Enhancing the Ethiopian WASH sector and working towards the national development goals. 


Having first established bilateral relations on 17th July 1959, the Governments of Finland and Ethiopia began their long-term cooperation for the development of the Ethiopian water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) sector in 1994 with the Rural Water Supply and Environmental Program in Amhara Region. Work was successfully carried out over the following 17 years over four phases up to 2011. In parallel, cooperation was expanded to include the FinnWASH project which addressed sector needs in five districts of Benishangul-Gumuz over the period 2008 to 2015.

The Community-led Accelerated WASH (COWASH) project commenced in 2011 and initially focused on the rural sector in Amhara, Benishangul-Gumuz, Oromia, Southern Nations Nationalities and Peoples and Tigray Regions. The first phase was implemented from 2011 to 2014, the second phase from 2014 to 2016 and the third phase from 2016 to July 2021. These first three phases of COWASH provided rural communities with over 19,000 water points, institutional facilities and rehabilitated schemes benefiting almost five million rural inhabitants.


COWASH IV is building on the work of the three earlier phases of COWASH and focuses on the achievement of targets through the establishment of an enabling environment and the implementation of community managed project (CMP) interventions. Compared to the previous phases, COWASH IV is working in an expanded project area and now covers 104 Woredas in 34 zones of seven Ethiopian Administrative Regions (Amhara, Benishangul-Gumuz, Oromia, Sidama, Southern Nations Nationalities and Peoples, South-west Ethiopia Peoples and Tigray).

COWASH IV is supporting the achievement of the Government of Ethiopia’s Ten-year Development Plan (2021-2030) and is being conducted under the umbrella of the country’s One WASH National Program. The overarching goal of COWASH IV is to improve public health and well-being, social development and climate resilience in the communities of the project area. The objective is increased and sustained coverage of safe water supply, sanitation and hygiene in the rural areas of the selected woredas and has a target of 1.1 million beneficiaries. The COWASH IV project runs from 01 April 2021 to 31 December 2024 with NIRAS Finland Oy providing technical assistance services for the project through the Federal Technical Assistance Team based in Addis Ababa.

The overarching Project Document signed between the Governments of Finland and Ethiopia outlines the five key outcomes of COWASH IV as follows:

Outcome 1

Increased and sustained access to safe climate-resilient community water supplies in the rural areas of project woredas.

Outcome 2

Increased access to and usage of improved household latrines and increased practice of handwashing with soap in the COWASH IV water supply beneficiary households of project woredas.

Outcome 3

Improved institutional WASH by narrowing the gap in improved institutional latrines, climate resilient and safe water supply and menstrual hygiene management (MHM).

Outcome 4

Sustainability and inclusivity of achieved WASH outcomes enhanced.

Outcome 5

COWASH IV implementation effectively managed, lessons learnt, documented, communicated and shared and put into action.

Total Number of COWASH IV Woredas and Zones
S.N Name of Project Regions Number of Projects Zones No of Project Woredas
No of Project Woredas No of New Woredas Total No of Woredas
1 AMHARA 8 16 24 40
2 TIGRAY 5 3 9 12
3 SNNPR 5 0 11 11
4 OROMIA 11 12 18 30
5 BSG 3 4 0 4
6 SIDAMA 0 2 3 5
7 SWEPR 1 0 2 2
Total 7 33 37 67 104

The COWASH IV Approach

The essence and key operating philosophy of COWASH IV is the empowerment of the rural communities of Ethiopia to develop their own WASH facilities through the establishment of an enabling environment and the implementation of CMP interventions. Under COWASH IV, rural communities apply for support and are trained to design, implement, operate and maintain their own WASH facilities.

All work is jointly financed by the Government of Ethiopia, through the regional budgets, and the Government of Finland working through the Channel 1 mechanism of the Ministry of Finance. While the Ethiopian funds are primarily focused on the construction of community WASH facilities, the Finnish support is focused on human and physical capacity development together with the construction of school and health institution WASH facilities. The communities are expected to contribute to the project but normally through in-kind contributions such as materials or labour.

The key process in the implementation of COWASH IV is the cascading of training and knowledge whereby the central Federal Technical Assistance Team (FTAT) firstly provides training to Regional Support Units based in each project region. The Regional Support Units in turn train specialists in the zones and woredas and they cascade the key information down to kebele and community levels.

The training and knowledge sharing process is supported by a comprehensive library of manuals, guidelines and strategy documents prepared by the FTAT for use in the implementation of the COWASH IV project and covers a broad range of topics including financial management and procurement, investment via both the Woreda Finance Offices and micro finance institutions, CMP implementation, institutional WASH, water safety planning, social, environment, climate risk screening management, Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Committee (WASHCO) procurement, gender transformative and disability inclusion, saving and loan association formulation and operation, social and behavioural change, artisans training, water quality testing, roles and responsibilities of stakeholders and project administration and implementation.

Project progress is monitored through an on-line database completed at woreda level with oversight from both the Regional Support Units and the FTAT.

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