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Water transforms life for Bale's livestock keepers

Lack of access to water is a constant challenge for families living in the lowlands of Ethiopia’s Bale Eco-region.  Most people here are dependent on their livestock, but many are having to undertake day-long trips on foot to the nearest rivers in search of water for themselves and their animals.

Ahado Isaac is one such livestock keeper. She doesn’t know her exact ages but estimates it to be around 55. Until recently, Ahado made a 12-hour round trip to the Helgol River with her cattle every other day.

But things have changed for the better since Farm Africa, with the support of the EU and Jersey Overseas Aid Commission, helped the community to rehabilitate a nearby pond, and set up a separate tap-stand for people and a cattle trough for livestock plus fencing off the pond to stop people and animals getting into the water and contaminating it.

Ahado describes how difficult things used to be:

“Previously, I went to the Helgol River…. I would go there every other day because cattle have to drink every other day. My husband and myself would go with the cattle. We would depart early in the morning, around 6am and we would be back by 6pm in the evening.”

The impact this had on both her children and the cattle was huge.

“The children had to manage by themselves when they got back from school. The cattle were physically so weak because their grazing time was reduced as they were walking so far to find water.

The newly installed tapstand is supplemented by a sand filter so that the water can be used for drinking after it gets boiled.

The water pond is now managed by a cooperative set up by Farm Africa. Users are charged a small fee to use the water point and the money is used to pay a guard for the water point and for its maintenance.

Ahado explains what a difference these measures have made to her life.

“Now, I have more time to look after my children and prepare food at the right time because I don’t have to travel long distance. I am happy that the water source is close to my home’’

Farm Africa has also helped the community to set up a rangeland management cooperative, who have rejuvenated the nearby grazing lands. This has meant that Ahado’s cattle can graze close to home all year round instead of being taken up to the forest during the annual dry season. This brings further improvements to the environment; with reduced grazing in the forest there is reduced soil erosion and greater water retention in the highlands, which in turn benefits the low-lying pastures

Having healthier cattle has changed the lives of Ahado and her husband.

“Previously, we could only get milk during the rainy season. Now we can get five to six cups every day, both in the dry and rainy seasons. We drink the milk and sell it, it’s our staple product. I sell it in the centre of the kebele, and sometimes we take it to Dello Mena market

And that means higher income and a higher standard of living for the whole family:

“Now we have more money that we can eat properly and  able to fulfil the cost of clothes and schooling for our children which we couldn’t do this before.”