Past, present and future perspectives

Access to freshwater in Eastern Africa

Even where freshwater is potentially available, it is not always accessible. In Ethiopia, for example, despite an extensive network of lakes and rivers, only 24 per cent of the country's population has access to clean water, and only 13 per cent in the rural areas (WHO/UNICEF 2000). In Djibouti, by contrast, water supply and sanitation coverage is 100 per cent in both urban and rural areas (WHO/UNICEF 2000). A significant barrier to the effective development of water storage, treatment and supply has been the fragmentation of responsibilities amongst government departments, as illustrated by the Ethiopian example (see Box 2e.5).

Box 2e.5 Water resources management in Ethiopia

Until the early 1990s, there were eight public agencies involved in the development and provision of water resources in Ethiopia. The National Water Resources Commission was responsible for irrigation. The Water Resource Development Agency was responsible for the design, implementation and operation of largeand medium-scale irrigation projects. The Irrigation Development Department within the Ministry of Agriculture was entrusted with the planning and construction of small-scale irrigation. Feasibility studies and planning of irrigation schemes was undertaken by the Ethiopian Valleys Development Studies Authority and the Water Well Drilling Agency, which took over from the Valleys Development Agency and the Development Projects Studies Authority. The Ethiopian Water Works Construction Agency constructed all water project infrastructure, and the Water Supply and Sewerage Authority supplied water services and sanitation for urban and rural settlements. Not surprisingly, there was often a great deal of duplication of effort and wastage of resources among these myriad, autonomous and semi-autonomous agencies. There was also incomplete geographical coverage of water service provision. In 1994, the Ministry of Water Resources was established as a single, unified public agency responsible for water development in Ethiopia.

Source: Rahmato 1999

Improving availability and access to freshwater in Eastern Africa

The major international programmes for water resources management in the sub-region are the Lake Victoria Environmental Management Programme (LVEMP) and the Nile Basin Initiative. The LVEMP was established in 1995, with funding from GEF. The focus was primarily on: fisheries management; pollution control; control of invasive weeds; and catchment land use management. The achievements to date include: bio-control of water hyacinth (Eichornia crassipes); involvement of local communities in fisheries research and management; and afforestation in the surrounding catchment.

At the national level, policy responses include: revision of water resources development policies; improved reticulation and treatment; and greater involvement of stakeholders in water management and supply. In Kenya, water and sanitation schemes have been commercialized in pilot areas in Kericho, Eldoret and Nyeri. These pilot studies will test whether privatization contributes to meeting the goals of the Kenyan Water Act (Cap. 372), namely, to enhance the provision, conservation, control, apportionment and use of water in Kenya. The international donor organization, SIDA, is also providing support to the government of Kenya to produce a new water policy that will support the rights of villages to own and run their own water systems (SIDA 2000).

Uganda's long-term goal for the water sector is a system of full cost-recovery for services provided, but with the provision of cross-subsidized safe water services for low-income groups. The responsibility for water supply in urban areas has been decentralized away from the national Water Development Department, to local authorities. Safe water and sanitation facilities in Uganda have been improved, although rural supply rates (less than 50 per cent of the population) lag behind urban supply rates (60-75 per cent) (NEMA 2001). A National Wetlands Policy was formulated and passed by the Ugandan government in 1994, calling for, amongst other things: capacity building for wetlands management; public awareness; and wetlands resource assessment. Where housing construction design permits, rainwater is also being harvested.

In 2001, Ethiopia initiated a process to develop a sectoral strategic action plan for the realization of the objectives of the national water policy. The strategy prioritizes the interest and roles of different stakeholders, who are invited to make inputs to the strategy development.