Field Report on Visit to EOC-DICAC’S Development Projects in North Shoa

By Susie Kinghan,

MSc Community Water and Sanitation

Visitor from the UK and volunteer with EOC-DICAC’s Water Resource Department

Between the 23rd and 25th of January 2013, I visited some previous and current projects from the EOC-DICAC Development Department, located in North Shoa. For all site visits, I was accompanied by Project Coordinator Dejene who facilitated the trip.




FIGURE 1: FARMERS GROWING ONION SEEDLINGSThis project was implemented between 1998 and 2006 when the project was phased out. Seven years later, the impacts of the project can still be seen. The project consists of Integrated Watershed Management and has a number of different activities. 

Firstly we saw an area closure site, where 30 hectares had been set aside for closure, so as not to be grazed or interfere with in any way. This was to protect soil erosion and improved flood management in the area. At this time, the area remains protected by the community. Another community nearby have copied the project activity, closing an area of 145 hectares, showing the sustainability of the project seven years on as well as its success in being replicated.

FIGURE 2: WASHING IN THE CANALSFurther, we visited a water supply development with spring capping, distribution point and cattle trough. At the time of the visit, there was a high number of people collecting water, washing and watering their animals at the distribution point. There was some degradation of the water point from a crack leading to leakage and overflow, requiring maintenance from the woreda. Otherwise, the point is still functioning well. 

We also saw the lined irrigation channels that were constructed by the project, reaching 700m and irrigating a very large area. Some of the irrigation gates were broken, but farmers were using mud and adapting their own techniques to maintain the gates. The irrigation FIGURE 3: LINED IRRIGATION CANALSchannel was otherwise in very good condition (figures 2 and 3). Alongside this activity, the project also trained the farmers in improving their crop types and agricultural techniques, providing seedlings, advising on growing news vegetables and organizing horticultural demonstration. We saw a large amount of
onions being grown and seeded, land being irrigated and new fruits being grown (figure 1). While the area designated for a cooperative group to manage (growing mangos) was less well kept, the individual farmers’ land was very productively used. The farmers are now able to organize their crops to sell at nearby markets and traders come with transport to collect and buy the goods. Clearly the project has been successful in improving the livelihoods and agricultural knowledge of this community.




I also visited a water supply and irrigation project which is currently being implemented by EOC-DICAC in the Gosh Wuha watershed area. The activities of this project involve a mix of new construction and rehabilitation of non-functional infrastructure originally built by the government. We saw one new water point built by the project, and government built non-functional water point, a reservoir and spring capping which had been destroyed by the community. The problem from the previous constructions were that despite high yield of the spring, the government project had only addressed water supply and not accounted for irrigation, which is a key priority for the community. In the EOC-DICAC project, both of these priorities will be addressed. While the water supply infrastructure will be maintained, a key part of the project is also to construct lined irrigation channels. At the time of the visit, one new water point was finished and the spring capping was being maintained (see figures 4 and 5). 

When I asked why the project had built a new water point before first finishing the spring capping or maintaining the reservoir, Dejene explained that the project had started during the harvest time when the community was busy in the fields and unable to provide their labour. Recognizing these community priorities and constraints, the project first focused on completing work which did not require community labour. Now harvest season is over, the community is helping in the spring capping and trench excavation. 

Once the infrastructure is completed, the project will carry out livelihood improvement activities, providing quality seeds and trees for the farmers to produce new crops. During the visit, Dejene asked the farmers what kind of new crops they needed, such as mango, coffee and avocado. The project links up with the Debre Zeit research centre to advise the farmers on the most appropriate crops for the area and the highest quality varieties of trees and seeds.

Finally, we visited a further activity of the project addressing livelihood improvement. Landless youths had been trained in Gabion making, which would then be purchased by the project for constructing check dams. The project trained the youth and provided the material to them using a revolving fund. During the visit, the youths were not working as it was a religious holiday. One of the challenges of the projects is the large number of holidays that the communities celebrate, impeding work progress.


The visit to the site in Siyadest-Wayu woreda involved a steep climb down the valley as the project site was very far away from the road. First we saw the community carrying out check dam construction, to reduce the widening of gulley during the rainy season (see figure 6). Dejene surveyed the quality of the work and explained to the community how to improve their technique for more sustainable construction (using a constant mix of large and small stones to hold the dam together, rather than using large stones at the bottom and simply piling the smallest stones on at the top). 

Next we visited the place where landless youths trained by the project were making the gabion for the check dams, again using a revolving fund approach. Two of the seventeen trained youths were women and we observed fourteen them at work (figure 7); three had not engaged in the work programme. This work is seasonal, as check dams are only constructed during a certain time of year and demand may or may not continue from one year to another. I asked Dejene how this livelihood activity would then be sustainable in the long term. He said that for the current activity, the youth would gain a large amount of cash for their work and could use this to invest in a new activity such as renting farmland or starting a small business. It will be interesting to see how the youth progress over the project lifetime.

Finally we visited the water supply and irrigation project in this area. A spring with high potential was being capped; a reservoir and water point built and lined irrigation channels constructed. At the time of the visit we saw the work being carried out on the irrigation channels (figures 8 and 9) and Dejene discussed with the community their request for a third irrigation channel.

When the local farmers invited us to their homes to share some injera, wot and local beer, Dejene used the opportunity to discuss the progress of the projects with them. Due to the steep slopes and the very difficult access of the project sites, the community was required to carry the concrete for the project from the highland down to the site. As the community was also busy with check dam construction, a lack of material carried to the site was impeding project progress. Dejene encouraged the farmers to increase their participation in transporting the materials, especially if they wanted a third irrigation channel through the project. Following some glasses of local beer, as well as some home-brewed alcoholic spirit, the steep climb back to the car was the greatest challenge of the day!




Alongside the water-shed management projects, we also found the time to visit a rural marketing project, implemented by EOC-DICAC between 2007 and 2009 with support still ongoing. Accompanied by the responsible staff member from the woreda, we visited the cooperative offices and discussed the project with two members of the farmers’ cooperative. Initially, the project had set up the cooperative to improve the farmers’ understanding and practice of marketing techniques, as well as link them with the research centre at Debre Zeit to gain advice on the best quality seeds to use. The project also provided storage facilities as well as equipment such as scales to weigh the grain (see figure 10). 

The cooperative continues to provide market information and advice to the farmers and enables them to find the best prices and market outlets for their grain. As a result, the farmers have been able to improve the quality and yield of teff they produce and the cooperative has expanded to around 900 farmers, including 200 women. The cooperative continues to function, grow and increase its share value, three years after the project has ended.


The Development Department at EOC-DICAC arranged a full and varied programme for my field visit. Dejene worked hard to show many as many different activities as possible, answered all of my questions as best he could and translated his discussions with the community. He was happy to accompany me to the project sites, even if they were a long drive and a tiring walk. When some local children had deflated the tires of our car, he and Haftu, a project supervisor, changed the front tire without complaint or a moment’s rest. I am very grateful for all of his efforts and support. Clearly the EOC-DICAC staff closely monitors their projects to ensure that the work is of high quality, despite the difficult accessibility of the sites and the tough conditions.  They also work closely with the community to ensure that there is strong participation and have continued discussions to resolve any challenges. Sustainability is a key priority of their work, demonstrated by the fact that they continue to monitor previous projects, years after phase out, and learn from both the successes and the challenges.  With limited staff and transport, as well as very difficult terrain and hot climate, I think that they are doing a fantastic job, with great commitment and motivation to the work.

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