Strengthening Drought Resilience in Afar and Somali Regions of Ethiopia

Project description

Title: Strengthening Drought Resilience in Pastoral and Agro-Pastoral Communities of Afar and Somali Regional States, Ethiopia (SDR and SDR-SR)
Commissioned by: Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC)
Country: Ethiopia
Lead executing agency: Ministry of Agriculture (MoA)
Overall term: 2016 to 2021



The regions of Afar and Somali are among the least developed regions of the Ethiopian lowlands, and a large part of the pastoral and agro-pastoral population of about 7 million inhabitants lives below the absolute poverty line. Due to extreme ecological conditions with the hottest temperatures in the world, low rainfall, very little arable land and scarce water access, semi-nomadic livestock farming is the livelihood of most of the population. This economic system, which was formerly well adapted to the challenging ecological conditions, is coming under increasing pressure. The effects of climate change, with more frequent droughts and exceptional rainfall events, as well as population growth, are causing a shortage of natural resources. The previous development strategies hardly considered the peculiarities of the semi-nomadic way of life and the ecological conditions of the region.


Access to natural resources such as water, land and pastures for semi-nomadic, agro-pastoral and pastoral populations is assured and the land can be used more intensively. Institutions and local communities are better able to implement drought-resilient measures, and the resilience of the communities affected to droughts is strengthened.



The GIZ supports the Ethiopian partners to improve the capacities of the institutions at the federal, regional, district and village level dealing with pastoral and agro-pastoral topics. Measures on drought and flood resilience focus on planning land use with all users and the administration, securing access to land and water, improving pastures, and promoting income-generating measures. New technologies that secure soil and water for feed and food production on community or clan-owned land are tested and will be made available for upscaling through third parties. This allows to develop approaches of soil and water conserving technologies to be used in dry river valleys that are adapted to the prevailing natural conditions.

Innovative for Ethiopian lowland areas with their dry valleys is the introduction of water spreading weirs and lowland dry-stone measures that hold back fertile soil eroded from the highlands and water from flash floods. Further measures aim at utilising the improved land through cultivating fodder and food crops suited to the pastoral and the ecological context. Their sale creates further income. Measures to reduce the growth of highly rampant, invasive plants are also carried out in some areas.

Human capacities are built up to construct water spreading weirs. The project developed a basic masonry training for young pastoralists, enabling them to learn new skills. They can use these skills for the construction and maintenance of soil and water conservation measures and to create alternative income through masonry services.


In nine districts (woredas) in the regions of Afar and Somali 17 water spreading weirs have been built within six dry valleys. On the areas under rehabilitation, elephant grass, maize and sorghum has been produced. All measures have been planned jointly with traditional representatives of pastoralists and agro-pastoralists, civil society organisations and the administration.

Up to October 2019, a total of 300 young men have been trained in basic masonry skills including functional literacy for reading and writing figures and measurements. Out of the 300, 140 received a second training allowing them to undergo a governmental exam with official certificate for graduating. Many of these masons have taken up their new skills to provide masonry services against payment in their communities.

At regional and federal levels, the project supported the Ethiopian Government in 12 dialogue fora. The results have been included into five policies and strategies.