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Overview Background Solutions Documents
Rain-fed agriculture dominates in Ethiopia. However, rainfall distribution and intensity vary spatially and temporally resulting in incidents of drought every 4-5 years. These rainfall patterns affect crop and livestock production and contribute to volatility in food price.

Subsistence farming is a typical feature of agriculture in Ethiopia. The midlands and highlands are dominated by mixed farming systems where livestock and crop production are almost equally important and highly integrated. In the lowlands, pastoral systems dominate. Single cropping is the norm but double cropping is practiced along rivers in some parts of the county (e.g., in Bale highlands).

Just over half of Ethiopia’s 64 million rural population live in poverty. Less than 10% of the 3.7 to 4.3 million hectares of irrigable land is currently irrigated.

Gender roles are very different around the country with women undertaking many agricultural activities in some areas but not others. Livestock management often falls to women.

Madhya Pradesh
West Bengal
The Opportunity 
The potential irrigable land in Ethiopia is between 3.7 and 4.3 million hectares but the actual irrigated area is estimated at just 7-10% of this. Of this area approximately 55% is traditional irrigation schemes, 20% is modern small-scale, and 25% is medium- and large-scale irrigated commercial farms (private and state-owned). Field assessments in small-scale irrigation projects indicate that some irrigation schemes are not functional due to shortage of water, damaged structures and poor water management.
AWM Options for Ethiopia
River and Stream Diversions
River and stream diversions of various scale are the most common AWM practice in the midlands and highlands wherever rivers exist. Traditional diversions are used for small plots while those developed by the government or NGOs are for community managed irrigation. Diversions are generally less costly than other AWM solutions.
Micro-dams or Reservoirs
Micro-dams or Reservoirs are concentrated where river or streams diversions are not possible but the topography allows damming (the midlands, highlands and areas of SNNPR). Micro-dams are promising in Tigray and Amhara. Dams are usually earth and stone and maybe used with water lifting devices to irrigate 100-200 ha. Investment costs can be high. Siltation, seepage and water-logging are problems.
Groundwater and Hand-Dug Wells
There are ample groundwater resources in the midlands and highlands of the SNNPR, Oromia, east Hararge and parts of Amhara for hand-dug wells for irrigation. Shallow wells are developed and managed by private households. In the Raya and Kobo valleys, in northern Ethiopia, wells are fitted with pressurized pumps and used to irrigate large areas.
Lake and River Pumping
Pumping takes place from the Zeway, Awash, Koka, Abaya and Hawassa lakes and from the Kelafo, Mustahil, Ferfer, Dolo, Cherati, Hargel, Teji and Baro rivers. Farmers who have good access to markets often use motorized pumps to produce horticultural crops but price fluctuations are a constraint. Over-abstraction and water quality are concerns.
Rainwater Harvesting and Ponds

Traditional ponds (birka) and sand-water are used for livestock in dry land areas such as Somali and in the agro-pastoral communities of southern Tigray, Afar and Borena. Since 2002, rainwater harvesting has been implemented by the government. There has been adoption in Tigray, SNNPR, East and Hararghe zones of Oromia and Somali, but the potential of water catchments was not considered prior to construction, the ponds were not properly shaded, cemented or covered with plastic sheets, leading to water loss.

Spate Irrigation is the collection and diversion of flood water from upstream catchments to irrigate the downstream. It is mainly practiced on lowland plains (Raya Valley of Tigray, Kobo area of Amhara Region, in the Afar escarpment and in the lowlands of south Omo zone in SNNPR). Farmers collect seasonal floodwater and divert it to their farmlands via simple furrow systems.

Soil and Water Conservation activities, supported by the Productive Safety Net Program (PSNP), are designed to reclaim eroded areas and gullies. The out-scalability of this program seems promising but the support of the government or NGOs is critical.

Motorized Water Lifting Pumps

Motorized water lifting pumps are often used to lift water from rivers, lakes, ponds or wells when gravity irrigation is difficult. They are typically used for high-value crops e.g., in Haramaya District of Hararge and Zeway Dugda in Oromia. Use is increasing in almost all parts of the country because they are easy to operate and can be used by individual households. They are being encouraged under the Water Sector Development Program (2003). The government has imported thousands of pumps free of duty and tax and is selling them for 6,500 birr (≈US$640) through cooperative associations. This may be less efficient that the use of private operators and maintenance support may be insufficient.

Other Irrigation Systems
Sprinkler systems were recently introduced in Golgol Raya, Tigray and Kobo, Amhara. Drip irrigation, treadle pumps, rope-and-washer, and wind mills are in the adoption process in some pockets of Ethiopia, particularly, Oromia Region (in the east Showa, west Arsi and east Harage zones) and in SNNPR (Sidama, Gurage and Alaba). Despite their introduction there is little evidence of the availability of good-quality systems in the local markets. The technical and financial feasibility of these AWM solutions needs further research.
Where to invest for maximum impact on rural livelihoods
The 17 livelihood zones (LZ) identified by the project (see map) were combined with physical availability of water, presence of target beneficiaries and water as a limiting factor for livelihoods, to produce maps of potential investment for AWM (see next two slides).

The AWM potential maps show where AWM can be the entry point for improving livelihoods and where to prioritize investments in AWM to have the most impact on rural livelihoods. High potential areas are identified on the basis of:

Where water is physically available (without water AWM is impossible).
Where the target beneficiaries are mostly located based on rural population density and poverty rate.
Where water is key for livelihoods i.e. the extent to which livelihoods depend on secure access to sufficient water and where lack of water is a major constraint for rural populations. Factors include population pressure and seasonality of water availability.