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.