From The Field

Integrating Food Security and WASH

USAID’s Water and Development Strategy established three categories for Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) focus:  transformative impact, leveraged impact, and strategic priority. According to the Strategy, "Ethiopia is an example of a country that could meet the criteria as a transformative impact country. It has the requisite infra­ structure, governance, and institutional expertise for USAID water programs to have a transformative impact. USAID is cur­ rently working with the Government of Ethiopia to increase access to improve water supply in rural communities and to achieve universal access to sanitation.”

I have traveled to several USAID priority countries and learned more about programs that are tackling issues of water access and improved health and food security. We have compiled some short reports on USAID and partner projects that we are sharing in our series called From the Field. It is from Ethiopia that we send our next dispatches From the Field.

–Christian Holmes, Global Water Coordinator

USAID Ethiopian Water Programs: Linchpin to Development

Visiting a USAID water program implemented by the International Rescue Committee (IRC) near Jijiga, Somali region, Ethiopia.
Visiting a USAID water program implemented by the International Rescue Committee (IRC) near Jijiga, Somali region, Ethiopia.

Global Water Coordinator Christian Holmes and a team of USAID staff traveled to the Tigray and Somali Region States of Ethiopia to review the progress of ongoing and future water projects that support USAID’s Water and Development Strategy objectives to improve both health and food security.  The team observed in the field how integration, sustainability, layering, and resilience all come together in these programs.

In the Tigray Regional State, the team visited projects primarily funded by USAID’s Productive Safety Net Program (PSNP).  This program is a major component of the Government of Ethiopia’s Food Security Program.  USAID is the largest bilateral donor to this program, contributing more than 20 percent of the total cost, or approximately $550 million over five years.  The Relief Society of Tigray (REST), a local nongovernmental organization (NGO) that started as a relief form of the Tigray People's Liberation Front, is responsible for the overall implementation of PSNP in the Tigray Regional State.  REST is one of four NGO partners that implement the PSNP throughout Ethiopia with USAID support.  Other partners include Catholic Relief Services, Food for the Hungry, and Save the Children. 

The team visited households benefitting from a combination of improved water management through PSNP and health care provided through USAID’s Integrated Family Health Program (IFHP).  These USAID programs make an important contribution to the implementation of key Presidential initiatives in Ethiopia including USAID’s Feed the Future and Call to Action to End Early Childhood Preventable Deaths.

PSNP focuses on chronically food-insecure households in 319 woredas (districts).  The program currently has a target caseload of 6 million people within these districts.  PSNP directly addresses the immediate causes of food insecurity by engaging beneficiaries in various public work interventions, including agro-ecological interventions that are essential for improved management of farmlands and the restoration of degraded communal lands.

In the current phase of the USAID-funded PSNP (2012 to 2016), the program reaches approximately 1.5 million beneficiaries with $550 million in USAID funds.  The program’s water work focuses on small-scale irrigation, which is based on moisture collection storage and use.  Its major activities include water harvesting on seasonal streams, stream diversion and construction of micro-dams, runoff diversion structures, and the development of hand-dug wells.  In the Tigray Regional State, PSNP activities have enabled two large previously unproductive and environmentally degraded valleys and surrounding watersheds to be restored and become highly productive.

To the south, in the Somali Regional State, USAID water projects support the objectives of Call to Action to End Early Childhood Preventable Deaths by providing both safe drinking water and supporting sanitation and hygiene improvement efforts.  As the Call to Action recognizes, the lack of access to safe drinking water, the practice of open defecation, and poor hygiene habits are significant threats to the survival and health of children.

The team also visited the Rujis water supply system to meet with water management committees and beneficiaries and see a USAID water management project supporting wells development and water distribution, implemented by the International Rescue Committee (IRC).  The USAID Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene Transformation for Enhanced Resilience (WATER) project provides improved access to clean and sustainable water sources for 221,504 people in the Somali, Afar, and Oromia Regional States, and enhances public awareness on natural resources to prevent rangeland degradation.

USAID’s more than 20 water-related programs in the country serve as a “linchpin” to support the Agency’s efforts to strengthen resiliency throughout Ethiopia.  Learning from and building on past programs, these programs layer efforts and integrate water, food, health, and disaster relief and recovery.

Stories from the Global Water Coordinator’s 2013 Trip to Indonesia


Stories from the Global Water Coordinator’s 2013 Trip to Liberia

Blog from the Global Water Coordinator’s recent trip to Kenya


Stories from the Global Water Coordinator’s January 2014 Trip to Haiti


Related Sectors of Work