The COWASH IV, a project focused on improving water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) access in eight regions of Ethiopia, held its annual core planning meeting for the Ethiopian Fiscal Year (EFY) 2017 from April 23 to 24, 2024, in Arba Minch. This meeting served as the final planning session for COWASH IV, making it a critical juncture to solidify plans and address remaining tasks before this phase of the project concludes in EFY 2017.

Around 70 participants attended the workshop, including staff from all eight project regions’ Regional Support Units (RSUs), Regional Bureaus of Water (BoW), the Federal Technical Assistance Team (FTAT), representatives from the Ministry of Education (MoE), Embassy of Finland in Ethiopia (EoF) and the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland (MFA). Notably, Water Sector Advisor from MFA, Jukka Ilomäki, and Water and Agricultural Growth Advisor from EoF, Gezahegn Alemu, were present. The workshop’s primary objectives were to assess COWASH IV’s performance during EFY 2016 and to establish a concrete plan for EFY 2017.

Neil Chadder, COWASH IV’s Chief Technical Advisor, commenced the meeting by outlining recent developments and critical issues requiring attention within the upcoming year’s plan. Subsequently, each RSU presented progress reports covering the past nine months of EFY 2016. Following these presentations, discussions ensued on overcoming challenges, achieving targets, and outlining the path forward.

Lewam Abebe, School WASH Project Management Unit coordinator at Ministry of Education also presented on the Education Sector School WASH Program and the Ministry’s initiatives, further strengthening collaboration across sectors. Additionally, Paulos Basazenew, a COWASH IV Finance and Audit Support Consultant, provided briefings on internal audit, and Gezahegn Alemu, offered insights from the EoF’s perspective.

The FTAT led presentation and discussions on the planning template where data management and achieving established goals were central themes of these discussions. The final day centered on core planning, with FTAT members outlining the EFY 2017 planning focus areas for each region. Each RSU then convened for dedicated team-based planning sessions.

In addition to the workshop, Sinikka Antila, Ambassador of Finland to Ethiopia and African Union, held a fruitful side meeting with RSU team leaders, and representatives from the MoE and BoWs on the second day, highlighting the ongoing collaboration between COWASH IV and the Finnish government.

Valuable Inputs and Strengthened Collaboration

Participants highlighted the value of the workshop in facilitating collaboration, knowledge sharing, and thorough planning. The workshop provided clear explanations on the planning process, ensuring a comprehensive and inclusive approach that avoids any missed areas in the final plan, said Meaza Kebede Gender and Disability Inclusion Specialist at COWASH IV. Temesgen Buzuayehu, a CMP specialist from the Central Ethiopia RSU team, highlighted the valuable insights gained for planning in the last EFY of the COWASH IV. Similarly, Desalegn Kirose, RSU Team Leader from Tigray, appreciated the workshop’s role in enhancing planning and collaboration. “The workshop equipped us with valuable knowledge and facilitated thorough preparation for planning,” he said.

Emphasizing the importance of collaboration, Addisalem Anegesa, a sanitation, hygiene, and social behavioral change specialist from the Oromia RSU team, pointed out, “The workshop facilitated the participation of all COWASH IV teams from across the eight project regions. This forum significantly contributed to achieving the project’s goals by fostering experience sharing and knowledge exchange. “This collaborative approach lays a strong foundation for a successful EFY 2017, ensuring COWASH IV concludes with a strong performance and achieves its goals. Similarly, Gezahegn Alemu, highlighted the workshop’s role in fostering experience sharing and network building among regions. He further emphasized the value of in-person interaction in understanding project progress and embassy direction. This collaborative approach positions COWASH IV for a successful final EFY year, building on the project’s achievements in improving WASH access for rural communities in Ethiopia.

Overall, the COWASH IV EFY 2017 Core Planning Meeting proved to be a productive platform for solidifying plans, fostering collaboration, and ensuring a successful final year for the project.