Water for Life
Ethiopia: Partnership for a joint sustainable future of Lake Tana Watershed
Lake Tana Watershed in North-west Ethiopia is the main source of life for millions of people. It supplies drinking water, watering for agriculture, food, energy and means of transport. But rapid population growth, intensified land use, climate change, industrialization with textile factories, tanneries and rice and flower farming, are taking its tolls on the ecosystems and their functionality.
Effects such as eutrophication, dwindling fish stocks, invasive water hyacinths and declining water quantity and quality threaten the livelihoods of millions of people in Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt.
Various, usually only very local, attempts to sustain and secure water quality and access to quality water have been made. But, until now, not all relevant actors and stakeholders have been involved in a targeted manner for a concerted action and positive change.
With this multi-stakeholder-partnership NABU plans to connect and ally actors to ensure long-term access to safe drinking water, functional ecosystem services and sustainable sources of income in the Lake Tana Watershed.
The project is supported by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).
One of the many stakeholders of the project: fishermen in the traditional papyrus boat - photo: Philipp Schütz
Tourism and transport are amongst the growing sectors on the lake - photo: Angelika Berndt
The watershed is dominated by smallholders' agriculture, remnants of the former forest are only left at the so-called church forests - photo: Bruno D'Amicis
Pollution is a serious threat to the watershed - photo: Philipp Schütz
Pressure on wetlands and species: growing agricultural use - photo: Philipp Schütz
Access to safe drinking water is still a challenge for many communities - photo: P. Schütz
An invasive species challenging the ecosystem: water hyacinth - photo: Bruno D'Amicis
Erosion causes heavy loss of fertile soils and influx of sediments into the lake - photo: Bruno D'Amicis
NABU involves local stakeholders into running activities of all kinds - photo: Bruno D'Amicis
Kicking off the project: first stakeholder conference in 2019 - photo: NABU
Water for Life – Partnership for a joint sustainable future of Lake Tana watershed
August 2019 to December 2022
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Sponsored by / Supported by
The project is supported by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
With this project we are contributing to the following SDGs
SDG 6, SDG 12, SDG 14 and SDG 17.
Goal and project governance
Our common goal
Our aim is to jointly develop and establish a representative and sustainably anchored multi-stakeholder-partnership (MSP) structure, which ensures continued access to clean water and ecosystem resilience at Lake Tana Watershed, balancing development needs with conservation.
The project’s intervention logic
The partnership, involving all relevant actors and stakeholders in the area, is facilitating exchange and cooperation across sectors in order to reduce root causes for poverty and migration by
a) developing an integrated strategy to maintain, and where required to restore, the physical and biological integrity of the watershed,
b) supporting policy change and law development and reinforcement,
c) piloting cross-sectorial programs targeting key threats,
d) increasing awareness and changing behaviour and
e) strengthening of civil society for the purpose of enhanced nature conservation.
Governance of the project
NABU's role is to facilitate and steer processes for the multi-stakeholder-partnership. In the first phase of the project, governance structures have been developed and adopted with key actors. The project works as follows:
The Initiation Committee has been jointly set up for starting the project’s processes. Through the first stakeholder conference, the Water for Life Board was elected by key stakeholders. The board is supported by the Water for Life Secretariat. Amongst the many stakeholders, jointly six Working Groups on relevant work topics have been set up. Results and achievements of the working groups are being reported regularly on board meetings and annual stakeholder conferences. You can check details about the involved institutions by clicking on the graph below.
Partners and actors
The multi-stakeholder-partnership (MSP) is an opportunity to connect the multiple actors at Lake Tana watershed by working towards jointly set goals. The project is targeting 29 districts of the Lake Tana watershed including the area of the Lake Tana biosphere reserve.
Key actors for the partnership—with diverse and sometimes conflicting interests—consist of the regional government as well as the municipal and district administrations, civil society organisations, local population, the commercial sector and science representatives. They will be involved in participatory decision-making and transparent information sharing. Based on decisions taken in agreement with the stakeholders, the project will support practical actions on the ground.
...are Amhara Regional Government (Environment, Forest and Wildlife Protection and Development Authority (EFWPDA), Lake Tana and other Water Bodies Protection and Development Agency (LToWBPDA), Bureau of Agriculture (BoA), Bureau of Finance and Economic Cooperation (BoFEC) and Bureau of Culture and Tourism (BoCT) with their line departments and offices at zonal Woreda and Kebele level.
Private sector (large-scale farms (flower, rice, vegetables), factories (textile/leather), cooperatives (honey/coffee/other), tourism companies and business associations (fishery, tourism, boat owners, hotels, tour guides). Further actors include Community-based organisations and associations (e.g. cooperatives, user associations) as well as Local communities (e.g. farmers, water users).
Second level actors
...are universities and research institutions (Bahir Dar University, Gondar, Debre Tabor and Enjibara, Amhara Agricultural Research Institute (ARARI), Federal Forest and Environment Research Institute, Abay Basin Authority), civil society organisations (e.g. Amhara Development Association (ADA), Organization for Rehabilitation and Development in Amhara (ORDA), Bees for Development (Biological Society of Ethiopia), as well as religious organisations.
On a federal government level actors include the Ministry of Water Irrigation and Electricity (MoWIE), Ministry of Culture and Tourism (MoCT), Ministry of Agriculture (MoA), Environment, Forest and Climate Change Commission (EFCCC) as well as International development aid organisations (e.g. GIZ, JICA, DANIDA).
About Lake Tana Watershed
The Lake Tana Watershed, in the North-west of the country, stretches over 15,000 km2 covering Lake Tana, its tributary rivers, seasonally flooded plains and extensive wetlands. It is located in the heart of the Amhara National Regional State in North-western Ethiopia, about 560 kilometres from Addis Ababa. The lake itself, which counts for one third of the watershed, is Ethiopia’s largest lake and provides together with its numerous tributaries about 50% of Ethiopia’s fresh water resources. It serves as natural flood control, collecting waters from the upper catchment while allowing a controlled outlet by forming the foundation of the Blue Nile River. The water of the lake and its 60 tributaries (major rivers: Gilgel Abay, Rib, Gumara, Megech, Dirma, Geldaw and Arno Garno) is the base for diverse services to local communities, cities and industries such as water for drinking and agriculture, food supply (e.g. fish), means of transport, fertile grounds for agriculture, electricity generation, and all sorts of income related to national and international tourism, targeting the numerous churches and monasteries of the area. The diverse habitats in the watershed host a diverse water life with threatened birds, endemic forest islands and endemic fish species. The area is home to almost four million people, 80% of whom are living of subsistence agriculture depending on natural resources. The watershed covers four administrative zones, 29 districts (Woredas) and 429 Kebeles (smallest administrative unit). The watershed hosts the cities of Gondar, Debre Tabor and Bahir Dar, the latter being the regional capital.
Ecosystems under pressure
Water quality and quantity of Lake Tana are declining due to degradation of the natural forests and vegetation cover which causes erosion, deposition of sediments and eutrophication, unrestricted waste and waste water management causing pollution and intense rice and flower farming with irrigation and chemical input. In addition, the clearing and conversion of wetlands, canalization of major rivers for agriculture investments, construction of buildings on lake shores and diversion of water for hydropower are taking its toll. Impacts of climate change such as droughts or heavy rains as well as invasive species such as the water hyacinth challenge the sensitive ecosystems even more and endanger food security and livelihoods of the local communities. The population density and growth rate around Lake Tana is very high. To meet the communities’ demands, large areas of forest, grassland, and wetland were transformed into cropland, and more livestock was raised on grassland. Deforestation and overgrazing have resulted in the destruction of great amounts of natural vegetation, a decline in biodiversity and desertification and soil erosion. If this trend continues, the watershed with its numerous services for millions of people is at stake and may eventually lead to a total collapse of the aquatic ecosystems and thus to reinforced poverty and migration.
Project updates – where we are today
Implementing MAP structure: Official meetings
Due to the COVID-19 restrictions, the yearly WfL assembly was conducted on the 20th April 2021 with the presence of 42 persons. The participants were from the Amhara National Regional State private sectors, academia, civil societies, media and developmental organizations.
The event has included the presentation of the main achievements of the project so far, and the partial results from the studies related to water quality and water hyacinth.
MAP Structure meetings in 2021
Also due to the measures taken to avoid the proliferation of the virus, the elections and the political instability, it has been difficult to conduct regular meetings according to scheduled. However, the exchange process between the MAP is constantly happening, and some of the working group meetings would take place in January, March, April and June of 2021.
October 2020 and January 2021
With a bit of delay due to the pandemics and the state of emergency declared in Ethiopia from April until September 2020, as soon as it was allowed to have meetings again, following all the applicable hygienic measures, the first Board meeting could happen in October 2020, followed by the Secretariat meeting and the Working Groups meetings (which took place in three stages: with the main representatives, at regional and at Woreda level).
Those encounters are extremely important in order to continue the exchange of the stakeholders interests and make decisions for the next steps of the project. The main topics discussed were the follow-up of activities starting in the working groups, management of the Biosphere Reserve, the formalization of the MAP structure, progress of the activities, etc.
Also as a consequence of the pandemic, the annual Water for Life conference with all stakeholders did not take place in 2020. We are still discussing on an appropriate date and reduced number of participants, but it is foreseen to take place in April 2021.
December 2019: First Stakeholder Conference
During the first of the annually scheduled stakeholder conferences the identified representatives of relevant stakeholder groups were introduced to the project’s topic, goals and project procedures. In the presence of H.E. Brita Wagener, Ambassador to the Federal Republic of Germany in Ethiopia, Dr. Tsegaw Tibebe, Deputy Bureau Head of Amhara Regional State Finance and Economic Cooperation and 170 invited stakeholders (federal Ministries, Amhara National Regional State government sector offices, academia, NGOs, CBOs, developmental organisations, private sector, religious institutes, zone administration sector offices, woreda (district) administration sector offices and local communities). In a participatory process, key stakeholders developed a vision and a shared language together, engaging therefore dialogue and building connections. They were also introduced to the concept of the MSP structure, and actively took responsibility for their respective roles in the project.
Latest Update: February 2022
Multiple trainings and workshops related to the Water for Life project took place the last year. Most of them will be cited within the working groups, but some were directly addressed to particular groups of stakeholders, with particular themes. Those were (latest to oldest):
- Community training on natural resources conservation and behavioural change was undertaken by development agents, who were trained in the ToT. More than 40.000 people attended the trainings (May 2021)
- Training of Trainers (ToT) for development agents, woreda focal persons, woreda natural resource conservation and zonal office natural resource experts. A total of 563 persons have participated in the events (May 2021)
- For NGOs, CSOs, Government officials and university professors: NABU has supported the Society for Ecotourism and Biodiversity Conservation (SETBDC) by throwing a workshop on evaluation of the results from the removal of Invasive Alien Species Lantana Camara and biodiversity conservation in the LTW. In this one-day event, 34 participants were present. (January 2021)
- A waste management training was held for environmental school clubs and CSOs in collaboration with environment, forest and wildlife development and protection authority (EFWDPA) on December 24 and 25, 2020, in Bahir Dar. 76 participants have taken part in the training, from which 55 were environment school clubs, 15 CSOs and 6 EFWDPA staff. (December 2020)
- Workshop for law enforcement institutions was undertaken by NABU and the Lake Tana and other Water Bodies Protection Agency (LToWBPDA) to 49 stakeholders in order to introduce the BR reserve regulation No.125/2014, and Land Administration and Use Proclamation No. 252/2017. (November 2020)
- A training with the topics project planning (project proposal development), management, budgeting, impact evaluation and fundraising has taken place at Bahir Dar City in September, addressed to NGOs, CSOs, Scientific Institutions and the Private Sectors. There were 22 participants present, 5 from NGOs, 7 from CSOs, 2 from CBOs, 4 from scientific institutions and 4 from the private sector. (September 2020)
- The twenty members of the Initiation Committee have been trained by the Collective Leadership Institute (CLI) on stakeholder dialogues as a vehicle for multi-stakeholder-partnerships, Dialogic Change Model, road maps for first stakeholder dialogues and many more. In addition, a strategy workshop was conducted with 12 members of the Initiation Committee in order to define a strategic plan with working modalities, objective and milestones. (December 2019)
Working Groups Updates
A core element of MSP is the implementation of pilot measures developed in the cross-sectoral working groups. The MSP also offers the framework for new ways of cooperation in various areas of nature preservation, guaranteeing therefore the holistic approach of the project. In order to achieve this goal, the partners are actively participating in the decision making processes of the working groups.
Latest Update: February 2022
Working Group 1: Transport on water, fisheries and irrigation agriculture
It is foreseen that the irrigation agriculture will be approached soon, as well as the other stakeholders involved in this working group, but due to the COVID-19 situation, the implementation has had some delay.
Working Group 2: Waste and invasive species management
The activities of this working group are separated into two categories: (1) improvement of the solid waste management system of the region and (2) invasive species management.
(1) The first mentioned category has started in the second half of 2021, in the cities of Gondar and Bahir Dar, as follows:
To improve the waste management in the city, three activities are being implemented: waste segregation at the source, compost production from organic waste and paper recycling. Those activities are connected between themselves, and the intervention begins at home, by separating the different wastes by their composition.
About 300 households are participating, and have received waste bins to separate paper, organic refuse, and other domestic wastes. The organic waste will be collected and the city administration together with NABU will be producing compost to be sold as organic fertilizer to the local farmers.
Meanwhile, the paper collected will be headed to the paper recycling center which NABU is installing in the city. This center will also receive paper from other sources, such as the university, hospital, business, etc. The recycled paper will be used further in the local catering industry.
- Bahir Dar
In the city of Bahir Dar, the plastic recycling activity is starting to be implemented. Youth groups and other collectors will be working through the city collecting plastic bottles from the public places. Also, bins will be installed in the walkway of Lake Tana, to collect plastic bottles from those walking by.
All the collected bottles will be taken to a crushing company, which will treat and send the bottles further to recycling in Addis, so they can be used for other means, such as construction materials.
(2) For the approach on controlling and reducing the invasive species water hyacinth infestation area in the Lake Tana Watershed, we have planned a complete approach which will be divided into three different segments, to guarantee the long-lasting results for contention of WH proliferation. Those are:
- Controlling the water quality of the LTW:
It is known that eutrophication, presence of heavy metals and other environmental conditions can facilitate the proliferation of the WH on water bodies. Therefore, the Bahir Dar Fishery and other aquatic Life Research Centre agreed to undertake the assignment of annual water quality monitoring, on 34 sampling sites. In the end of their assignment, they will develop a trend line regarding the parameters analyzed during the years, and compare them to the actions being made by NABU and partner agencies to improve the water quality in the region. The monitoring from years 2020 and 2021 were delivered to NABU and presented in the yearly assembly.
- Determining the coverage area of the WH during the project’s duration:
Until now, there is no reliable study on the precise coverage area of the WH on the Lake Tana. Therefore, the Debre Tabor University will conduct a study to determine it, by using field observation, interviews, remote sensing and GPS measurement data as primary sources. Every year in the same period, the coverage area will be measured, and by the end of the project a trend line will be generated to understand the behaviour of WH over time, and related to the actions being taken by NABU to reduce its proliferation. The monitoring from years 2020 and 2021 were delivered to NABU and presented in the yearly assembly.
- Implementing innovative sustainable uses for the WH biomass:
For this approach, we have contracted the Gondar University to undertake a research with practical application on field, to utilize water hyacinth biomass for producing organic fertilizer, in the Yeshea Gomenge Kebele, Gondar Zuria Woreda, within the north eastern Lake Tana region. The implementation is taking place according to schedule.
Working Group 3: Climate Change, biodiversity and ecosystem restoration
In order to start physical activities and create understanding of the project objectives at local level, an awareness raising program with face-to-face discussion was conducted in each of 25 Woredas at different times. The participants of the discussion were head of Woreda agriculture offices, project focal persons and chairman of pilot ecosystem restoration community. The total numbers of participants on the meeting were 101 (74 agriculture office staffs and 27 farmers).
After the workshop model restoration sites were established, which were communal land property for farmers, with degraded landscape. To achieve the rehabilitation of those sites, annual work plans and contract agreements were signed with 25 Woredas. In addition, for Chilga -1 and Chiga-2 woredas, the same strategy was applied, and the sites for restoration were already selected, a community mobilization has taken place and watershed users were identified. Moreover, an awareness rising program was given in the region for 68 households, and a community association was established to look after a sustainable use of those regions on the long term.
The materials necessary to undertake the restoration were already purchased and delivered to the communities, and the restoration is already taking place. So far, over 400 Ha of land were recovered!!
Working Group 4: Stakeholders engagement, behavioural change and knowledge management
The strategic plan to implement the project through Multi-stakeholder partnership was developed and was presented to the board members on the second meeting, which took place in January 2021. Additionally, the promising behaviour change campaign has started, with a workshop that took place in August 2020, in the sites of Awi zone, West Gojjam, South and Central Gondar, and 100 participants have attended.
In the end of the year 2020, an assessment to identify gaps and targets in awareness rising to bring positive behavioural change to protect the natural resources of LTW was conducted by experts from NABU, the Bureau of Education and Ethiopian Orthodox Church.
A manual for behaviour change was elaborated in English and then translated to Amharic. Together with the manual, publicity media was elaborated to support the campaign, as leaflets, posters and banners, which will be distributed in the project’s region. Furthermore, the campaign will be broadcasted by radio and television.
Want to find out more about the campaign? Here you can download the manual and the other publicity materials
Working Group 5: Livelihood and sustainable business development (incl. PPP)
For this working group, an approach has been planned with three main activities: training for companies (Activity One), middle scale interventions in small businesses (Activity Two) and institutions and a bigger intervention to improve the sustainability of three industries within the project area (Activity Three).
For the first activity, a series of 7 trainings are being organized to different categories within the private sector, such as large-scale farms, hotels and tourism, soft drinks producing factories, retail shops, farmers training centres, health (clinics) and living (condominium) sector, garages/car wash sector, etc. These workshops will aim on increasing awareness on environmental-friendly business management, and train company owners, business representatives and stakeholders on preserving the integrity of Lake Tana watershed’s natural water bodies, environmentally friendly sourcing, production and processing measures and the importance of environmental sustainability, aiming to propose feasible improvements for companies in order to decrease negative environmental impacts in the natural assets of the Lake Tana Watershed. The first session shall take place in early 2022.
In the second activity planned for this working group, a series of medium-scale interventions are being implemented in three schools, one farmers training centre (FTC), one clinic, six retail shops and seven hotels.
For the schools, FTC and the clinic, two professionals have been assigned to make structural plans for building rooftop rainwater catchment systems, in order to use fresh water more consciously. Together with the construction itself, it is foreseen that in the schools, gardens will be organized, where fruits and vegetables will be planted and watered with the rainwater. Additionally, an environmental awareness activity will be taught to the students, with support of the teachers. So far, 3 from the 5 tanks were already installed, and in the next rainy season will be fully functional.
For the retail shops, the proposal is to replace disposable plastic bags for re-usable cloth ones, which will be distributed in shops in the Woredas Dangila, Farta, Ebenat, Lay Armachiho, Guna Begemidir and South Mecha. The markets are already participating, and the cloth bags are already available for costumers at the following shops:
1. Gondar: Arada sub city consumer’s cooperative shop. 09 Kebele.
2. Kola Diba: Nega Addis small retail shop. 02 Kebele.
3. Addis Zemen: Yizez Gebere small retail shop. 04 Kebele.
4. Woreta: kalkidane Ashegere small retail shop. 02 Kebele.
5. Debre Tabor: Abdrhamn Ali small retail shop. 03 Kebele.
6. Dangila: Mohammed Hamid small retail shop. 05 Kebele.
In 2020, professional consultants were assigned to undertake a study in the Bahir Dar tannery, Bahir Dar textile factory and Amhara pipe factory wastewater treatment plants. This assessment aimed to identify the gaps in the treatment systems and propose measures that could contribute with the environmental protection in the region. The study was delivered to NABU, and the negotiations to implement the activity further are currently taking place, and are foreseen to start early 2022.
Working Group 6: Fundraising
The fundraising working group will start its activities together with the institutionalization of the MAP structure, and since there was a delay due to the state of emergency in Ethiopia and the global COVID-19 pandemic, the formalization of the secretariat and the board have been postponed until January 2021.
Therefore, it is foreseen that during the years of 2021 and 2022 more income sources will be available for the project and the structure itself.
Transformation of national and regional legislative processes
Latest Update: February 2022
Two professional consultants have developed a document to assess the legal gaps of existing laws at federal and regional laws. The final report has already been submitted to the NABU, where a validation workshop has taken place from 19th until 20th of November 2020, aiming to enrich the assessment. Later, the fisheries proclamation started getting revised by professionals. Also, the guidelines for utilization of the biosphere reserve are also under development.
Establishment of a local NGO
Latest Update: February 2021
In the beginning of 2021, a consultant has been commissioned in Addis Ababa to undertake the legal and procedural analysis of the next steps for NABU Ethiopia to become a national NGO. With the close collaboration of the Country Director of NABU Ethiopia, as soon as the consultants deliver the final report, the procedure of registering could be taking place still in the same year.
Meanwhile, trainings with international quality standards are being planned for the teams in Head Office Addis, Bahir Dar and Bonga Project Offices. Those trainings will be addressing project management, fundraising, and proposal writing, among others.
Extraordinary Event (September 2020)
MyPlus Event and Entertainment in collaboration with Bahir Dar city Administration organized an Acknowledgment event on September 20th 2020 in Bahir Dar, for individuals and institutions who have contributed in the development of the city. One of the categories considered by the institution was for those who have contributed in greening of the city, sanitation and beautification. NABU received a certificate of appreciation for its contribution, and treasured the acknowledgement of the local authorities.
the project in detail
Lake Tana, one of Africa's most unique wetland ecosystems and the source of 50 % of Ethiopia's freshwater is located in the north-western part of the Ethiopian Highlands. more →
Lake Tana and its surrounding wetlands are of immense ecological value and provide the means of existence for millions of people, however increasing human activity is causing the destruction of this unique area. Ecosystems are being degraded through the high pressure on natural resources. more →
Approximately 2-3 million people live around Lake Tana and in its catchment area. Many of the communities directly depend on the lake and its resources for their livelihood. more →
The Lake Tana region has a high level of biological diversity and is considered part of two biodiversity hotspots: the Eastern Afromontane Hotspot and Horn of Africa Hotspot. Its invaluable ecosystems and habitats are of local and international significance. more →
The shores of Lake Tana, Ethiopia's largest lake and the source of the Blue Nile, are home to an ancient cultural heritage and unique biodiversity. Lake Tana is of immense ecological value and provides the means of existence for millions of people. more →
NABU is comitted to promoting sustainable regional development worldwide. Our international projects always include income generating activities, which comprehensively address all three dimensions of sustainability—balancing economy, ecology and social equality. more →
NABU supports the creation, establishment and effective management of protected areas as part of our international activities, not exclusively but with special emphasis to UNESCO biosphere reserves, which are characterised by integrative and segregative approaches. more →
We aim to shape production sustainably and environmentally-friendly while encouraging companies towards corporate responsibility. NABU is advising entrepreneurs how to improve production, processing and sales for no-harming practices and low carbon foot print. more →