Ethiopia Workshop, Addis Ababa, 18 February 2020

Zeryihan Kassa, WaterAid Ethiopia

This workshop organised by WaterAid Ethiopia programme and held in Addis Ababa, brought together a range of stakeholders working in the WASH Sector in Ethiopia, to disseminate and discuss some of the emerging key findings from the Hidden Crisis Project.  There was strong representation from research and academic institutions in Ethiopia, as well as government officials and NGOs, and there was significant discussion as to how the project research can as catalyst for further research in Ethiopia.

The workshop was opened by the WaterAid Ethiopia Country Director, Yaekob Metena.  Several presentations were given during the day by some of the main UK and Ethiopian project researchers – providing and overview and insight to the project research, the methods, and the key findings to date. This included presentation of the newly published District Sustainability Assessment (DSA) Executive Summary that was conducted across the three project country as part of the research to provide insight to the district-level institutional factors affecting sustainability of rural boreholes fitted with handpumps.

WAE Country Director Yaekob Metena on the occasion said that:

The research findings enable actors to further understand the context and underlying factors that influence functionality of underground water points and other associated factors.

UPGro Hidden Crisis project Study Tour, Luwero Uganda – organised by the Ugandan Ministry of Water and Environment and the Hidden Crisis Project

Joseph Okullo and Alan MacDonald 

The Luwero study tour was a one day field trip organized by UPGro Hidden Crisis project in partnership with the Ugandan Ministry of Water and Environment, as part of the pre-AfWA Congress and Exhibition Conference being held in Uganda 24-27 February 2020.  Running under the title of “Rural Water Supply Functionality: Beyond Numbers” the study tour visited the Luwero District Water Office and two  rural communities where the Hidden Crisis research team had undertaken some keyresearch.Twenty five officials attended the tour, bringing together a range of valuable expertise from Central Government, District Water Offices, Rural Water Supply practitioners, NGOs, international donors and researchers – stimulating rich discussion on rural water supply functionality. 

Central to the day’s discussions were (i) how hand-pumped boreholes are commissioned, managed and maintained; (ii) the importance and impact which different functionality definitions have to assessing HPB functionality status; and, (iii) the vital role of HPB maintenance plays to long term functionality outcomes and service levels.  The tour involved practical demonstrations at water points, detailed conservations with community members involved in the Hidden Crisis project research, as well as wider stakeholder group discussions.

The rich exchanges between participants gave greater insight to the uncertainty surrounding reporting meaningful functionality statistics, and the complexities involved in community management and maintenance, particularly when larger repairs are needed.  Visiting a newly commissioned solar powered water supply visibly highlighted the challenge that low yielding basement aquifers have on the adoption of these emerging technologies. The pump could not sustain its abstraction for long before cutting out.  Having such a wealth of experience on the tour, and community members who were willing to discuss honestly their experiences contributed to a highly memorable day.

District Sustainability Assessment – Executive Summary and analysis now published

Helen Fallas and Hannah Crichton-Smith

The overall analysis and analysis of the District Sustainability Assessments (DSAs) conducted in Ethiopia, Uganda and Malawi is now published as a report, and available online. 

The report is now available from here

The Executive Summary summarises the findings from the full DSA reports from Ethiopia, Malawi and Uganda.

The DSAs were conducted to provide further insight into the district-level institutional factors that affect the sustainability of boreholes fitted with handpumps in Ethiopia, Malawi and Uganda.  These assessments complement the findings of other UPGro Hidden Crisis research outputs, such as the political economy analyses, the physical groundwater and hand pump assessments, and the social and community-level social science studies.

3 new project reports now available

Three new country reports are now available from the Hidden Crisis project. These reports communicate the findings generated from one of five major project surveys – deconstruction and forensic analysis of 50 individual water points in Malawi. The report presents the new data generated to the groundwater resource potential in each country; the nature and condition of hand-pump borehole installations; and the significance of both of these factors to service performance.

The summary country reports are now available:

Ethiopia report

Uganda report

Malawi report

Further analysis of these data will be published in the coming months, and will be available from our Publications webpage

The full range of our project publications to date are available from here.

UPGro results at Australasian Groundwater Conference (AGC), 24-27th November 2019, Brisbane

By Helen Fallas

This year’s AGC2019 event showcased research into the key role aquifers have to play in building resilience.  The overall theme of the conference was “Groundwater in a Changing World”.  Conference chair Professor Jim Underschultz said “Groundwater is increasingly recognised as a vital element in world water resource management and an important contributor to global health, economies, and social and environmental wellbeing.”

Eddie Banks took the opportunity of the Australasian conference to present some of the findings from Hidden Crisis project work – highlighting some of the findings from the project, which suggests rural groundwater supplies in sub-Saharan Africa are generally resilient to climate variability for the yields associated with drinking water.  Analysis of environmental tracers in groundwater sampled from hand pumps in the project has shown the rural water supplies are being actively recharged and the water points often recover seasonally.

Eddie Banks at AGC2019

Hidden Crisis project presentation in the China Africa water Forum Series No. 7, at Windhoek, Namibia

By Dessie Nedaw
8 August 2019

The China Africa Water Forum is a platform for all professionals within the fields of water science and technology in Africa and China. The China Africa Water Association also referred to as CAWA, is a non-profit organization that predominantly organizes annual events. One such event was held for three days from July 22 to July 24, 2019 in Windhoek, Namibia with title “Risk Reduction through Sustainable Water Management in Developing Countries”.

The conference was the seventh of the series held under the title China Africa Water forum. The conference has been prepared in collaboration between China Africa Water Association and Namibia’s chapter of Association of Hydro-geologists and other stakeholders. 

The opening speech by Minister of public enterprise has emphasized the current fresh water supply challenge of Namibia facing and the possible solution of desalinization as the future option. The Chinese Ambassador in Namibia has emphasized on the neeed of China Africa partnership in a win-win strategy based on mutual benefits. He mentioned the similarities of challenges faced by both China and Africa and stressed some of the innovative approaches and technologies in China stressing the importance of the forum for transfer of skill and knowledge.  Nearly 25 presentation from Africa and China covering a wide range of water related topics focusing in reducing risk of water supply, management and sustainable utilization water resources, transport and diffusion of water pollutants and exploration and development of groundwater has been addressed during the three days conference.

The Hidden Crisis project work was presented at the conference within the groundwater exploration and development theme – highlighting the work of the project to apply a tiered approach to assess functionality of handpumped borehole supplies in terms of different levels of performance. The findings have shown this approach to be helpful to unpack national statistics and develop more nuanced understanding of functionality within the country. 

The experience has given opportunity to highlight the project and also given good opportunity to share ideas from other professionals, particularly Chinese water experts. Ethiopia has formally requested to be the next organizer of China Africa water forum in the meeting.

Figure: Dessie Nedaw
Photo: Delegates at the China Africa water Forum Series No. 7 Windhoek, Namibia

Technical brief now available – Project approach for defining and assessing rural water supply functionality and levels of performance

The Hidden Crisis project team have now published a Technical Brief on the methods developed and used by the project to assess rural water supply functionality and levels of performance – now available from here.

This technical brief is aimed at sharing the learning and approaches developed by theproject to look at how the functionality and performance levels of boreholes equipped with handpumps (HPBs), can be assessed using a common set of definitions and methods. A tiered approach to defining and measuring functionality was found to be useful to examining functionality for different scales and purposes of monitoring. 

The report is aimed at national and regional actors involved in the provision and monitoring of rural water supply functionality.

The brief sets out the tiered functionality definitions, and accompanying survey methods, which were developed by the project and have been applied in functionality surveys across Ethiopia, Uganda and Malawi  

Photos: BGS © UKRI. Survey 1 Field teams, Uganda and Malawi.

Rural water supply: a political economy analysis

The Hidden Crisis project team examined the political economy of rural water supply (RWS) in Ethiopia, Uganda and Malawi during 2017 and 2018. These are based on literature and interviews with government staff and water sector stakeholders to unpick systemic obstacles to sustainable access to water.  

The three reports summarising the key findings are now published – and available from here.

The findings provide an insight to some of the key structural factors which affect RWS performance (historical, institutional, actors) in the three countries – examining systematic factors, decision making logic and opportunities for reform.

Photo: BGS © UKRI. Hand-pumped borehole water supply, rural Malawi.

4th Project workshop meeting, Edinburgh, 10-13 June 2019

by Helen Fallas

The Hidden Crisis project team met for the fourth and final annual project meeting, which was held this year at the BGS offices in Edinburgh, 10-13 June.   Representatives from all institutions and from each country involved in the research consortium attended the workshop – in total 21 project researchers. 

The main aims of the project workshop were to:  review the emerging results from the project; to identify the key narrative and messages arising from the project findings; and to assess any final remaining analytical work, and the required project outputs and dissemination strategies.   As we near completion of the project an important part of the workshop was to also to celebrate the many successes achieved by the project over the last four years, and to enable the project team to come together as a whole, to continue to foster our growing working relationships for the future.  As we enter the final year of the project – the project team reflected on the huge amount of work so far completed, and the key milestones, successes and challenges within our project journey.  

Overall the project is on track to complete each of its original objectives and research questions.  The key remaining tasks for the months ahead are to: finalise the overall interdisciplinary project analysis – identifying the most significant factors and causal pathways to functionality outcomes; complete a suite of key overview and country-focused papers from the project; and further develop the in-country dissemination pathways and research uptake.

Hidden Crisis project members at BGS Edinburgh, for the 4th Annual Project Workshop.

Hidden Crisis at American Association of Geographers Conference in Washington DC

By Luke Whaley
27 May 2019

Between 3 – 7 April, I attended and presented at the annual American Association of Geographers Conference in Washington DC. The conference hosted nearly 8,500 geographers, GIS specialists, environmental scientists, and other registrants from around the world sharing the very latest in research, policy, and applications in geography, sustainability, and GIScience.

The featured themes of the week-long event were:

  • Geography, GIScience, and Health: Building the International Geospatial Health Research Network (IGHRN)
  • Geographies of Human Rights: The Right to Benefit from Scientific Progress
  • Physical Geography in Environmental Science.

I presented some of the research from the Hidden Crisis project as part of a panel in a session entitled ‘hydrofeminism’. This session considered the gendered dimension of global water flows and the ways in which women in particular are affected by inequalities in water distribution, quantity, and quality. In addition to this session, several other sessions were relevant to the UPGRO Hidden Crisis project and our emerging findings, including a session on different ‘water ontologies’ (the beliefs different indigenous groups have about water), as well as several sessions on development challenges and opportunities in Sub-Saharan Africa.