Finnish Delegation Visits COWASH IV Project Sites in Sidama Region

A high-level delegation from the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland and the Embassy of Finland in Ethiopia visited COWASH IV project sites in Sidama on February 9-10, 2024. The delegation included the Ambassador of Finland to Ethiopia, Mrs. Sinikka Antila, Deputy Director General for the Department for Africa and the Middle East, Mrs. Helena Airaksinen, Director for the Unit of the Horn of Africa and Eastern Africa, Mr. Jukka Pajarinen and Senior Adviser, Development Policy, Mr. Tomi Särkioja. The visit aimed to assess the project’s impact on rural communities facing WASH challenges.

The delegation visited two project Woredas in Sidama, Wondo-Genet and Gorche. The sites included water points constructed through rural pipe schemes from a spring source, spring with collection chamber, finalized and ongoing construction of institutional WASH facilities at two primary schools and a health post.

The visiting delegation also engaged in open discussions with community members and WASH committee representatives responsible for managing the water points. Meeting the project’s supporters was a highlight for the community who expressed their gratitude and joy. Especially during discussion with the Edo Kebele community members the community expressed gratitude for Finland’s as well as COWASH IV’s Federal, Regional and Woreda level partners’ support, highlighting how easier access to safe water has significantly improved their quality of life.

Mr. Tomi Särkioja, expressed his delight in meeting the communities impacted by COWASH IV and hearing how they feel about the contribution of the project to their lives. He also commended the close and collaborative work between the COWASH IV Federal Technical Assistance Team, Regional Support Unit and Woreda teams.

Ato Letta Etamo, team leader of the COWASH IV Sidama Regional Support Unit, welcomed the delegation’s visit and highlighted its value in providing them with firsthand experience of the project’s activities.


Transforming lives through clean water access:

Prior to the COWASH IV project, accessing clean water was a daily struggle for the community in Edo Kebele. The only source, Edo Segele spring, was located in a challenging terrain and required a grueling hour-long trek. This burden often fell on young women, forcing them to wake up at dawn and embark on this difficult journey. They often missed school or faced difficulty concentrating in class due to exhaustion from carrying limited amounts of water back home. The arduous trek meant families received only small quantities leading to constant scarcity. Six months ago this reality changed significantly when COWASH IV constructed six new water points from the spring.

Mrs. Helena Airaksinen observed that while communities possessed abundant resources, the sole obstacle was access to safe water. She expressed her delight that COWASH IV’s collaboration with the communities had successfully bridged this gap.


Community ownership:

The delegation expressed particular admiration for the strong sense of community ownership and participation evident in the COWASH IV project. They recognized this active involvement as a crucial factor in ensuring the project’s long-term success. Community members themselves contributed significantly through labor and in-kind donations. The challenging road access meant they even carried construction materials to the site themselves.

Mrs. Helena Airaksinen, with her extensive experience in Ethiopia, remarked on the project’s effectiveness particularly in helping previously hard-to-reach rural communities. She was especially impressed by the community’s ownership, not only participating in construction but also taking responsibility for maintenance. Mrs. Helena Airaksinen emphasized that this commitment is vital for the project’s long-term sustainability.

Mr. Jukka Pajarinen also noted the impressive level of community engagement, which he recognized as crucial for the project’s long-term success. While he had previously heard and read about COWASH IV’s work, this visit marked his first opportunity to witness firsthand both the region and the project’s activities on the ground.

Ambassador Sinikka Antila applauded the community’s involvement in the project, emphasized that community-based management appears to be the most effective approach for such initiatives.


Beyond water:

The project’s benefits extend far beyond providing clean water. By eliminating the hour-long trek for water, young girls now have more time to attend school, furthering their education and opportunities. Additionally, improved sanitation facilities contribute to overall community health and well-being.

Mr. Jukka Pajarinen emphasized the project’s broader impact. “COWASH IV goes beyond providing clean water. It empowers girls, improves overall health, and unlocks opportunities for communities.” Jukka Pajarinen further commended the effective collaboration between Finland, Ethiopia, and local communities. He also applauded the communities’ knowledge and dedication, stating they provide a strong foundation for the project’s continued success.

The delegation’s visit underscores the commitment of Finland and its partners to improving lives and livelihoods in rural Ethiopia. The success of COWASH IV serves as a model for community-driven development, demonstrating the power of collaboration in tackling water scarcity and its associated challenges.





COWASH IV Empowers Team with Gender and Disability Analysis and Mainstreaming Training

COWASH IV, a project dedicated to improving water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services in rural Ethiopia, recently took a significant step towards inclusive development by providing  comprehensive training on gender and disability mainstreaming and analysis to its team members.

Led by the Africa School of Project Management, the training took place from January 22-25 in Nairobi, Kenya. The four-day program equipped seven specialists from COWASH IV’s federal technical assistance team and project regions with crucial knowledge and skills to champion inclusivity in their work.

Imagine WASH services designed with an understanding of gender dynamics, ensuring equal access for women and girls. This was brought to life through the training’s deep dive into gender mainstreaming, providing participants with practical approaches to integrate gender considerations into project planning, implementation, and monitoring. They learned to navigate the nuances of local contexts, ensuring no one is left behind in the quest for WASH improvements.

But inclusivity extends beyond gender. The training honed participants’ skills in analyzing the specific needs and challenges faced by people with disabilities. Equipped with frameworks for in-depth gender analysis, they can now tailor interventions that leave no one behind, ensuring WASH services are truly accessible and impactful for all.

The training also empowered participants to champion the rights and needs of women and people with disabilities within communities and at institutional levels. They learned to amplify voices, build awareness and advocate for inclusive policies that ensure everyone has a say and equitable access to WASH resources.

Melkamu Gemeda, a Capacity Building Specialist from Benishangul-Gumuz, remarked, “this training equipped us with crucial tools like gender analysis matrices, invaluable for our work with rural communities. We can now design WASH services that truly meet everyone’s needs.”

Berhan Woldegebriel, a Gender and Disability Inclusion Specialist, echoed this sentiment, emphasizing the training’s significance for regional teams. “It’s a game-changer for our work,” she stated, “and must continue for the remaining staff to ensure everyone has the expertise to champion inclusivity.”

Beyond the classroom, the program fostered a spirit of collaboration through activities like a visit to Nairobi National Park. This holistic approach reflects COWASH IV’s dedication to building capacity across its entire staff, ensuring everyone has the tools and knowledge required to create a future where everyone thrives, regardless of gender, disability, or any other factor.

This training marks the first overseas program provided by COWASH IV in 2024, with four more planned in various project focus areas throughout the coming months. This continued investment in staff development demonstrates COWASH IV’s unwavering commitment to building an inclusive future where everyone in Ethiopia has access to life-changing WASH services.



Building a Supportive Environment: COWASH IV Concludes Menstrual Hygiene Management Training in Sidama

COWASH IV, in collaboration with the Sidama Bureau of Education, successfully conducted a four-day menstrual hygiene management (MHM) training in Yirgalem City from December 12th to 15th, 2023. This comprehensive program equipped 30 participants, including school directors, teachers, health workers, and experts for woreda and regional bureaus, with essential skills to create a more supportive environment for girls and women in the region.

The training, led by COWASH IV national consultant Alehubel Alemaw, tackled crucial topics like life skills development, dispelling myths and taboos surrounding menstruation, and practical sessions on designing and producing reusable sanitary pads. This knowledge empowers participants to address the challenges faced by girls and women during their menstrual cycle, fostering a more open and understanding environment.

Participants gained valuable skills in producing affordable and hygienic reusable menstrual products, promoting self-reliance and economic opportunities. This knowledge, particularly for teachers and health extension workers, enables them to cascade their learnings within their communities, creating a ripple effect of positive change.

Meheret Philipose, a passionate health worker from Wondo Genet woreda, expressed her eagerness to share her newfound knowledge with mothers during her house visits, making menstrual hygiene accessible to all. Similarly, Hamaro Hamiso, a visionary secondary school director from Chirone Woreda, plans to train students and establish pad production in his school, ensuring girls’ well-being and uninterrupted education.

MHM education is crucial for achieving gender equality and promoting overall well-being. COWASH IV’s impactful program is paving the way for a future where menstrual health is not a barrier, but a source of empowerment for women and girls in Ethiopia.

COWASH IV works in five woredas across Sidama Region, actively focusing on MHM initiatives in Wondogenet, Arbegona, and Chirone. Through collaborative efforts with the regional government, COWASH IV provides MHM awareness creation, sanitary pad production training, and construction of MHM facilities in schools within these woredas, demonstrating its unwavering commitment to creating lasting change.




COWASH IV First Regional Support Unit Knowledge Sharing Workshop Held in Hawassa

COWASH IV held its first knowledge sharing workshop from November 6 to 9 in Hawassa, Ethiopia. The workshop brought together around 50 participants, including COWASH federal technical assistance team (FTAT) and Regional Support Units (RSU) staff, as well as representatives from the Ethiopian Ministry of Finance, the Embassy of Finland in Ethiopia, Visionfund Microfinance Institution and other stakeholders.Read more

COWASH IV Provides on-the-Job Training to Small-Scale Microfinance Enterprises in Sidama Region

The COWASH IV Federal Technical Assistance Team (FTAT) last week provided on-the-job training to two small-scale microfinance enterprises engaged in providing sanitation and hygiene products through market-based sanitation centers in Arbegona and Chirone Woredas of the Sidama region. The market-based sanitation centers were established by COWASH in collaboration with the project Woreda offices of Health, Water and Job, Skill and Small Micro Finance Enterprise Development.Read more

COWASH IV provided a four-day Training of Trainers Workshop in Tarcha town in South West Ethiopia People’s Region.

The Community-led Accelerated WASH Project, Phase IV (COWASH IV) provided a four-day training of  trainers (TOT) workshop in Tarcha town in South West Ethiopia People’s Regional State from October 2 to 5, 2023. The training aimed to build the skills of 22 trainers on gender and disability inclusion, women leadership in WASHCO management, WASH saving and loan association establishment for improved household latrine construction.Read more

COWASH IV in Tigray: Bringing Water, Sanitation, Hygiene and Hope to a Region Recovering from Conflict

The Government of Ethiopia and Finland bilateral project, Community-Led Accelerated Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Phase IV (COWASHIV) is one of the first projects actively engaging in Tigray post the conflict. The project was initially expected to be implemented two years ago but was suspended following the outbreak of hostilities in the Region. The project officially resumed working last June, and is now making significant progress in helping the people of Tigray rebuild their lives.Read more

COWASH IV Tigray Regional Steering Committee Holds First Meeting

The first COWASH IV Tigray Regional Steering Committee (RSC) meeting was held on Thursday, September 21, 2023, at Planet Hotel in Mekele City. The meeting focused on the 2016 work plan and ways to move forward.Read more

COWASH IV has Provided safe Water Supply to Over 41,700 people in Sidama Region in the past Ethiopian fiscal year.

The Community-Led Accelerated Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene Project (COWASH IV) has provided safe drinking water to over 41,700 people in the Sidama Region in the past Ethiopian fiscal year.

This was announced at the COWASH IV regional support unit (RSU) annual performance review and 2016 plan approval meeting, held in Yirgalm city on Thursday (September 14). Around 80 participants attended the meeting, including the five project woreda leaders and concerned focal persons.

In 2015, various activities, including construction of water supply schemes, school and health water supply and latrine facilities (institutional WASH), and capacity and physical capacity building has been carried out under the project.

The Sidama COWASH IV Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation Specialist, Yitbarek Aragaw, announced that 77 community water supply schemes were constructed in 2015EFY, providing safe drinking water for 34,443 people in the region. In addition, nine water supply points and six latrines were constructed for schools and health centers under the institutional WASH program in 2015. These have provided safe water supply for around 7,265 people in schools.

The project has also facilitated the construction of 2,181 household latrines, according to Leta Etama, the RSU team leader. The project’s small-scale community-managed approach has greatly benefited the rural community, particularly in the construction of standard latrines in schools and health institutions, and in securing water supply access, said Leta.

Participants at the meeting raised the delay of matching funds and reporting, as well as increased inflation, as the main challenges that prevented the project from being fully implemented as planned in the last fiscal year.

Despite these challenges, the project’s work is making significant progress in providing safe drinking water to people in rural areas of the Sidama Region. Particularly, the project’s small-scale community-managed project approach (CMP) is helping to ensure that the water supply systems are sustainable and that the communities take ownership of them. COWASH IV plans to continue providing water, sanitation, and hygiene to rural areas of Sidama Region, targeting to benefit an additional 57,670 people.

The Community-Led Accelerated Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene Project (COWASH IV) is a bilateral project between the governments of Ethiopia and Finland that is working to improve water and sanitation services in rural Ethiopia.  Sidama is one of the eight regions covered by the project.

A great week in Helsinki

A COWASH IV delegation of 15 people from four Ethiopian Ministries (Finance, Water and Energy, Education and Health) and the Office of the Prime Minister spent a wonderful week in Finland. Delegates attended a project National Steering Committee meeting together with a presentation on the outcome of the Mid-term Evaluation.

During the week the delegates had an opportunity to meet personnel from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland, the Ministry of the Environment and the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry. At a networking event hosted by the Finnish Water Forum, the delegation met several different Finnish companies. Thank you HSY, Mankettigroup, Ecolet, GTK, Dewaxo, Valmet, and SYKE for joining the event. The conversation was valuable and hopefully, there will be future business between Finland and Ethiopia as a result.

The visit included two study tour days, involving visits to FIWA, FMI, Lahti Aqua, the Hennala stormwater system and the HSY Viikinmäki wastewater treatment facility. Our delegates enjoyed all the visits with great knowledge transfer. Thank you all for having us.

The visit to Finland was educational and expansive. Our delegates enjoyed visiting the country that has helped their people in rural areas for many decades. In all meetings, the delegates thanked Finland and hoped that the excellent cooperation would continue in the future as well.