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Ethiopia: Challenge and Change (Special Supplement 3)

By Catherine Allen, Concern WW

Work on the Wollo Irrigation Canal, one of the Concern WW livelihood programme activities

Concern WW is trying to create mutually reinforcing linkages between livelihood security26 and emergency programming at a number of levels.

Concern WW has been operational in Ethiopia since 1985. The Concern Worldwide Livelihoods Security Programme is currently working in Kalu Wereda in South Wollo Zone and and Damot Weyde in North-East of Wolaita Zone. These areas are characterised by chronic food insecurity with periodic incidents of acute food insecurity resulting in high levels of malnutrition, distress migration and sale of household assets. Implementing Concern's Livelihood Security Programme27 in such a chronically food insecure environment such as Ethiopia is extremely challenging, in particular:

Damot Weyeda Livelihoods Programme Activities

Long-term changes in livelihood status:

  • Agricultural promotion activities, e.g. introduction of improved seed varieties, integrated pest management, livestock development, irrigation services, community capacity building, etc.
  • Support for off-farm employment, e.g. vocational skills training and business start up support.

Saving lives and protecting livelihoods:

  • Cash or food for work activities based on natural resource management.
  • Nutrition surveillance and gathering early warning information.


Livestock support in Wollo

The Damot Weyde Livelihoods Programme (DWLP) has been designed to test this more integrated approach to addressing the root causes of vulnerability and poverty. The programme has been divided into two phases. The pilot phase (2005) is currently testing the feasibility of the approach and component activities. A further output from this phase will be a comprehensive livelihoods baseline. The learning from the pilot phase will then be used to design the main programme phase where interventions will be scaled up. This phase will run from 2006 - 2008.

DWLP design

The programme design was based on a detailed, participatory livelihoods and vulnerability analysis and subsequent stakeholder consultation carried out in 2004. The analysis has attempted to understand coping and adaptive strategies as well as well as people's capabilities, motivations and constraints.

An example of the topography of Wollo, Ethiopia

Based on the analysis, DWLP was designed with components that contribute towards saving lives, protecting livelihoods and ensuring long-term sustainable changes in livelihood status. Not all will be operational throughout the course of the programme. Relief components, e.g. cash or food-for-work, may only be activated during times of acute food shortages.

Integrated water supplies, which include potable water, washing slabs, cattle troughs and irrigation schemes, have provided an effective entry point for Concern WW's programme activities and a means of developing community and local government capacity to plan and implement local initiatives. It then also becomes possible to incorporate these with soil and water conservation activities (e.g. watershed management) that can ensure their sustainability in the long-term. Terracing and bund formation provide the potential for CFW or FFW and visible improvements in soil fertility leads to greater motivation for changing agricultural practices.

Human resource strategies

Staff have been encouraged to develop emergency programming skills such as emergency analysis, management of emergency programmes, monitoring skills and logistics. There is also a flexible organisational structure within the team that enables Concern WW to respond to emergencies at short notice without undermining the livelihoods work.

Incorporating Disaster Risk Reduction

The incorporation of disaster risk reduction and emergency preparedness plans has included:

Linking with government and other actors

The government of Ethiopia's Productive Safety Net Programme (PSNP) attempts to separate those who are chronically and acutely food insecure in those weredas that are structurally food deficient. Concern WW is engaging with the local government as part of the DWLP to coordinate with the PSNP and build capacity for its.


Team flexibility

Kalu experienced severe drought in 2002/3, which required a shift of emphasis from livelihoods work to saving lives. Staff from the Kalu Programme were quickly mobilised and deployed to the emergency programme. Some staff members had emergency experience, and the rest were given quick in house training.

Show footnotes

26Concern defines livelihood security as the "..adequate and sustainable access to and control over resources, both material and social, to enable households to achieve their rights without undermining the natural resource base."

27Concern Worldwide Livelihood Security Programme focuses on improving target beneficiaries livelihood security within their countries of operation through appropriate activities relating to:

  1. better management of community resources,
  2. improved production and processing,
  3. better access to markets,
  4. supportive and effective institutions and
  5. preparing for emergencies.

28Based on Concern Worldwide Livelihood Security Approach. The full policy is available from

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Reference this page

Catherine Allen, (). Ethiopia: Challenge and Change (Special Supplement 3). Supplement 3: From food crisis to fair trade, March 2006. p60.



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