Published in December 2023

Agro-pastoralist communities in southern Ethiopia often struggle to make a living due to water scarcity, which has many knock-on effects on their ability to farm successfully. When communities can acquire the resources and skills they need, as we see in the case of the Gurdo community, they find themselves in a much better position to thrive and work towards their future goals.

Guji Garsho is a 45-year-old father to eight children, who live with him along with his wife and mother. He is an agro-pastoralist and a resident of Gurdo Kebele (sub-district), found within the Bennatsemay Woreda (district) of southern Ethiopia.

Before the Gurdo community began working on their sand dam project, their situation was very challenging due to the lack of available water in the area. Guji explains that this was especially difficult because of the impact water scarcity had on peoples’ ability to farm successfully, as most community members rely on growing their own food and rearing livestock for their livelihoods.

As Guji himself says, "Before this project we tried to plant fruit and vegetables, but we didn’t have enough water for them to grow well. Seedlings would dry up during the dry seasons and we didn’t have easy access to a water point to prevent this."

Water collection was a significant burden on the daily lives of many people in the Gurdo community, particularly for women, who are traditionally responsible for this task. Guji tells us that pregnant mothers had even been known to give birth on the way to collect water, due to the length of the journey and the stress it involved.

People faced great challenges with rearing their livestock, which are key assets for agro-pastoralist farmers, due to the lack of water available for them to drink. Additionally, the effect of water scarcity on the health of soil, pastures, and the ability of people to grow fodder meant that feeding livestock was also a struggle.

However, the community has now constructed a sand dam (with funding from Jersey Overseas Aid, Isle of Man Government and the Beatrice Laing Trust) and established a nearby demonstration plot for producing new crops, placing them in a much better position to fulfil their farming and personal needs. The demonstration plot is playing a particularly important role in educating community members about how to practice conservation agriculture, tree planting, and the cultivation of new crops such as onions, beetroot, and bananas.

Guji has taken an active role working on the demonstration plot since it’s establishment.

Guji Garsho - member of the Gurdo community"Previously, I did not have a great understanding of soil and water conservation activities and their benefits. Our communities are not attracted by theoretical explanations; we are more interested in practical and demonstrated skills, so the demonstration plot is very helpful for us."

Guji Garsho, member of the Gurdo community, southern Ethiopia.

The Gurdo community has received training from Action For Development (our partner in Ethiopia) about the benefits of tree planting and have been supplied with fruit tree seedlings. The produce from these trees can then be consumed by local people or sold at the local market to generate an income, offering multiple benefits to farmers.

Now that the Gurdo community members have the resources and skills to practice their livelihoods more easily and successfully, they are in a position to take a more active role in community development and are better able to work towards their future goals.

Guji concludes by sharing how the sand dam has also impacted the local environment and wildlife, which in turn is helping the community, "Now, the riverside is covered with vegetation. Different endangered wild animals and birds are returning because of this vegetation and availability of water. Bees are also returning to our villages, which is good as our beehives used to be empty due to the absence of water and vegetation."

Our current appeal: please donate what you can to help a community in Ethiopia to build a 'Sand Dam for Peace', access clean water and reduce water-related conflict

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