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In Hawassa, a rapidly industrialising city of around 350,000 inhabitants, a partnership called Protecting Lake Hawassa aims to improve water security for businesses, people and the environment.
Context, Approach and Objectives

In the past decade, Ethiopia has experienced an average annual GDP growth of 8-10% and in 2017, the country was ranked as the world’s fastest growing economy. Along with the doubling of the population within the last 30 years, this has posed new challenges in meeting the corresponding need for more public services and basic infrastructure. The fast paced, state-driven development of industrial parks and economic zones is a clear response to this need.

​There is now growing concern among local communities, investors and public bodies that there might not be enough water to sustain this tremendous population and economic growth.

​By engaging private sector actors and using them as catalysts to create partnerships, IWaSP enables a stronger, more concerted effort in improving water security at the sub-catchment level.

​IWaSP in Ethiopia aims to meet the following objectives:

  • Improve water security for 350,000 people by 2018, with a special focus on vulnerable population groups
  • Actively approach internationally and domestically based companies to engage in water stewardship
  • Implement scalable projects that measurably reduce water risks in relevant catchments, as well as leverage financial and technical resources to maximise impact
  • Strengthen cooperation between the private sector, the public sector and civil society in multi-stakeholder partnerships
  • Strengthen national, regional, zonal and local government and river basin management authorities in Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) and service provision


IWaSP Partnerships in Ethiopia

Partnership name

Sector/thematic area


Protecting Lake Hawassa

Improving water infrastructure system

Improving water management

Improving catchment governance

2017 to 2020

Protecting Lake Hawassa (2017-2020) is a promising partnership with the Rift Lakes Basin Authority (RVLBA) and PVH Corp., a major global player in the garment industry, to protect Lake Hawassa. IWaSP Ethiopia's key objectives for this initiative are:

  • To set up and maintain a legitimate, accountable, well-governed and institutionally robust mult-stakeholder partnership
  • To support this partnership by designing, successfully implementing, monitoring and evaluating a sound project strategy and work plan. This includes measures that cover three action areas: water infrastructure systems, water management, and catchment governance


Achievements to Date

​The inclusive stakeholder engagement process has led a comprehensive group of water users to work collectively towards water security. Additionally, a series of partnership training sessions have equipped stakeholders with the knowledge and tools to further define the partnership’s strategy and agree on key governance and accountability principles. With active engagement of the partners and stakeholders, Protecting Lake Hawassa has identified three large top-priority projects:

  • Solid Waste Management (SWM)
  • Afforestation and Soil Erosion Control (ASEC)
  • Community and Stakeholder Engagement (CASE)


Challenges and Outlook


  • Situations calling for rapid responses at scale - Population growth combined with the fast-paced, government-led intensification of agriculture and development of industrial parks contributed to escalating competition amongst water users, urgently calling for a better understanding and management of this limited resource.
  • IWRM still on the back burner - IWRM institutions are still in their infancy, poorly resourced and unequipped to meet the escalating challenges they face. “The kind of institution-building effort required to address these challenges [water allocation, resource development, climate-smart planning] will take decades rather than years” [source: Building adaptive water resources management in Ethiopia, Overseas Development Institute (ODI), 2015].
  • Little experience so far to build upon - Water stewardship involving the multi stakeholder engagement approach fostered by IWaSP is rather novel in Ethiopia. Multi-stakeholder approaches allowing the private sector and civil society to genuinely participate in the decision making process with the government to address shared concerns are rare.


  • ​Proactive companies - Attractive policies are bringing foreign investors in the country, some of which are genuinely interested in playing a leading role in water stewardship efforts. Powerful national groups and companies also show strong interest in such collective actions. The commitment and convening power of such private actors are clear assets for IWaSP.
  • Scope for systemic influence - Successful IWaSP partnerships can become a blueprint model for the government to address shared water risks in numerous hotspots in the country. Demonstrating the relevance of such collective actions around industrial parks provides an opportunity for more systemic changes.
  • Internal synergies to seize within GIZ - Synergies between GIZ’s IWaSP and Sustainable Textile programme (eTex) can lead to promote better social and environmental standards in the textile sector and in industrial parks.​
Country Set-up

GIZ has been implementing IWaSP in Ethiopia since 2016. The programme is embedded in the Biodiversity component, which, alongside Education and Agriculture, form the three pillars of GIZ’s cooperative development work with Ethiopia. 

Further Information on Ethiopia’s Water Resources

Because of its geography and climate, Ethiopia features a high level of hydrological variability, which is compounded by the almost total absence of water storage and highly vulnerable watersheds [source: World Bank, 2006 – cited in Building adaptive water resources management in Ethiopia, Overseas Development Institute (ODI), 2015].

​Ethiopia is experiencing significant natural and socioeconomic changes, which are modifying the availability and demand of water resources. Lack of integrated planning in the water sector, carried out through yet embryonic river basin authorities, results in allocation of water resources on the basis of much insufficient understanding of water availability, and without proper consideration of competing demands. Conflicts amongst water users are the natural consequence of this (e.g. conflict in the Awash River Basin between upstream and downstream irrigators as well as between irrigators and hydropower operators). A review of the policy and institutional framework for WRM suggested that Ethiopia might not be prepared to cope with these pressures [source: Building adaptive water resources management in Ethiopia, Overseas Development Institute (ODI), 2015].

​The establishment of ‘good enough’ WRM institutions in Ethiopia is hampered by a lack of knowledge of resource conditions, patterns of use, and drivers of change. Additionally, many institutions are unable to enact 'climate smart' planning because they do not have the capacity and skills to plan water allocation or to assess the impacts and trade-offs of water resources development and allocation. It could still take some decades to engage in all the institution-building activities needed to address these challenges [source: Building adaptive water resources management in Ethiopia, Overseas Development Institute (ODI), 2015].

Contact Information

Ulrich Plein
IWaSP Country Coordinator in Ethiopia