Voices from the Source: struggles with water security in Ethiopia

February 2012 to July 2012

The idea of ‘water security’ is under unprecedented scrutiny at an international level.  Much current debate is couched in terms of a water-security-energy ‘nexus’ reflecting growing understanding of interrelationships at all levels . Many governments and agencies – including in Ethiopia – are seeking better ways of targeting water investments to reduce risks for the most vulnerable and to encourage contributions to growth and development at all levels

The literature that exists already tells us that difficulties in accessing reliable, safe water for drinking and household productive uses may only be experienced seasonally, and/or by certain groups within communities – and may range across different uses from individual consumption to small-scale irrigation and livestock watering. This mosaic of impacts and effects is often hard to interpret and understand without detailing the lives and livelihoods of local communities and enabling their own voices to tell the story of local water (in)security.

This research will go back to the source and will encourage people to speak for themselves and articulate their own diversity of views on what their understandings are of water ‘security and insecurity’ and how they interpret the links between these understandings and their wider food, income health and other forms of security constituting their overall human security.

This particular focus on a human-centric perspective will seek to engage with wider economic-centric understandings of water security, often presented simply in terms of water scarcity (availability per capita terms, for instance). We will focus in particular on understanding the institutional environments at a local level that mediate and shape access to the resource, how it is used and how communities – and other institutions – seek to develop and enhance their future water security. 

The key research questions are:

  • What are the specific physical, social, economic and political drivers of water insecurity in specific locations and what are the responses to physical and economic water stresses?

  • What are the public policy and institutional priorities and support measures that could improve resilience to water insecurities at a local level?


To achieve water security, we must see its human face

Comment | 19 February 2013 | Josephine Tucker
'This is what the human face of water security looks like: a complex set of trade-offs, coping mechanisms and social arrangements, all closely linked to the broader set of decisions people make about their livelihoods ... Yet concerns about physical scarcity –...
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Achieving water security: global concerns and local realities

Public event | 6 February 2013 17:15 - 18:45 GMT+00

Why does water security remain an elusive goal for many countries?  What factors make it difficult to sustain services and manage resources effectively at scale? How do rural households experience water insecurity, and are current policy responses adequate?...

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Voices from the source: struggles with local water security in Ethiopia

Research reports and studies | February 2013 | Mengistu Dessalegn, Likimyelesh Nigussie, Wondwosen Michago, Josephine Tucker, Alan Nicol and Roger Calow
What are the physical, social, economic and political drivers of water insecurity in different locations in Ethiopia? How have different communities responded to situations of water stress? What should be the public policy and institutional priorities to improve...