Study Confirms Multiple Values of Water and Value Trade-offs in CRV of Ethiopia
This post i written by Yonas Tafesse, Communications Consultant, IWMI Ethiopia.
Ethiopia is often hailed as the “water tower of Africa”, reflecting its endowment with large water resources.
The Rift Valley Basin (RVB) of Ethiopia is an important eco-region, hosting national parks and significant, often endemic, flora and fauna. The Central Rift-valley (CRV), one of the sub-basins of RVB, is recognized as being ecologically the most sensitive and overused system and is primarily under pressure from human-induced challenges.
The intensification of agricultural and investment initiatives in the CRV are posing daunting challenges to multiple water values and sustainable water resource management in the RVB and beyond.
A recent study published in Water Journal during August 2023 reveals that the highest value of water in the CRV is for domestic water use values, followed by agriculture and livestock. The smallest number of rankings of the water use types by the water users of the CRV are on water as a commodity and water as a source of energy, suggesting that people’s value preferences reflect their livelihood arrangements and practices.
Existing evidence highlights that educational backgrounds of water users (illiterate, primary and secondary school, and high school and above) define their views and perspectives on the pluralistic nature of water value. According to the study, all water users across all educational statuses rate the instrumental water value (e.g., domestic and agricultural water uses) as the most preferred value whereas relational water values (e.g., aesthetic benefits) are more important value attributes for water users who were above secondary school.
Official records also reported that in many parts of the CRV increasing demand for water for food production is a major driver of dwindling ecosystem service values. Environmental degradation results in the depletion of aquifers, reduction of river flows, degradation of wildlife habitats, and pollution, thereby calling the need for improved water resources management.
Dr. Amare Haileselassie, one of the co-authors of the study, argues that the co-existence of irrigation sites, thanksgiving celebrations, and Ethiopian Orthodox Church Epiphany festivity in the CRV illustrates the possibility for co-planning management of water uses and associated values. He further pointed out that the value of co-existence strengthens the cohesion among members of a group, providing an interactive space in which communal belonging is symbolized and shared norms are respected.
The freshwater in the CRV is essential for human survival, agriculture, and for the existence of plants and animals. However, pollution, climate change, water-related disease, and the destruction of natural habitats are all threatening the purity and availability of water resources, according to existing evidence.
The study further stresses that the prevalence of water-borne disease and poor water quality are the leading water-related risks and threats in the CRV, as perceived by local communities while the increasing invasive weed species (e.g., water hyacinth) and ecosystem degradation take second position.
Failure to reverse the water-ecosystem service and protecting the values attached to deterioration can lead to the collapse of the food system and worsen the current food insecurity situation in CRV, Dr. Amare warns.
The study recommends that a practical solution to water insecurity for agriculture lies in the recognition of the intersecting and multiple water values within communities and landscapes. It further proposes that reforming and enforcing policies to reflect this fundamental understanding would be an important first step to achieving greater water security in the CRV. ◼
*** For more information & queries, contact Dr. Amare Haileselassie, Principal Researcher, IWMI Ethiopia through [email protected]. ***