Water for Bangol

In Ethiopia, International Development, Natural Resource Management on September 15, 2011 at 10:04 am

On August 31-Sept 1, I visited seven Kebeles (villages) throughout the Dolo Ado and Dolo Bay Woredas (counties).  These villages were assigned to us by the Woreda administration as highly vulnerable villages that were in urgent need of emergency water delivery.

Dolo Addo and Dolo Bay (pronounced like “bye”) are in the southern Somali state of Ethiopia, along the southern border region where Kenya, Ethiopia, and Somalia meet, and the people are all Somali. Most of the Somali refugees from the Somalia side of the border live in four different UNHCR administered refugee camps in and around Dolo Ado, which has become the base of operations for all international NGO’s serving refugees in southern Ethiopia.  Dolo Ado is therefore a bustling, booming town, with NGO workers buzzing around monitoring and catering to the refugees, and enterprising Somali businessmen selling everything from building materials, vehicle fuel, and bottled water to cell phone cards and espresso to the NGO’s.

While the refugees come to Ethiopia with their own heartbreaking stories of malnourishment and violence from al-Shabaab controlled Somalia, the surrounding host communities of southern Ethiopia are in the midst of a crippling drought.  The region has received barely any rains in two years.  The Somali people are pastoralists – they live off of their animals.  Somali families live in sedentary villages near usually consistent water sources, and the men and boys herd sheep, goats, and cattle around the region in search of grass and water.  The villages subsist on milk and purchase their food through selling various animal products such as milk, hides, and meat.  This lifestyle depends 100 percent on the rains – just 200-400 millimeters of rain per year can support hundreds of thousands of villagers, replenishing grasslands and the leaves on trees, filling up watering holes and maintaining the water table.

However, barely any rain has fallen in the region in two years.  Villagers have various coping mechanisms which include digging hand-dug wells and constructing “burkits” – which are basically like constructing an open-ended, cemented in-ground pool with a roof on it.  In the intense rainstorms that normally occur, water rushes into the burkits and can be safely stored for several months until the traditional water sources dry out.  Each village has a water committee comprised of select members of the community (including women) who help maintain equitable and fair water access for the community.  In the villages we visited, notably Bangol, the burkits had just dried out, within 48 hours of our visit.

Along the road to Bangol in the Dolo Bay Woreda, Somali State, Ethiopia, 9/1/2011, photo by Scott Webb


The Burkit in Bangol. 9/1/2011


IRD Ethiopia Emergency Relief Coordinator Abdulahi Muse listens to the villagers of Bangol explain their situation, 9/1/2011.

Bangol’s Burkit was drying up.

Villagers left their jerry cans next to the dried up burkit.

Thanks to the generous support from the Prem Rewat Foundation, Latter-Day Saint Charities, UNICEF, and other private donors, IRD was able to help the people of Bangol, and 15 other communities in the region.  On September 2, immediately after visiting the region, Abdulahi Muse and I negotiated a temporary water trucking contract with Egal Mohammed, a local water-trucking company.  Water was delivered to the target villages starting that very day, and by September 7, all villages, including Bangol, had been given 5,000 liter water tanks, hundreds of extra jerry cans, and daily deliveries of purified, clean water.

The short rainy season from October to December is approaching.  IRD will continue to deliver water until the rains come.  Should the rains fail to materialize, IRD will require further financial support to continue delivering water to our communities.  In the coming months, IRD will be proposing further emergency relief and disaster-risk reduction activities in the same region, including emergency animal feeding for livestock, as well as livelihoods support for irrigated agriculture along the nearby Ganale and Dawa rivers.

  1. Hi Vox Souley,

    I enjoyed reading parts of your blog, it is interesting to hear the opinions of someone as experience as you are. As you are well aware, the horn of Africa region is notoriously arid region and when rains fail consecutively it can have disastrous effect. And in countries the the government is weak such as in the case of Somalia even a slight shock to the system will lead severe consequences.

    Q- In your opinion, how best can aid agency intervene that villages like bangol manage their water sustainably in the future to increase their resilience, wihout much intervention from the state or INGO’s?


    • Abdurahman – thanks for your comment. That’s a very difficult question, as communities in the region have varying different levels of access to water, as I’m sure you know. In the dolo Ado and Dolo Baay regions, there are the Ganale and Dawa rivers which seem to flow year round from the north, so it would make sense to invest in tanking the water to use for drinking and irrigation. Further out, the Birkeds which I discussed in my blog post seemed like a relatively sustainable idea for sharing scarce water. Most villages exist because they’re near water, so I would hope that birkeds are used as a last resort.


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