SNV in Ethiopia: from emergency aid to long-term sustainable development cooperation


“how an emergency aid project developed into a sustainable development project”  

What once started as a drought and famine emergency response supported by the Dutch Government gradually turned to be a longer-term collaboration between the Ethiopian Government and the Dutch International Cooperation. SNV in Ethiopia acted as the implementing body in the realisation of a number of projects and programmes specifically designed for the former Lasta District as well as projects in other areas at regional and national scale. These include: Golina Hormat Rivers Catchment Rehabilitation Project; Bugna and Gidan Integrated Rural Development Programme; and Meket Rural Development Programme.

Golina Hormat Rivers Catchment Rehabilitation Project

The Golina Hormat Project focussed on soil and water conservation and reforestation over the area between Golina and Hormat rivers at the foot of the Eastward sloping catchment. Main activities were reforestation, through seed multiplication and plantation and area closure; promotion of apiculture; fodder development; and terracing. It involved local communities to own the whole process. While the project was approaching fruition, it had to be stopped after two years of operation due to growing security concerns following heightened rebel activities in the area. It is remarkable to see that what had been started then is still visible now as the project has left landmarks where the area is still well protected and farmlands remain well terraced.

Bugna and Gidan Integrated Rural Development Programmes

Both Bugna and Gidan Integrated Rural Development Programmes were financed by the Dutch Development Cooperation and managed by SNV Ethiopia. They were designed and implemented in the two adjacent woredas (administrative units) of former Lasta District. The Bugna programme started in 1993 while the Gidan programme followed two years later. The area had been so much affected by drought and civil unrest during the war that it required an emergency rehabilitation scheme before a longer-term development intervention was planned. A complementary Emergency Recovery and Rehabilitation Programme (CERRP) was started in Bugan Woreda, which provided seeds and farm implements as a prelude and entry point to the rural development intervention programmes.

Both Bugna and Gidan Programmes had similar  interventions such as agriculture, natural resource management, rural saving and credit, off-farm employment generation, water supply and sanitation, health services, construction of rural connection roads and capacity building of woreda, zonal and regional level offices with the view to facilitate the coordination and harmonization of programme level operations.

Meket Rural Development Programme

This was run in the neighbouring and third Woreda within the former Lasta District at the same period as that of Bugna and Gidan programmes. Similar intervention strategies were applied. While it had been financed by the Dutch Development Cooperation it was implemented by SOS-Sahel, a British based development NGO.

Overall, Bugna and Gidan rural development programmes enabled the improvement of livelihoods of thousands of rural households through development assistance in an integrated manner. Bugna and Gidan Woredas benefited substantially through the assistance of the Dutch Government in far better ways than most adjacent administrative units. It is worth noting that the two programme areas were visibly far advanced in providing clean water access on a year round basis with Gidan woreda being the highest clean water accessing area from all the Woredas of the Amhara Region by the year 2000. After about ten years of operation, these two rural development programmes, together with other rural development commitments in the rest of the country had to be closed down. The main rationale was that SNV changed its policy of implementing self-managed projects and programs to that of capacity development and knowledge based technical assistance and advisory services that worked towards  empowering local communities such as women and farmers as well as local governments.

Regarding the Belbala -Yimrhana road, it was built by SNV cash for work arrangement in Bugna District and was built from scratch over 12 kilometers, creating employment for up to 500 people while opening access for tourists to reach the historical site of Yemrehane Kristos Church which is built in the unique Axumite style.

Similar RR10 standard rural roads were  built in Gidan District by SNV’s Gidan Integrated Rural Development Programme such as the Beklomanekia-Wondach road and Wondach-Asikit road as well as Beklomanekia Sekela road, all  totaling 57 km.

Similar short distance road networks were built in Bugna District through connecting rural villages such as the Bilbala-Ayna road (24 km), Shimsheha -Gelesot (12km), Debre Liza - Degosach (17km), Lalibela- Medage  (7 km).

These road construction efforts developed local capacities of road building, helped in Utilizing relief food brought into the area to be used for employment generation and local infrastructural development that improved local access to basic services such as health, markets, and facilitated communication between villages and Lalibela town.

Current SNV-managed Programmes

In early 80s, SNV transformed itself from a voluntary organisation to a professional institution. The scale of SNV operation has grown four fold in the four years since the ending of the core subsidy era in 2015. Currently SNV in Ethiopia has diverse donors that include: DFID; USAID; EU; SIDA, and many more. At this moment, SNV is focussed globally in three sectors: Water Sanitation, Agriculture and Hygiene (WASH) and Energy, where biogas and improved cook stoves are among the interventions. Youth employment, gender and climate change remain cross-cutting thematic areas. Currently there are 17 active projects managed by SNV Ethiopia. Intervention in Agriculture is focussed on the following high value commodities: dairy, horticulture, livestock, apiculture, etc. More than 4 million beneficiaries are reached out in all the three sectors. Youth employment and gender programmes are also growing.

The rationale for the growth of the programme and what is considered as key success factor include linking farmers with the market by using the value chain and market for the poor approach; working with local organizations; addressing systemic issues; result focussed intervention; contributing  to policy dialogue based on evidence; promoting investment in its staff  to ensure that staff are highly motivated and use the freedom and space SNV provides to come up with innovative ideas and with  openness for learning. SNV is highly regarded by many stakeholders at all levels of Government, private sector and civil society alike. It strongly believes in partnership and facilitates a lot of stakeholder forums to tap on resources of other players.