Alleviating chronic water shortages through water harvesting Birkas: A case of Malka-Sallah

Organization For Welfare and Development in Action  (OWDA) had implemented an integrated pastoral and agro-pastoral development project in Adadle Woreda of Gode zone from 2007 to 2011.The project beneficiaries’ livelihood system composed of pure pastoral livelihood and agro-pastoral community residing in the Shabele river bank. The pastoral communities’ livelihood is based on livestock and is very sensitive to droughts and water shortages. Out of the targeted 10 Kebeles 4 were chronically water insecure and faced water shortage on numerous occasions.

Malka-sallah Kebele, 55 Km south of Gode and with population of 300 households, was one of these Kebeles and was known for its chronic water shortage history. The community in Malka-sallah, like other communities in the region, has developed water trucking dependency syndrome. The project prioritized ways to address this problem by developing new water points (Birkas) and rehabilitating existing ones. The number of the functional water points in the Kebele increased from 1 to 6 and these water points increased water availability during the dry season to cover the needs of the community from less than a month to 5 months. The household level water consumption was below 20 litters a day that cost them over 4 hours before the project inception. This has improved now to over 45 litters a day that will not take them more than 15 minutes. Daily household allowances are followed normally followed but adjustments are based on the prevailing situation.

Community skills on service management were also enhanced by organizing and training water management committee. The main functions of the committees are ensuring proper utilization of water, collection of fees from users and administering water fund, determining household consumption ceilings, community mobilization for labour contribution and sanitation of the Birkas and surroundings.

Water fee was introduced and 1 birr/40 litters is charged. Assigned person from the committee, mostly woman member, collects the water fees. Daily collections are submitted to cashier and recorded on logbook. Birkas are opened one after another. The Committee has opened a saving account at Gode CBE branch in the name of community water fund. The process was co-facilitated by OWDA and Woreda Rural Supply Development. After checking the cash on hand against the log book, the proceeds from each Birka are deposited in the Bank.

Withdrawals can be made with signed minutes of at least four members of the committee. The committee uses the Kebele stamp on minutes. The committee operates with simple saving pass book in which the photos of the signatories are affixed. Two designated persons, chairperson and cashier, from the water committee co-sign. Community water fund is earmarked for the expenses like for maintenance and repair of Birkas, leveraging as community contribution for construction for new Birkas and emergency water trucking.

For the first time in its history, Malka-sallah was not in the list water Kebeles under water trucking in Adadle Woreda during the last Jilaal period. Over 440,000 birr worth of money that would have been used for water trucking was saved (assuming 60 days water trucking at 4000 birr per 12m3 tanker cost). It received the Deyr rains while two Birkas were still full of water and locked (360m3).

As of February 28, 2012, two and half Birkas were remaining and over 46,000 birr deposited in the bank. Community and other stakeholder’s confidence on the system increased.