Water-security in Ethiopia and the Emotional response of Pastoralists (WEEP)

Lead Research Organisation: Cranfield University
Department Name: School of Water, Energy and Environment


Pastoralists are farmers who raise livestock, and move their herds in search of fresh pasture and water supplies. There are 12 million in Ethiopia and they are often in extreme poverty. Unfortunately the pastures they use are disputed and they often come into conflict with other land users. The changing climate is altering resource availability and this can make the conflicts worse. The government is trying to persuade them to diversify their farming activities and grow arable crops as well. This can restrict their access to water resources, increasing their water insecurity.

Conventional water access data focusses on water for domestic uses, rather than water for livestock. It also enumerates the water access of an entire household which may not be relevant when some household members are away from home for extended periods with the livestock. It does not seek to understand how people experience their water use, or prioritise it for different uses.

This research will seek to understand the emotional response of pastoralists to this water insecurity. It will compare three types of habitation: those dominated by pastoralists, mixed habitations and those where pastoralists form a minority. Through focus groups and related activities researchers will seek to understand how water use by all groups can be rewarding, stressful or disappointing. These responses will, be used in the second stage of the project to develop an easy-to-administer a survey tool where users are asked to rate their experience regarding water use on a Likert-scale. The results of this will be compared to more conventional indicators, for example those used by the World Health Organisation and UNICEF to monitor progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals.

The findings will be used to influence water policy and practice in Ethiopia. Globally, the research will be used by people who are trying to provide water holistically for both domestic and productive uses.

Planned Impact

The Joint Monitoring Project of the World Health Organisation and UNICEF have been monitoring access to improved water supplies since the start of the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) period, producing country-level data. Whilst providing an essential overview on progress towards the MDGs and now the Sustainable Development Goals, it has been recognised that they are focusing only on domestic water uses and somewhat oversimplified and have been extended to a "water ladder". A related and more realistic "multiple-use ladder" has also been developed for MUS supplies. This research will take that approach a step further by studying how emotional wellbeing relates to water access and holistic water security as experienced by people, especially pastoralists. It will look within the household unit to understand the services experienced by different household members including those away from home tending livestock. As indicators tend to drive water sector strategy, developing improved indicators is the best way to ensure research impact.

Providing water in a holistic way, meeting both domestic and productive needs, has particular benefits for pastoralist communities. Although the Multiple Use Services (MUS) approach considers people's multiple water needs for multi-faceted wellbeing, including healthy livestock, a holistic indicator that integrates water-related wellbeing is still lacking. This research will provide such an indicator and ensure it is embedded within the MUS community.

In Ethiopia, the government perceives pastoralists to be vulnerable to climate change, poverty and conflict and hence is encouraging them to practice agro-pastoralism. However this change to a more settled lifestyle is forcing them to rely on a smaller number of water points which might not have sufficient water for their needs throughout the year. This research can help inform policy on pastoralist livelihoods, not just in Ethiopia but globally.
Description This project has developed an innovative monitoring indicator to assess the impact of water security on emotional well-being. Inductively designed and tested among pastoralists from the Afar Region in Ethiopia, this novel indicator uses emotion to assess water security using a three-scale system of analysis for well-being. A quantitative survey was used at the household level to test the indicator alongside more conventional measures of water security. Findings indicate seasonality was a major influence on well-being with positive emotions aligning with the rainy season and negative emotions with the dry season. Overall water security was predominantly defined by negative emotions particularly negative passive emotions such as fatigue, grief and hopelessness. Evaluating emotion complemented conventional measures by providing additional qualitative depth and context to the monitoring process. The indicator showed effectiveness in detecting specific weak points in the current system and signalling areas for concern. The indicator demonstrated significant potential as an additional tool for monitoring and evaluation (see impact narrative section). The concept background to the approach and initial results from testing are captured in the various non-journal publications uploaded onto the system. We are working to have these published in high-quality journals and the status at the time of reporting is that 1 is under-review and 2 are in advanced draft stages. These will be uploaded to ResearchFish when they are published.
Exploitation Route We are confident the findings have relevance for governments, donors and implementing agencies (e.g. NGOs) that deliver water, sanitation and hygiene services in low and middle-income countries. Especially those that work with marginal populations that have unconventional water use patterns such as pastoralists. Such research-users require ways to monitor and evaluate their projects with such groups and conventional indicators poorly align to marginal population's water use practices. Hence, we see the project findings as valuable as they enable governments and others to more accurately and sensitively measure outcomes associated with their investments in these areas. This will lead to better and more focused programmes that ultimately result in improved livelihood and health outcomes in target populations as well as higher-level impacts associated with aid effectiveness and government investment in these areas.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Communities and Social Services/Policy,Environment,Government, Democracy and Justice

URL https://www.ircwash.org/projects/weep
Description The WEEP project has developed new monitoring approaches for water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) projects that make use of emotional wellbeing to assess subjective experiences of development interventions. This allows WASH implementing partners (e.g. NGOs and government) to be more sensitive to community's need in tracking the impact of projects on communities. The 18 month project provided proof-of-concept of the methodology for pastoralists in Afar. In 2019-2020, we have supported partner IRC (a NGO working in the region) to use and embed the approach in their monitoring of water supply programmes in Lowland Ethiopia. This includes in a recently submitted report to UNICEF assessing their water supply assets in the area. By developing a new method and promotiong its use among practitioners, we believe we are track to achieve real societal impact as improvements in water sector monitoring can cascade through the system to improve the effectiveness of WASH programming and policy helping to improve aid effectiveness for UK government and other donors, as well as national authorities in Ethiopia. In 2021 the approach was rolled out again in the USAID Sustainable WASH Systems Learning Partnership work in Afar, Ethiopia. This has led to a new publication (see: Libey et al. 2022) lead by a new academic team showing the sensitivity of this approach out perform similar measures in this context.
First Year Of Impact 2019
Sector Environment
Impact Types Policy & public services

Description ESRC-DFID Research for Policy and Practice: Water security
Geographic Reach Multiple continents/international 
Policy Influence Type Citation in other policy documents
URL https://opendocs.ids.ac.uk/opendocs/bitstream/handle/20.500.12413/14678/R4PP_WaterSecurity_4pp_FINAL...
Description WASH monitoring influence via guidance to Lowland WASH programme
Geographic Reach Local/Municipal/Regional 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
Description Institutional GCRF Research Grant
Amount £9,986 (GBP)
Funding ID P12569 
Organisation Cranfield University 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2019 
End 07/2019
Title Water Wellbeing Toolkit 
Description The Development of an Emotional Indicator for Water Security: Protocol 1 - Beta Version (Oct, 2018) The development of this indicator tool to measure emotion and emotional well-being is in response to a call for broader and more holistic approaches to measuring water-security. Complementing the conventional indicators of water security (water quality, quantity or adequacy, source or reliability, and affordability); the analysis of emotional wellbeing provides a way to expand on the direct and indirect ways water security can impact on communities, particularly in detecting societal and/or cultural differences in the experience of water security such as gender and disability in communities. The tool was built on the proven premise that water security is a key determinant of wellbeing and varying levels of access to water triggers emotional responses from populations. The methodological innovation in our tool is via the measurement of emotional wellbeing in different dimensions taking into account valance (positivity v negativity), arousal (active v passive) and discrete emotions. Such sensitivities allow assessment of whether needs are being meet but also provides insights in terms of identifying the types of intervention approach that can be used within populations (e.g. those with high negativity and arousal may be conflict risks). 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Year Produced 2018 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact Throughout the 18 month project we provided proof-of-concept of the indicator tool for pastoralist populations in the Lowlands of Ethiopia. We have provided guidance on including the indicator in monitoring surveys of the biggest WASH programme in the region (Lowland WASH). Going forward we have secured additional resource to provide training on using the tool to practitioners working in this area (see additional funding section). 
URL https://wedc-knowledge.lboro.ac.uk/resources/conference/41/Cooper-2948.pdf
Description Household Water Insecurity Experiences Research Collaborative Network 
Organisation National Science Foundation (NSF)
Country United States 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution I have become a member of the Member Household Water Insecurity Experiences Research Collaborative Network. I have shared papers and been invited to meetings to discuss research in this area.
Collaborator Contribution https://hwise-rcn.org/
Impact N?A
Start Year 2019
Description Blog: Access to water and well-being of pastoralists in Afar 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact Blog from collaborator in Ethiopia discussing his experiences during the fieldwork period and what he has learnt about pastoralist water use.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.ircwash.org/blog/access-water-sources-and-wellbeing-pastoralists-mille
Description Blog: Coming with a fresh perspective: understanding experiences of water security in Afar, Ethiopia. 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact Blog from PDRA working on the project explaining its general scope in plain English and offering her reflections on the value of the project.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.ircwash.org/blog/coming-fresh-perspective-understanding-experiences-water-security-afar-...
Description Measuring pastoralist water security in the Lowlands (Addis Ababa) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Expert seminar titled: "Measuring pastoralist water security in the Lowlands, A learning seminar" on 25 October 2018, ILRI campus, Addis Ababa
Organised by IRC WASH in collaboration with Cranfield University, Oxfam, Friendship Support, Association, the International Water Management Institute and partners.
The seminar aimed to share our innovative research on measuring water security in the Ethiopian lowlands with decision makers, researchers and practitioners to provide feedback on the research and identify potential applications and new partnerships. Attendees included Government of Ethiopia (5 attendees), key development donors (e.g. USAID), international bodies (e.g. UNICEF), NGOs and researchers. The event has lead to various follow-up activities including to provision of specific guidance on using our approach to monitor gender issues in the largest lowland WASH programme in Ethiopia.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.ircwash.org/news/pastoralist-water-security-learning-seminar-25-october-2018