WASH is one of the most cost-efficient investments that can be made in reducing poverty around the world. Photo by Ric Francis for CRS

Millennium Water Alliance-Ethiopia Program (MWA-EP)

Photo by Ric Francis for CRS

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The Millennium Water Alliance-Ethiopia Program (MWA-EP) seeks to improve sustainable access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services that improve the health status, standard of living and the dignity of poor people in rural Ethiopia.


Official name of project: The Millennium Water Alliance-Ethiopia Program (MWA-EP)

Project years: 2011-2014 (Phase 1), 2014-2017 (Phase II)

Country: Ethiopia

Value of project: $1.6 million (Phase I); $1.8 million (Phase II)

Names of donors and partners: Donor: Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, Implemented under the Millennium Water Alliance

Local implementing partners: Water Action, Team Today and Tomorrow, Hope 2020 and Ethiopian Catholic Church Social Development Coordinating Office of Meki


The goal of Phase II of MWA-EP is to use locally appropriate technologies and incentive-based approaches to increase access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene for all Ethiopians. To achieve this goal, the program will do more than simply build water systems and provide first time access. It will establish the enabling environment with government and communities to create permanent local institutions responsible for ensuring sustainable, universal service.

Moving from the “NGO-led project cycle" approach to the "local service provider, life cycle” approach, the program will require an intensified focus on collective learning and an evidence-based advocacy strategy. The goal is to inform the government of Ethiopia and other stakeholders as decisions are made on how to achieve the long-term vision laid out in the government’s One WASH Plan.


Water and sanitation coverage in Ethiopia remains among the lowest in the world. According to the World Bank World Development Indicators, only 42% of the population living in rural areas has an improved water source, while only 24% of the total population has improved sanitation facilities (World Bank 2014). Worldwide, 1.4 million children die each year from preventable diarrheal diseases, of which 88% are related to unsafe water, inadequate sanitation, or poor hygiene.[1] By improving water supply, sanitation, hygiene (WASH) and the management of water resources, nearly one-tenth of the global disease burden can be prevented.[2] WASH is one of the most cost-efficient investments that can be made in reducing poverty around the world. For every $1 invested, $8 is returned in saved health care costs and increased economic productivity.[3] 

Despite good intentions, significant time and money has been wasted in providing safe drinking water for people in rural communities in developing countries.  Considering that on average 40% of rural water systems cease to work a few years after they are built, solutions are required to improve the enabling environment for sustainable services that last indefinitely. Without a solution to this problem, rural Ethiopia will continue to lack access to safe water.


Phase I of MWA-EP focused on improving equitable access to WASH for the poorest and most vulnerable populations. Our activities included:

  • Increasing WASH coverage through development of new and rehabilitation of existing water sources; capacity building of WASH Committees (WASH CO’s) and caretakers of water supply systems; the provision of hand tools for the operations and maintenance of water schemes; supply of household water filtration systems for communities who do not have access to a safe water supply; water quality testing; construction of institutional latrines, public showers and washing basins; formation of sanitation marketing groups to increase access to sanitation products and services; and hygiene promotion in schools and through government-extension staff.
  • Integrating water resource management to reduce soil erosion, promote runoff control and water recharging, conserve and improve soil fertility, etc.
  • Promoting learning and influencing policy by working with local partners to assist target populations to achieve the benefits of development programs and partner organizations to strengthen their capacity for subsequent development interventions. Partner capacity building is carried out through mentoring and support by CRS technical, financial and management staff.

Building on experiences in Phase I, Phase II of the MWA-EP focuses on the facilitation of service delivery, operation and maintenance by local communities.  Rather than simply building water systems and providing first time access to water, CRS is supporting the government in its efforts to establish an enabling environment for local institutions to sustain universal coverage. CRS will act as a facilitator to support the growth of local public and private sector institutions to deliver sustainable services. Specific project activities, in addition to those described in PHASE I, include:

  • Expanded capacity of WASH CO’s and government staff on the life-cycle cost approach to accurately plan for all of the costs associated with sustaining a water supply scheme indefinitely.
  • Self-supply acceleration to incentivize households to take the lead in developing and investing in the construction of their own water sources, lifting devices and storage facilities.
  • Engagement with microfinance institutions (MFIs) to increase access to credit for self-supply and household sanitation.
  • Capacity building of national and local government partners to provide WASH services without ongoing external support.  


Through MWA-EP:

  • Overall, latrine coverage increased from 51% at the baseline to 67% at the end of the project. Looking at Ancharo Kebele specifically, latrine coverage went from 56% (0% improved [4] latrines) in 2011 to 83% (65% improved latrines) in 2014. The increase in “improved” latrines can be attributed to the availability of concrete latrine slabs produced by the local Kokeb Sanitation Marketing group. In total, Kokeb has sold more than 900 latrine slabs, 350 which were sold in Ancharo.
  • On average, households collected 18.5 liters of water per person per day, which was up from 12.9 liters/person/day at the beginning of the project.  The time spent collecting safe water also reduced from 67.3 minutes at the baseline to 47.7 minutes at the end of the project. This was achieved through the construction of 34 new water sources and the rehabilitation of 5 existing sources.
  • In terms of productive uses of water for income-generating activities, at the baseline only 45% of households reported productive uses of water whereas at the end of the project, this increased to 84%. Increased access to water for productive uses was accomplished by the construction of cattle troughs and small-scale irrigation.​


THE MWA-EP project has many exciting developments:

  • Sanitation marketing – CRS is working with local entrepreneurs to establish sanitation marketing businesses that produce and sell sanitation products and services.  CRS is one of the first (and only) NGOs in Ethiopia promoting this approach.
  • Life-cycle costs approach (LCCA) – With a long term vision for sustainability, LCCA looks at all of the costs associated with maintaining a water supply scheme indefinitely. Typically, only the cost of the initial capital investment of the hardware and perhaps the minor operations and maintenance costs of maintaining the system are considered. The costs related to large-scale repairs (capital maintenance) or ongoing support in terms of capacity building, water quality testing and technical guidance is not budgeted as part of the planning. By starting all new and rehabilitated water supply work with the LCCA, key stakeholders come together to realistically determine the actual costs of sustaining a water scheme indefinitely. 
  • Self-supply – The Government of Ethiopia is actively promoting self-supply acceleration to help increase access to safe water across the country. In order to reach 100% coverage in water supply, alternative solutions to community-based water supply schemes are needed due to restraints such as cost and dispersed populations. Self-supply expands options to help those with financial, technological and human resources to help themselves and invest in their own water sources. In MWA-EP II, self-supply acceleration is the main vehicle in targeted areas to incentivize households to take the lead in developing and investing in the construction of their own water sources, lifting devices and storage facilities. It is expected that CRS and implementing partners will continue to be the technical and expert lead on self-supply acceleration while working closely with local government structures.


A safe and sustainable water supply, basic sanitation facilities and good hygiene are fundamental for a healthy, productive and dignified life. The majority of women in Kelela woreda did not have access to improved water supply and sanitation facilities.

Wzo Medina Endra is a 52-year-old beneficiary of the program. Married with three sons and two daughters, she benefitted from integrated WASH activities with user-friendly technologies that she and her family were able to translate into improved living conditions.

This is her story in her own words:

“Like others in my village, I am now in a comfortable position that we have a water supply scheme at a stone throw, I have a clean and energy saving stove at home and hygienic latrine (Arborloo) in the homestead. Earlier, we used to depend entirely on distant and unsafe water sources: muddy and polluted surface water shared by animals. There were no hygienic latrines in the compound. I and other family members used to defecate openly. When we went outside for toilet, sometimes other people were crossing their way. There was no privacy and I always felt ashamed. I was always in a hurry to finish before someone come.

Food preparation has historically been the most tiresome task levied on women, including myself. It requires fire wood collection, walking long distances, baking injera on open air, which is unpleasant, risky and fuel wasting, with lots of smoke, complaining about stinging eyes and coughing.

But now, my family is in a great change: we have clean and adequate water for household consumption. We are utilizing latrines, in effect the compound is clean and attractive. Use of this stove significantly reduced fuel consumption; no soot in the house. I and all family members feel very healthy and safe. Thanks to God who allowed me to see these things happening. I’m too much grateful for those who enabled me get these opportunities.”

Another success story combines WASH programming and microfinance. Through a Saving and Internal Leading Community (SILC) model, CRS is working with local entrepreneurs to establish sanitation marketing businesses that produce and sell sanitation products and services. Groups have established fuel-saving stoves, latrine slabs and related products.

Tsehay Muhe Ali is 36 and is a member of a group that sells stoves and slabs. Here is her story in her own words:

“I was selected as a member of the group. In addition, I was given a leading role in advising and registering those interested women having the same economic status. We (group members) attended 10 days skill training on slab production and have got molds, shovels, watering can, and other relevant materials from CRS/WACT. Moreover, the project technical staff helped in supervising and supporting the group in producing good quality slabs.

I have received my profit share and could able to purchase different cereals for home consumption and never faced food gaps in the family. Moreover, I bought a bed, tape recorder, and also I am able to send my children to school without financial difficulties.”



1. Ethiopia Country Page


[1] Pruss A, Kay D, Fewtrell L, Bartram J: Estimating the burden of disease from water, sanitation, and hygiene at a global level. Environ Health Perspect 2002, 110:537-542

[2] Safer Water, Better Health: Costs benefits and sustainability of interventions to protect and promote health. World Health Organization, Geneva. 2008.

[3] Bartram, Jamie; Lawrence Haller; Guy Hutton. Economic and Health Effects of Increasing Low-Cost Water and Sanitation Interventions.  World Health Organization, Geneva.  2006.  

[4] “Improved” sanitation is defined by the Joint Monitoring Programme is one that hygienically separates human excreta from human contact. In the case of this program, that also includes whether or not the slab is cleanable.