through the year.

There’s no doubt Mjingo will continue practising the techniques he learned. “An NGO that operated in Same provided food in exchange for the amount of work done on the farms, which bred laziness and dependency,” he says, “GWI, on the other hand, provided training on the techniques we could apply to improve our yield. The follow up was very strong and advising was done to limit mistakes. This has strengthened the community. By putting effort and commitment, we have seen the benefits of the terraces,” he adds.

He vows to pass on the knowledge to other farmers until he can no longer do so.

Elizabeth Agiro
GWI EA, Uganda


Ethiopia: development and grandeur astride the Abbay

It’s a chilly Monday morning in Addis Ababa with the sun crawling over the horizon. After a refreshing night and hefty breakfast at one of the many hotels sprinkled all over the city centre, I set off, together with three GWI EA colleagues, on a 500km drive to Bahirdar, home to the beautiful Amhara people and project site of our 63 Champion farmers.

dadOver a period of two and a half years, the Global Water Initiative East Africa programme has successfully supported smallholder farmers in Dera Woreda to improve their agricultural production and realise food security. This has been achieved through farmer trainings, on-farm demonstrations, extension support and provision of irrigation technologies such as water pumps, purchased through farmer cooperatives. irrig Our approach has provided the desired multiplier effect, where the cooperatives purchase more pumps – with money paid by the farmers–and which other farmers hire and eventually purchase. Farmers have been trained to appreciate the importance of managing and using the little water available effectively and efficiently for maximum production through supplementary irrigation, especially during the long dry seasons.

Sandwiched by colleagues in the back seat of our rented Land Cruiser, I rubbed my hands in gleeful anticipation as the excitement of a road trip through the rift valley gorge to Bahirdar, north east of Addis Ababa, enveloped me. Not even the reminder that I was on a working visit or the thought of sitting in a car for over nine hours was going to dampen my spirits.

Driving through the city, I was soon struck by the magnitude of history that the people of this land have preserved over the years. Coming from a country where development translates into multi-billion glass buildings and malls, it was time for my patriotism to take a back seat while I rained down glorious chunks of praise on this fascinating land, adorned with beautiful historical architecture. In the heart of the city, sit the palaces of emperors who ruled these lands decades before. Two that especially caught my eye were the Jubilee Palace, a commemoration of the Silver Jubilee of Emperor Haile Selassie’s coronation, and the National Museum of Ethiopia that houses the fossilised remains of the famous early hominid, Lucy.

As we drove away from the hustle and bustle of the city, the beautiful sights of historical monuments were soon replaced by proof of people still living in absolute poverty and under development. I was quickly sobered up from my state of awe by the sight of women, some as old as 50 years, racing down the roadside doubly bent over under the immense weight of piles of wood on their backs. While I was appalled and saddened by this burden I was witnessing, I quickly learned that this is a source of livelihood and the life these women know. With their images engraved on my mind, it was hard to hitch back on my high horse of excitement. Of course that was until I laid my eyes on the breathtaking Blue Nile Gorge, or “The Grand Canyon of Ethiopia” as Liz, my colleague chose to baptize it. lizLocated on the western margin of the northwestern plateau of the Rift Valley, the gorge comes into view some time after leaving behind Debre Libanos and the thrilling drive down and round mountains and plains, a striking scenery that leaves you holding your breath in anticipation for what you just might see next.

And there, right at the bottom of the gorge was the spectacle of the Blue Nile River – reduced to shallow waters at this time of the year – as it lazily flowed on its way down from Lake Tana, the largest lake in Ethiopia, to meet the White Nile River in Khartoum and flow into Egypt as one Great Nile. Although the Blue Nile, locally known as the Abbay is significantly much shorter than the White Nile, it is interestingly the origin of approximately 80 percent of the water that flows through the Great Nile. It is here that a huge 6,000 mega watt dam, the nile bestlargest in Africa, is being built. Having contributed a set proportion of their incomes, people of Ethiopia – through the purchase of bonds – will co-own this major infrastructure. The government plans to reimburse the people by selling hydropower to neighbouring countries from this grand investment.

As we drive closer to Bahirdar, it is hard not to notice the dramatic shift in the landscape and lifestyle of the peoples on this side of the Abbay, especially the unique richness and tefftraditional vibrancy in the air. The first to catch my discerning eye was how the women and girls here shaved their heads completely and covered them up with head scarves. The soils too looked much drier. For as far as the eye could see, were bare fields, clustered with heaps of freshly harvested tef and wheat built into domes and left to dry. On first sight, one would think these delicately fashioned masses of grass were huts built for accommodation. In a region that receives very little rain and experiences long dry spells, these heaps of food are a comforting reminder that food security may not be a threat to the people here, at least not for months to come.

Seven hours down the road, hungry, with our joints protesting and demanding for a stretch, we stopped for lunch at a restaurant in a town called Saint Michael. A few minutes after placing our orders, a tray of the traditional Ethiopian food –injera, with an assortment of vegetables and meats – gazed invitingly back at us, tempting our long-starved taste buds. One bite into the spicy cuisine and I realised that this dish was on a fast train to becoming my favourite addiction. Each mouth-watering morsel was a enjeramasterpiece waiting to delight my perceptive palates. After the delicious meal, I was presented with a little cup of strong steaming coffee and although the sun was unforgiving and the heat too irreconcilable with a hot drink, I soon learned that under the Ethiopian sky, anytime is chai/coffee time. By the time I had drained my cup, I was left in no doubt that this country could very well be where the fine art of brewing coffee was born.

As the night set in, the feeling of home away from home descended upon me. Having learned and seen so many unforgettable sights that were a perpetual spectacle to my curious eyes and having perfected my “Oh my goodness” mantra of awe, I finally snuggled back into my seat as the beautiful sounds of Madingo Afework flowed from the car radio washing over my spent soul. I was home.

GWI EA team; Matilda, Tesfaye, Elizabeth, Alan and Bethel with some of the Champion Farmers

Matilda Nakawungu
GWI EA, Uganda

More Chances, More Change: Water-Smart Agriculture in East Africa.

“It’s funny”, muses filmmaker Andrew Johnstone of film company Wild Dog, “but its rare to work on an international development project where you can actually see policy changes being actioned as a result of the work that you do”.

Producer/Director Andy Johnstone and reporter William Odinga on assignment near Lira in Northern Uganda.

For the past two years Wild Dog has been working with the Global Water initiative East Africa to deliver a series of media outputs to highlight the work that the Kampala based agency has been working on. “We have produced a series of fours films for GWI EA as part of this media project and the worry is that the important issues that projects like GWI are attempting to highlight through the films we produce will simply fall on deaf ears and be ignored. So when you actually see that some of these fresh ideas are being adopted, it renews your faith in the importance of the work that so many development agencies do and also in the power of documentary film to help deliver these messages”, says Johnstone.

“The water that we need to survive comes in many forms”, says GWI EA Program Director Dr Alan Nicol. “Domestic water supply is most commonly the ‘World Water Day’ focus and global rallying point. Yet a full 70% of all water extracted from the hydrological system is used in agriculture to maintain our food security. Rarely getting the attention it deserves, the Global Water Initiative East Africa has, however, spent the last two years privileging understanding of this key agricultural resource and how best to use it effectively and efficiently in smallholder farming across Ethiopia, Tanzania and Uganda.”

GWI EA has established series of research activities and communications outputs (blogs, films and podcasts) that have helped raise attention and driven forward a new approach to ‘Water-Smart Agriculture’. GWI EA’s groundbreaking work has only been possible because of partnerships with local, national and international stakeholders — including Wild Dog Media.

“As we transition to a new source of funding, we wish to mark World Water Day 2015 by thanking all the champion farmers, local government officials, researchers and research institutions, national ministries and media stakeholders and others who have ridden with us since late 2012″, says Nicol. “The journey has not ended, we are simply changing vehicle. Our recently-launched Sourcebook on Water Smart Agriculture will be showcased at the World Water Forum in Korea on the 14th April and we hope to develop further this important resource as a centerpiece for advocacy and awareness-raising.”

In this new film More Chances, More Change, the Wild Dog production team, including Ugandan Science Journalist reporter William Odinga travelled back to Northern Uganda to see if the prospects of farmers in rural communities had improved. “We were very pleased to find that some of the ideas that GWI EA had been developing are now being enthusiastically adopted by these farming communities and that these ideas and techniques are now being shared within these communities”, says Odinga “and furthermore, we found evidence of government backed projects adopted key Water-Smart Agriculture techniques as well.”

“To see ideas being adopted and projects making progress is really heartening”, says Johnstone. “To think that in some small way our films may be helping to drive these changes by helping persuade policy and decision makers to adopt new practices and invest in change for agriculture is very rewarding.”

The film is now being released to mark World Water Day on 22 March 2015 and is available to view here:

Enjoy the film and please share with your network!

Please continue to visit this site for regular updates and don’t hesitate to join our journey as we progress through 2015.

A Measure of WASH Sustainability

The Howard G. Buffett Foundation supported Global Water Initiative (GWI) has been operating in Ethiopia since October 2007 supporting service delivery to improve water and sanitation at domestic level in the woredas (rural communities) of Miyo, Bora and Dugdain, the Oromia Regional State. The Global Water Initiative (GWI) has been a pioneer in assessing the sustainability of water infrastructure in a holistic way, focusing on various governance aspects including the technical and financial management capacity of the community-based management organisation (usually a water committee), the committee’s transparency and accountability to its user base and the external support it receives.

FIGURE 1: CARE Staff conducting mobile survey
Figure 1: CARE staff conducting mobile survey

Following successful training sessions on the use of mobile phones and tablets in WASH data collection in Uganda, I travelled to Ethiopia in January 2015 to conduct similar trainings with staff from CARE Ethiopia, as well as local district-level government ministries. Prior to the training sessions, I consulted with the CARE Ethiopia country team to modify the Governance into Functionality Tool (GiFT) survey, which is a comprehensive questionnaire that looks at the various social, economic and political contexts that lead to sustainability of WASH infrastructure. We streamlined the survey to capture more quantitative data as well as contextualising it for the Ethiopian setting.

Two training sessions were conducted – one with CARE staff and enumerators in Addis Ababa, and the other with CARE staff and government ministry staff in Bahir Dar. Similar to Uganda, the focus of the training was on the use of the mWater platform to collect and analyze data on water infrastructure implemented through GWI. The CARE staff in Ethiopia were familiar with the use of mobile data collection tools, having used a similar platform through a Millennium Water Alliance (MWA) project. Each session comprised of two days of classroom training followed by a day of piloting the technology at a number of GWI EA water schemes in the field. During the training, participants received a detailed overview of the mWater platform including the process of designing a survey, conducting the GiFT survey, the use and care of Android devices and the analysis of collected data.

Figure 2: Focus group for survey

CARE USA strongly believes that for the ICT tools to be effective, data collected using modern technology must be able to influence local government decision-making, particularly in terms of resource allocation, identifying mechanisms for long-term technical support and private sector regulation. The local government staff from both the Otuke district in Uganda and South Gondar zone of Ethiopia were very eager about the use of mobile tools in data collection, noting that this will make their work significantly cheaper, easier and faster.

Over January 2015, CARE staff and contracted enumerators have collected data from GWI EA’s portfolio of water schemes in Uganda and Ethiopia using the mWater platform. The benefits of using mobile-based surveys was evident after this pilot, with the process being significantly faster and easier compared to conducting paper-based surveys. In the span of two weeks, all 52 water schemes being monitored under GWI EA in Ethiopia were surveyed by enumerators using the mWater platform. The data collection process went smoothly, with only very minor issues reported by the enumerators in the field. Once the data was collected, CARE Ethiopia staff were able to visualise the monitoring data using the mWater portal.

Figure 3: Functionality of water scheme

Of the 52 water schemes surveyed, 29 were not functioning, 7 were functioning with difficulties, while only 16 were functional on the day of the survey as is shown in Figure 3. The primary reasons behind the high rate of non-functionality were cited as poor management of the water scheme and technical problems during construction, as can be seen in Figure 4.

Figure 4: Reasons for non-functionality

After analysing the survey responses on the mWater Portal, it was found out that in communities with a WASH committee in charge of overseeing the water scheme, 44.1% of water schemes were not functioning, while in communities without a WASH committee, 82.4% of schemes were not functioning (see Figure 5).

Figure 5: Functionality with wash committee (left) and without wash committee (right)

Another interesting finding came from the response to the question, “Does the community raise funds for operation and maintenance of water facilities?” In communities that did not raise funds for O&M, 73.3% of water schemes were reported to either have very poor or poor functionality since establishment. On the other hand, in communities that raise funds for either O&M or repairs, 35.1% of water schemes were reported to either have very poor or poor functionality since establishment, as shown in figure 6.

Figure 6: Functionality in communities that do not raise funds (left) and those that do (right)

The overall objective of this study was to undertake governance and scheme functionality assessment that will help identify governance and other factors affecting scheme functionality and to develop a community based, local government supported monitoring strategy to strengthen the governance of WASH services, which supports the sustainability of the water systems established by GWI support in Ethiopia. Armed with ICT-based data collection and analysis tools, GWI EA, CARE as well as the local government are confident of better monitoring the overall sustainability of water service delivery in Ethiopia.

Eng. Rahul Mitra
ICT and Water Sustainability Consultant
CARE International, Atlanta

Launching the National Agriculture Water Management Platform

The agriculture sector remains the backbone of the Ethiopian economy, contributing to 42 percent of the national GDP, 70 percent of export earnings and employing about 80 percent of the population. The sector has shown significant growth in the past decade. Despite this growth, the sector is grappling with serious challenges such as: unreliable rainfall, soil erosion, limited land conservation practices and low agricultural productivity. Improved agricultural water management is a key to addressing these challenges and to sustaining agricultural production and the livelihoods of smallholder farmers, whose production accounts for nearly 90 percent of the sectors’ outputs.

The Ethiopian government and its many development partners, including: NGOs, Donor Agencies and Research Institutions are making commendable efforts to support improved agriculture water management, through financing and implementing a wide range of programmes. At individual programme level there is a huge wealth of learning obtained on what kind of approaches work well and where. Opportunities for cross-learning through sharing this experience at a national level could contribute a lot towards dissemination and uptake of best practices and lessons more widely.

EthThis was partly realised through the Small-Scale Irrigation task force established by the Ministry of Agriculture and development partners in 2011. The taskforce played a role in ensuring harmonization, strengthening alignment and facilitating experience sharing on small scale irrigation issues among stakeholders.

However, Agricultural Water Management issues are more complex and require a more boarder outlook and an integrated approach that could not be addressed with a narrow small scale irrigation thematic focus.

During our recently held National Level Meeting involving various stakeholders, His Excellency, the State Minister of Agriculture, Ato Sileshi Getahun, pointed out: “When we think about irrigation development, we also need to consider the sustainable recharge of the water supply source, whether it is ground or surface water, or spring. We need to think about the sustainability of the source, the broader watershed management and the technologies needed to lift, store and distribute water for irrigation, in an integrated and comprehensive manner.”

These ideas are reflected in the ‘Water Smart Agriculture’ concept promoted by CARE through the Global Water Initiative Programme. The concept proposes that Water Smart Agriculture can be achieved by balancing improvements in rain-fed farming to capture, store and conserve water in the soil profile, on the one hand, and using groundwater and surface flows (blue water) to smooth out fluctuations in freshwater availability on the other hand. It proposes development of water resources at a farm and local community level in order to enhance the ability of farmers to produce more value and achieve greater economic and social development, without compromising the natural environment. This requires integrating improved farming systems and more efficient water management practices with the adoption of innovative and affordable techniques and technologies. It involves the balanced application of a range of agriculture water management measures: adoption of innovative technologies to lift, store and distribute water for irrigation; Soil and Water Conservation measures targeted to reduce runoff and enhance infiltration opportunities to increase soil moisture and recharge of ground water; Drainage of excess water from wetlands and storage for later use; conservation agriculture; improved agronomic practices and soil fertility management.

Given this rationale, the Ministry of Agriculture made a decision to evolve the Small Scale Irrigation task force into a National Multi-Stakeholder Platform with a broader focus on Agricultural Water Management (AWM). It widened the thematic focus of the platform to include soil and water conservation, watershed management and small- scale irrigation issues and brought multi-stakeholders working in these thematic areas to be actively engaged in the platform. The new platform also aims to strengthen linkage with other sectors working on water resources management and development and brought the Ministry of Water, Irrigation and Energy as one key member of the platform. CARE Ethiopia, through its GWI programme, together with other partners, supported the development of the platform by the Ministry.

Key Messages from the Meeting

The platform launching meeting held on January 15 & 16 and, attended by representatives of government ministries – Agriculture, Water, Irrigation and Energy, the Agricultural Transformation Agency, research institutions, donor agencies and NGOs – discussed objectives and working modalities and also became the first avenue to enable sharing of lessons from programme implementation and research on the broader themes of the platform.

Eth3Several presentations were made on national level policy directions on watershed management, soil and water conservation, small scale irrigation and the agriculture sector’s Climate Resilient Green Economy strategy. Corresponding lessons from research and programme implementation were shared.

Participants’ attention was drawn to the crucial issue of ensuring sustainability of the national efforts made on soil and water conservation. Since 2009, Ethiopia has started a coordinated effort to address the challenge of severe land degradation that affects most of its highland areas through the establishment of the Ethiopian Sustainable Land Management Investment Framework (ESLMIF). Several programmes are implemented after the establishment of this fund, with significant results seen in reduction of sedimentation, enhanced water harvesting, improved availability of water for small scale irrigation, improvement in forage production, livelihood, income, asset and food security of households. However, limited maintenance of existing physical infrastructures and continued practice of free grazing are affecting the sustainability of efforts made on soil and water conservation.

Presentations on the Agriculture sector Climate Resilient Green Economy (CRGE) strategy showed the growing climate change challenges in Ethiopia that leave 10 percent of the population affected by chronic food insecurity, relying on food aid in an average rainfall year. Under the strategy, mitigation methods in crop & livestock production are developed. Some programmes such as the Global Climate Change Alliance are showing encouraging results such as the effectiveness of the combined use of climate smart agriculture technologies, soil and water activities with improved agronomic practices (crop rotation, compost, improved varieties) to increase yield.

What’s Next

One of the commendable outcomes of the meeting is the decisive leadership taken by the Ministry to take this Agriculture Water Management platform forward. In the words of the state Minister “the Sector needs scientists, politicians and other development partners to work together identifying real problems of farmers and finding solutions together.” The platform is an opportunity to share research recommendations, best practices and institutional innovations on agriculture and water management. The platform can strengthen the capacity of sector actors to link learning from programme implementation into future programming and policy development. However, realising this goal would require careful planning of next steps, ensuring lessons are properly extracted from what is shared on the platform and laying down the steps on how these lessons will be used to inform future programme and policy development in the sector.


Bethel Terefe
GWI EA, Ethiopia

Making Movies – Journalist William Odinga on filming with farmers from Same, Tanzania

Same, a town in Tanzania’s Kilimanjaro region, sits in a basin on the leeward side of the South Pare Mountains.

Dawn has broken and from the compound of my hotel, Nzoroko, I see sunrays pierce though the mountains, forcing the dark morning mist to fade away rapidly.

I am in Same to find out how farmers are able to produce food in semi arid conditions, where annual rainfall can be as low as 400 millimetres.

With my crew, including James Mbiri, Liz Agiro, Dosteus Lopa, Donath Fungu and Bakari the driver, we set off for the villages.

We arrive at the home of a woman farmer, Rizaeli Samueli, in Mwembe village, a little after 9:00am and as soon as I step out of our air conditioned car the real Same welcomes me.

It is hot, windy and dusty. The land is bare; shrubs, rocks and thorny bushes stretch out as far as the eye can see. Every tree or grass is shrinking.

Hot, Windy & Dusty: Water-Smart Agriculture in the Dry Zone from Andy Johnstone – Wild Dog Ltd on Vimeo.

Farming is an uphill task, but, the population must eat. And so they practice agriculture.

At the moment no crop is growing on Rizaeli’s home farm, which is on a slope. It is too dry. She keeps a few cows which are now eating away at dry maize stocks from the previous harvest. They look unbothered by our presence, neither are they concerned about Rizaeli’s creaking wheelbarrow. It is Rizaeli’s duty, after all, to feed them if she is to get any milk out of them.

During this time Risaeli manages another garden in the adjoining valley, a few metres away from her home. With a bit of irrigation from a small stream, her beans and vegetables are growing very well, a sharp contrast to the trees and grasses uphill.

“It is difficult to farm here because of little rains,” Rizaeli tells us. “But we have been taught to do it better so these days we get good yields.”

Rizaeli is one of 63 farmers in this district that were selected by the Global Water Initiative East Africa (GWI EA) to practice soil and water conservation techniques in order to produce more food with less water.

The techniques include terracing, which reduces run-off and increases water infiltration into the soil, mulching which preserves soil moisture and supplementary irrigation where conditions allow.Same film shoot

GWI EA refers to the application of these techniques as “Water Smart Agriculture” and Rizaeli is a “Champion Farmer,” a farmer from whom others can learn and adopt these techniques.

In the blazing afternoon heat we drive off to see another farmer, Ali Mrindoko, in Bangalala village.

Mrindoko’s garden is one to behold. Using a technique known as stone terracing, where stone embankments are made for every terrace, Mrindoko is able to keep moisture in his garden for far much longer, to the extent that he can even grow sugarcane, a heavy consumer of water.

“We receive very little rain in this area. Building this stone wall terrace is a big task but the benefits are enormous. I get very good yields. My family cannot starve,” Mrindoko tells us.

Mrindoko and Rizaeli are on steep hills but in terms of altitude, they are much lower compared to Vudee, up in the Pares.

Traveling to Vudee is not for the fainthearted. The road, cut through hard rock, is so narrow, the climb too steep and the bends very sharp. Bakari and Fungu, the GWI EA agronomist covering this area, have been doing this route many times so I imagine they are used to it. To me, sometimes it feels like driving at the edge of a cliff.

Initially, people living in these highlands trekked long distances to the lowlands to farm and went back to the highlands to sleep. This they called seasonal farming.

But now, with better farming techniques and practices, they can use very little of land and water to grow so much. They farm near their homes.

With the help of government farming trainers, and programmes such as GWI EA, farmers have learnt techniques and practices such as bench and stone terracing, crop spacing, planting in rows, mulching, minimum tillage and inter cropping.

We find a group of women planting potatoes at a very steep slope, assisted by a government employed trainer, Ibrahim Ndumbalo.

“We are planting potatoes on terraces. This helps to manage soil erosion, controls nutrient loss and increases the soil’s capacity to trap and retain water,” Ndumbalo tells us.

As evening approaches, we start our descent to Same town. A photo shoot in the town, just for fun, caps our 2-day trip here. It has been a wonderful experience especially for me and James, the Wild Dog crew based in Kampala, Uganda.

William Odinga Balikuddembe

Science Journalist

Watch the film here.

Sourcebook Writeshop: Good articles come at a cost

Mobilising participants for the Uganda national writeshop on the sourcebook on Water Smart Agriculture was one of the most challenging experiences. I imagined disorder and confusion in the meeting room as accomplished authors, field level implementers and journalists interacted. I worried about the participants’ perception of added value from the process. Perhaps more terrifying, was the fact that facilitation fees for participants was a paltry sum for five working days! Would they stick it out or would they walk out on the process?Sourcebook

My fears soon dissipated as positive feedback trickled in from the participants who were enthusiastic to be a part of this noble cause. Even the intermittent wifi connectivity and humble hotel in Iganga, in eastern Uganda, did not dampen the mood.

Sixteen of the anticipated 18 participants turned up! On the first day, facilitators explained the purpose and process of the writeshop. Within two hours, everyone was on board and the ball had been set rolling, thanks to my colleague, Liz, for whom engaging people flows naturally. Dr. Onesmus Semalulu started the team off with the first presentation and for 10 minutes, you could have tried, unsuccessfully, to distract anyone. Everyone was attentive and focused on the presentation. The discussions thereafter were a storm! The rich diversity of perspectives was motivating, the openness of every one encouraging and, most importantly, the positive outlook of the writers to improve their pieces was not only humbling, but also rewarding. While I convinced myself that this was so because of day one, I was deceived, the team maintained their energy levels throughout; by the end of the second day we were begging them to break off for tea or food and this went on until the last day. Never before had I worked with a team so dedicated. It was a huge learning experience for me.

The power of the ‘second eye’ was so strong and well meaning. Each one of us will remember this lesson. Articles were transformed, field level experiences profiled to a level that anyone can relate with, scholarly work balanced and toned downSourcebook1 for the public’s consumption and finally the prize achieved, nine articles produced by the Uganda team. All said and done, each one of us went home different, with broadened perspectives, new friends and definitely better writing skills.
Some participants shared their thoughts on the process.

Eriah Byaruhanga, a staff from Joint Efforts to Save the Environment, said, “I’m impressed with the level of organisation and planning. I have learnt that organisations can produce better products using the writeshop approach. I will encourage my colleagues at office to adopt the approach when writing annual reports.”
Dr. Basil Mugonola, a lecturer at Gulu University noted, “This is a great opportunity for me; my paper was previously produced in a journal in Europe, now it is being repackaged for home consumption. I’m glad to have been part of this process.”

Juliet Katusiime, from Ecological Christian Organisation said, “It is very difficult to self critic; it is easier to see mistakes in other people’s work. This process has enabled me appreciate the importance of the ‘other eye’, I’m more analytical and it has been an experience worth the time.”

Henry Kaweesi said: “Good articles come at a cost; the other eye has been the most important lesson for me.”

Violet Alinda,
GWI EA, Uganda

Integrating Technology in WASH monitoring

Over the past two decades, the global water sector has made great strides in reducing the number of people without access to safe drinking water and sanitation infrastructure. However, the challenge remains in maintaining implemented infrastructure and sustaining water, sanitation and health (WASH) service delivery. Numerous studies have indicated failure rates of between a quarter and a third of all water points installed in Sub-Saharan Africa, with abandonment occurring only after a few years of operation.

The Global Water Initiative East Africa (GWI) has been a pioneer in assessing the sustainability of water infrastructure in a holistic way, focusing on various governance aspects including the technical and financial management capacity of the community-based management organisation (usually a water committee), the committee’s transparency and accountability to its user base and the external support it receives. Crucial to GWI EA’s evidence and research-based approach has been the development of the Governance into Functionality Tool (GiFT), which is a questionnaire that looks into the aforementioned metrics among others. In 2013, the GiFT survey was conducted in 219 schemes (151 schemes in Uganda, 57 schemes in Ethiopia, and 11 schemes in Tanzania), representing a diverse array of scheme types. This year, CARE International is piloting novel technology-based tools in applying the GiFT tool and harnessing the power of mobile technology in improving the overall monitoring of WASH infrastructure.

mWater Training in Otuke UgandaOver the past week, I have conducted a training session on the use of mobile phones and tablets in administering the GiFT tool in Uganda, attended by GWI EA staff and members of the district-level government ministry in Otuke district in northern Uganda. The participants were trained on the use of mWater, an android-based tool for collecting and visualising WASH infrastructure data. This tool allows the GiFT survey to be conducted using a mobile device, and for the collected data to be analysed in real-time. The session comprised of two days of classroom training followed by a day of piloting the technology at a number of GWI EA water schemes in Otuke. During the training, the participants received a detailed overview of the mWater platform including the process of designing a survey, conducting the GiFT survey, the use and care of Android devices and the analysis of collected data.

Currently, monitoring and functionality data in the GWI partner countries is primarily collected through one-off paper-based surveys that are costly to administer regularly and introduce numerous opportunities for error along the data collection process. Once collected and analysed for immediate reporting purposes, data too often remains largely inaccessible on organisational servers, in dusty reports, and in proprietary monitoring systems of donor-funded projects. During MWATERthe training, it was noted that the use of mobile tools can provide an alternative to this inefficient use of data in a sector with scarce monitoring resources, while enabling the local government and civil society organisations the opportunity to track the long-term dynamics of water point functionality.

The participation of staff from the district-level government ministries was greatly appreciated and added a new dimension to the training. CARE feels strongly that the most important end-users of any Information and Communication Technology (ICT) based platform are district level government officials in the countries of operation. For the ICT tools to be effective, data collected using modern technology must be able to influence local government decision-making, particularly in terms of resource allocation, identifying mechanisms for long-term technical support and private sector regulation. The Otuke district local government staff were very eager about the use of mobile tools in data collection, noting that this will make their work significantly cheaper, easier and faster. Following the classroom section of the training, they themselves adapted the existing Ugandan Ministry of Water & Environment’s data collection form for point water sources into a mWater survey, which was then tested at several GWI EA water points during the field activity on the last day of training.

mwater3The field activity provided an opportunity for the technology to be piloted in five communities under GWI. The benefits of using mobile-based surveys was evident after this trial, with the process being significantly faster and easier compared to conducting paper-based surveys. Using the Android tablets and smart phones, the surveyors were also able to collect geo-referenced data as well as pictures of the water infrastructure. Moreover, this exercise generated crucial feedback regarding the GiFT survey and the mWater app. Over the next couple of weeks, the GiFT survey will be modified accordingly, and then translated to local languages in GWI EA’s area of operation, including Lango (Uganda) and Oromiffa (Ethiopia). This training will also be conducted in Addis Ababa and Bahir Dar in Ethiopia. Following these training sessions, the next round of data collection across GWI EA’s portfolio of water schemes in Uganda and Ethiopia will be conducted using the mWater platform.

The use of mobile technology will enable the collected data to be analysed in real-time through water functionality maps. In the future, CARE hopes to integrate this data into an online dashboard which will be highly customizable, allowing users the ability to analyse functionality of individual water systems, governance structures that lead to sustainable water services, as well as patterns and trends useful for resource allocation.

Data collection in OtukeCARE also plans to pilot a SMS-based service which will allow rural water committees or individual users to report information regarding the functionality of their water point. SMS messages can be sent at minimal cost using the most basic, inexpensive mobile phones. Harnessing SMS reporting will allow community-based WASH committees or individuals to relay data about the functionality of their water infrastructure proactively to the local government official or private sector service provider responsible for maintenance and repair. Once an issue has been flagged, the relevant service providers, including the district-level government and the private sector operators linked to the systems will be alerted. This service will address issues of information asymmetry between key stakeholders, and is expected to lead to faster and more reliable responses to breakdowns.

The GWI EA and CARE team is confident that integrating technology in WASH monitoring will improve the overall sustainability of water service delivery.


Eng. Rahul Mitra
ICT and Water Sustainability Consultant
CARE International, Atlanta

Big Principles need Big Ideas…

I recently attended a meeting of the OECD Water Governance Initiative (WGI) in Paris10372160_334224123429517_661648545880508405_n (see The objectives of the WGI are broad and include: advising governments on reforms through policy dialogue, providing a technical platform for dialogue and knowledge sharing and a mechanism to raise governance issues in global circles, supporting governance targets from 6th to 7th World Water Forum, and last but most importantly, to help prepare OECD Principles on Water Governance. My major task was to bring a GWI perspective to the latter, in particular as these principles are likely in future to have weight within government and donor circles.

My immediate concern was to bring a perspective from our agricultural focus and, in particular, our work on empowering smallholder farmers. However, as I absorbed the discussions a number of wider issues and challenges also become apparent. First, I emphasized when invited to do so the need to understand more fully power structures and politics that shape and craft resource governance. At present, their approach seemed somewhat ‘power blind’, and I suggested a need to consider a ‘good water politics’ as well as water governance. What, in short, are the political economy drivers of change that shape the rights, duties and obligations surrounding water governance. Second, I emphasized that there is s need for a specific focus on and/or engagement in agricultural water –it is not ‘just another sector’, but provides for 70% of global withdrawals. As a result, it is really part of ‘everyone’s water governance’ and will increasingly become so in future years. Finally, I stressed that there were some curious omissions in the principles, including lack of reference to water security and ‘nexus debates’ on water-food-energy relationships. In that sense, the principles seemed a little stuck in the past.

Anyway, it is difficult to say whether any results were achieved by my inputs, though it seemed that some of my comments were at least registered by those at OECD leading the process. I also used the opportunity to meet with interesting constituencies of interest (in agriculture) from a number of countries and institutions, including the Asian Development Bank and the Union for the Mediterranean. Suffice to say, that there’s a strong constituency of support out there for privileging the position of farmers and those working within them in such debates. So, roll on the next World Water Forum in Korea (see and farmers, please make your presence felt. You’re the key to future water governance at local, national, regional and global scales!

Dr. Alan Nicol
GWI EA, Uganda