Reducing ecosystem-based disaster risk in eastern Ethiopia


Mukhtar Ali

Alebachew Adem

Wetlands International

Degradation of ecosystems such as forests, wetlands and dry lands is now widely understood as a major driver of disaster risk and a key component of disaster vulnerability. Deforested slopes can cause more landslides, while encroachment on wetlands worsens flooding. Disasters have impact on ecosystems causing environmental damages and losses that increase risk. Without intervention, such ecosystems would result in disasters or exacerbate their impact on communities and livelihoods. Hence, recognising these inter-linkages and inter-dependencies is critical to ensure and sustain community resilience.

Due to recurrent droughts and related natural resource degradation, forage for livestock is largely in shortage in Fafan Zone in the Somali region of eastern Ethiopia. Lack of experience in hay making further aggravates the problem. And, hence, most agro-pastoralist households struggle for food security. This challenge is intensified by climate change and its triggers. Climate change is a recognised threat to the well-being and livelihoods of humans and ecosystems across the globe.

As part of a global programme in 10 countries across the world including Ethiopia, and as an extension and scaling up project of the successful interventions phase of the Strengthening Community Resilience Project, the design and effective implementation of ecosystem-based approaches to climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction (Eco-DRR) were executed in the Somali region in Ethiopia from 2019 to June 2022.

Eco-DRR binds ecosystems to prevent, mitigate or buffer, natural hazards and climate change impacts – either as an option to or in support of built infrastructure for livelihoods resilience. The Eco-DRR project implementation in the Somali region, therefore, used strengthening disaster risk governance, enhancing the knowledge and skill of the community and development actors in the Upper Fafan zone catchment. It also promoted eco-system-based disaster risk reduction interventions and practices as strategic intervention approaches.

Implemented by Wetlands International in collaboration with the programme’s consortium, the Bureau of Agriculture and other relevant local stakeholders of the region, the project focused on two districts of Fafan Zone, namely Shebelle and Gursum. The specific locations in these districts are Hare-2 locality in Shebelle and Bombas Town of Gursum. The project aimed to support capacity building and advocacy activities, focusing on ecosystem restoration in the upper Fafan catchments.  

Field Mission Takeaways

In the project’s phasing out timeline, a joint exposure field mission was organised for representatives from various government sectors, CSOs, INGOs and local NGOs in mid May 2022. This mission specifically aimed to coordinate and share the outcomes and lessons learned, in addition to participants providing their inputs and feedback for future joint planning.

It was underscored that Eco-DRR and ecosystem-based adaptation activities implemented by Wetlands International and its partners play a key role in reducing disaster and climate risk in the Somali region, in particular, in addressing systemic risk arising from an increasingly complex and evolving risk landscape.

According to the Government representatives, these Eco-DRR activities will be embraced as model practices that can and should implemented in other similarly degraded and affected areas.

In addition, participants highlighted that such innovative solutions to environmental degradation and natural resources management requires close collaboration between actors in the sector, with the local community exhibiting readiness to provide labour and commitment for the sustainability of activities.

The participants walked through the sites and collected the necessary lessons as learning experiences. They also took note of recommendations and discussed them during the feedback session after the field mission.

Establishing a Regional Task Force to Sustain Eco-DRR Approaches

During a feedback session organised after the exposure visit, there was consensus that a regional task force mandated to sustain, scale up these innovative approaches and mobilise stakeholders would be established.

ECO-DRR project is implemented by a partnership of five humanitarian, development and environmental organisations – namely Wetlands International, CoRDAID, Ethiopian Red Cross Society, Netherlands Red Cross Society and United Nations Environmental Programme, with financial support from the European Union.

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