Published in October 2023

In southern Ethiopia, persistent cycles of drought and extreme weather have taken their toll on local people’s livelihoods, leading to extreme poverty for thousands. Speaking with a member of the Mukecha community, we learn how building a sand dam has helped them to rebuild their livelihoods and equipped them for the future.

Emnet Adamu, 28, is a mother of three who comes from the Bena Tsemay Woreda (district) of southern Ethiopia. In Mukecha Kebele (sub-district), where Emnet lives with her husband and children, most households depend on livestock and vegetable farming for their livelihoods. She explains that this life was very tough for her community as recurrent droughts would regularly cause the death of their livestock, due to the food and water shortages they create.

As well as losing their livestock assets, local people also struggled to produce enough crops on their farms due to the unreliable nature of rainfall in the area. Long periods of hard work on the farm might only produce a small harvest, placing greater strain on the community’s dwindling resources. As the effects of climate change exacerbated droughts and water shortages even further, local people’s livelihoods continued to suffer.

It was amidst these challenges that the community began a sand dam project alongside Action For Development (AFD) and Sand Dams Worldwide (SDW), with funding from Jersey Overseas Aid, Isle of Man Government and the Beatrice Laing Trust, to address these issues and reduce the poverty they were causing for local people. 

Emnet recalled some of the difficulties the community had been facing, "Before this project, fetching water was a daily challenge. Recurring droughts caused a shortage of water and food to the point where we would worry each day about having enough food for tomorrow."

Despite these past issues, Emnet notes how things have changed since the sand dam's construction, "Now we have a sand dam, which has allowed us to access clean water for household consumption and growing vegetables, both for our own consumption and to sell at the market as well."

Emnet explains that at the start of the project, she and other community members received training from AFD in horticultural crop production. These sessions were designed to equip local people with crucial agricultural skills such as land preparation, sowing, transplanting, weeding, harvesting, and crop storage. The community were then supplied with seeds for crops such as tomatoes, beetroot and onions, as well as seedlings for banana and moringa trees.

Having been trained in how to make the best use of the water from their sand dam, community members are now in a position to use their newly acquired seeds and seedlings to start developing their livelihoods once again. Emnet shares that before beginning their sand dam project, most people would have no sources of income beyond their farming and would often have to sell their livestock to be able to afford food. "This project opened a window of opportunity for us to practice our own vegetable production, thanks to the water provided by the sand dam" she explains.

Emnet Adamu - Member of the Mukecha community"Since constructing our dam, I have produced vegetables for my family to eat and made more than 2,450 Ethiopian Birr (approx. £36) from selling surplus crops like onions and beetroot. I have invested this money and bought two female goats, which will soon give offspring. Now, I will never lose my assets again."

Emnet Adamu, member of the Mukecha community, southern Ethiopia.

Emnet shares with us that she now has a plan to expand her vegetable farming, to further increase her income and begin to invest in additional measures to help her family cope with the challenges of an increasingly extreme climate. She concludes the interview by stating: "I would like to thank AFD, SDW, and their supporters for helping us to transform our lives."

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