DevWASH-09: Sustainable clean water

Image: USAID evaluators ask the water and sanitation committee to demonstrate Afriedve water pump repair.



Project Title: Sustainable Clean Water and Disease Prevention Program

We launched DevWASH-09, our first clean water project, in 2009 with the support of USAID to provide sustainable, clean water to 3,700 people living in Wonga Bayno kebele1 of the Hamar woreda2 in South Omo Zone, Ethiopia.



The beneficiaries of the project were Hamar tribe pastoralists who, due to shrinking grasslands, have settled in community clusters in Wonga Bayno communities (Aldo, Bala, Dele, and Kasha), and neighboring Assile communities (Surayde, Kosaera, Lola, and Shawkera).



The closest water available to the people of Wonga Bayno was in polluted, sandy riverbed wells that were a 2 to 3 hour walk from their homes. Lack of water and sanitation along with traditional practices of open field defecation contributed to more than 90% of the people suffering from communicable diseases, most of which were waterborne illnesses.



Using our community learning process we worked with the people of Wonga Bayno to discover and understand how their own behavior was making them sick. Natural leaders emerged, during our community sessions, who were eager to learn how to keep their families healthy. They adopted less convenient but healthier new behaviors—using pit latrines, washing hands and faces—because they quickly felt better. These early adopters shared their knowledge with family, friends, and neighbors.

To provide clean water, we constructed 3 hand-dug wells, 1 shallow-drilled well, and refurbished 2 existing wells. Each community fenced their water point to keep out animals, and we recruited and trained 7 people to form a water and sanitation committee, including 4 women, who learned how to perform preventative maintenance to keep the wells functioning.



Water, sanitation, and hygiene initiatives like DevWASH-09 are the key entry point into new pastoralist communities. During the process of providing access to clean water and motivating people to adopt healthy hygiene and sanitation behavior, emergent community members lead the transition from passive recipients of aid to active catalysts of change.

The emergent community leaders from this project became our consultant Ergas (a Hamar word for people who make it easy for others) who we hired in later projects to help teach additional communities, expanding the reach of the project. This project led to several replications and other pilot projects in the South Omo Zone.



Before   After
# People accessing clean water   0   4,055
# Water schemes constructed or refurbished (and maintained by community)   0   6
# Adults adopting healthy hygiene   0%   81%


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  1. the smallest unit of government
  2. a group of 20-40 kebeles


  • Funding Partner: USAID
  • Timeline: Completed Dec 2012