Resilience building: let people feel safe in their village
Liben zone is an arid region in the southeast of Ethiopia regularly hit by severe droughts. In 2012 and 2013 in the Dhekasuftu district alone more than 2,000 households were displaced because of drought. Recognizing the severity of the recurrent droughts, its effect on pastoral livelihood and the need to work in a consortium and multi-sector intervention, I led the planning and implementation of a project called: ‘Building resilience through integrated multi-sector interventions in drought-prone areas of Liben zone of Somali Region, Ethiopia’.
The multi-sector project endeavored to improve the resilience of vulnerable people based on good practices and lessons learned from the first phases of the project (2014). The project was implemented during a 15 months period from April 15, 2015- July 14, 2016.
A different kind of project
Since 2008 I have been managing drought risk reduction projects in Ethiopia and also across the border with Kenya. However, this project is different from the previous ones in that I should make sure that displacement of people stopped and the multi-sector and multi-agency project benefited all drought-affected households and for people to feel safe at home in the village.
My role during the project implementation was overall management and coordinating the consortium members (Cordaid, RACIDA, VSF-Suisse, SCI and Oxfam Intermon) and to achieve the needed synergy and complementarities between the five sectors (Livelihood, WASH, DRR, Health and Nutrition).
I can say that after the implementation, households and communities have improved drought resilience and coping capacity and displacement was stopped as a result of adaptation measures. The major outcomes are the provision of drought tolerant and short maturing maize seeds and the necessary skills to dry land farmers and agro-pastoralists. This contributed much to the food security of many households.
Similarly, the promotion of both communal and private closure of reserve pasturelands, reciprocal use of pasture and water between communities combined with planned prophylactic vaccination services improved pastoralists’ adaptive capacity to drought. Irrigation based fodder production by jobless youth had two impacts – first it has improved preparedness of pastoralists to drought and secondly, it has created sustainable income to youth.
Proper water facilities
As to my observation, the most significant achievement was the construction of proper water facilities (big 800 M3 underground concrete water structures), which has also significantly contributed to reduced displacement and increased strategic water reserve capacity of the community.
As a new approach, working in a consortium and ensuring synergy and complementarities between the five sectors were the two major challenges I anticipated from the start of the project. Despite my concern, the internal evaluation the consortium partners and I conducted shows that complementarity and synergy between sectors ensured effective targeting of households, helped to address priority needs of the targeted communities and brought multi-sector benefits to households, mainstreaming nutrition.
The collaboration between the project and government structures to improve access to quality health and nutrition services through promotion of preventive and basic curative services has improved the health status of particularly children under five and pregnant and lactating women. I have also observed that the inter-linkage of livelihood and health/nutrition components has addressed repeated occurrences of acute malnutrition in children.
Achievements of the multi-sector and multi-agency approach should inform government development undertakings the need for integration and coordination between the various government sector offices. A multi-sector and multi-agency resilience building programming can significantly improve households’ adaptive capacities to recurrent droughts and make them feel safe in their village.
The government should play the lead role in upscaling tested resilience-building strategies.