Growth: Water into Money

How does investment in water supply and sanitation contribute to the government's wider objectives of economic growth and poverty reduction? What are the implications for sector policy and programming? These are important questions which RiPPLE's Growth theme is seeking to address.

Growth prospects in Ethiopia centre on agriculture but are severely constrained by risk and vulnerability and chronic food insecurity. Various studies have shown that access to markets and asset inequality are key factors determining the extent to which growth in a given location is 'pro-poor'. Access to water supply and sanitation (WSS) is a major form of asset inequality in Ethiopia , where only around half of the population has access to safe water and less than 20% has access to sanitation facilities. It not only affects the health, welfare and productivity of rural households, but also impacts on their ability to engage in available market opportunities, through savings of time and labour and small scale productive uses.

The RiPPLE project has initiated a Long-Term Action Research Study (LARS) on Growth focusing on how investments in water and sanitation services can contribute to poverty reduction, sustainable livelihoods and pro-poor growth, where barriers are and what linkages to other sectors need to be developed for this to happen.


Our Growth LARS has incorporates findings from our phase 2 research theme. The 4 sub-LARS focus each on a specific issue identified in previous RiPPLE phases and through LPAs. Action research is undertaken in collaboration with government and non-government implementing agencies, so as to support them to improve and adjust, if necessary, ways of working to improve effectiveness, problem solving and taking forward best practice.

Main research areas

WSS and Poverty:

By looking at both micro-level and macro-level impacts, RiPPLE case studies aimed to understand the impacts of access to WSS on household welfare through health impacts and increasing productivity and production; as well as links between access and growth-related indicators.

Multiple-use Water Services (MUS):

The objective of the case study was By to assess lookcosts and benefits when moving from single-use systems to multiple use systems. Findings provide evidence that that multiple use systems provide a number of benefits – both financial and otherwise – and makes the case for integrated planning for productive and domestic uses of water.

Food Security (FS):

The objective of this study was to assess the linkages between WSS and food security at a micro level by comparing villages with and without access to water schemes in East Hararghe zone of Oromiya region. Physical and socioeconomic services and infrastructure, such as water schemes, are essential elements in improving rural food security. Access to sufficient and safe water supports achieving the different dimensions of food security, e.g. reducing vulnerability to shocks; increasing food availability and access; and enhancing the utilisation components by improving health and sanitation.

Household Water Economy Assessment (HWEA):

The objective of the HWEA sub-LARS is to provide an information system and analytical tools to assess water access of different wealth groups at household level within different livelihood zones.

Climate change adaptation (CC):

The objective of the CC sub-LARS is to identify which interventions and investments in the water sector enhance adaptation to the impacts of climate variability and change and facilitate the uptake of the findings at local, national and international levels. It will use HWEA baseline data for scenario development aiming at assessing the effectiveness of interventions.

Income Diversification (ID):

This sub-LARS should be an assessesment of the role of water investments (particularly irrigation) in increasing the resilience of small-scale farmers through income diversification in different agro-ecological settings.

Equity in Growth (EiG):

This sub-LARS addresses how equitable access to multiple water use can be stimulated and facilitated. It will provide information for service providers to plan and provide equitable access to productive water at Wereda level.


This sub-LARS aims at synthesising existing literature, knowledge and experiences on water service provision to pastoralist communities in Ethiopia and the impact it has had on pastoral livelihoods. This synthesis will serve as an input to a national stakeholder meeting planned for late 2009 and the drafting of a strategy to support more livelihood benign water interventions for pastoralists that can strengthen their resilience in the face of greater climate variability, support their inclusion in pro-poor growth strategies and assist in preventing conflict.


Studies on WSS and Poverty and MUS have already been conducted, and findings fed into the development of the LARS, and led to defining of the research areas in RiPPLE’s third phase. The HWEA, CC and ID sub-LARS action research has been launched in Oromiya region and the Equity sub-LARS activities were launched in SNNPR, while the Pastoralism component covers the whole country. Currently, RiPPLE is concentrating on data collection and analysis, while scenario modelling and testing innovation as well as cross-regional and cross-agency learning will be the focus after April 2009.

Page last updated 28 Aug 2009