Climate change: How to improve water security in Djibouti?

  • Djibouti is incredibly water scarce, averaging only 150 mm of rainfall per year.
  • It has no perennial surface freshwater flow and less than 5% of total rainfall reaches the water table.
  • 20% of the population have no access to potable water.
  • Community-based development project PRODERMO is helping support communities with water mobilization and soil conservation.
  • The project has constructed and overhauled 116 water access points, bringing access to drinking water to 10,000 households in rural areas.

Djibouti is extremely water scarce with conditions set to be exacerbated by population growth and climate change. Djibouti experiences a typical desert climate and averages only 150 mm of rainfall per year and has no perennial surface freshwater flow. Due to the climate, less than five percent of total rainfall reaches the water table. Some 192,000 people, about 20 percent of the population, have no access to potable water and in rural areas where pastoralism provides a critical means of survival, communities and its herds do not have access to water within a reasonable distance.

The welfare of pastoralist communities is directly related to the environment, as livestock production is highly dependent on the availability of water and pasture. Due to reliance on natural resources, these communities are extremely vulnerable to climate shocks, threatening their food security and livestock.

PRODERMO, which stands for Projet de Developpement Rural Communautaire et Mobilisation des Eaux), is the first rural development project financed by IDA in Djibouti for an eight year period (2012-2019). The project relied heavily on community-based development to support communities in devising their local development plans as well identifying priority investment subprojects, which included water mobilization and soil conservation technology, support for agriculture and livestock production, and activities that generate additional income. PRODERMO also provided technical assistance and capacity building for 18 parcours, communal grazing areas in four regions and 8 fishing sites to gain organizational, technical, and managerial skills, helping communities implement their development plans effectively.

From the onset, a participatory approach, whereby communities select project activities based on their needs and implement them at their own pace in consultation with local partners, was set in place. Each of the 18 pasture areas covered established a local steering committee. Each of these steering committees were trained with technical, organizational and hands-on management skills to prepare them to implement respective water and pasture management plans. Training was also provided to each member responsible for the water access points and pasture management committees. Cooperatives and associations involved in income-generating activities were trained on organizational and managerial skills to set up systems for accounting and project management. These efforts help enhance the communities’ capacity to operate and manage water and agro-pastoral resources, instilling social responsibility and ensuring sustainable transformation within the community.

a community group sit and listen to a teacher

Image: World Bank

This participatory community-based approach, a critical outcome of the project, is stronger than ever in Djibouti, mobilizing an effective management of resources that is critical for local livelihoods. Beneficiaries, expressing their full appreciation, repeatedly stressed the soundness and novelty of the project’s inclusive and participatory approach to territorial development. The relevance of the approach is also well accepted and recognized at the local administrative level (such as in prefectures and city councils) and at the regional level (regional councils).

Providing access to water, conserving soil, diversifying livelihoods of women and fishermen, supporting agricultural, livestock and fisheries production as well as sensitization and mobilization of beneficiary communities in participatory planning and project implementation helped prevent displacement and strengthen resilience from climate change and droughts.

Water security – both sustainable supply and clean quality – is a critical aspect in ensuring healthy communities. Yet, our world’s water resources are being compromised.

Today, 80% of our wastewater flows untreated back into the environment, while 780 million people still do not have access to an improved water source. By 2030, we may face a 40% global gap between water supply and demand.

The World Economic Forum’s Water Possible Platform is supporting innovative ideas to address the global water challenge.

The Forum supports innovative multi-stakeholder partnerships including the 2030 Water Resources Group, which helps close the gap between global water demand and supply by 2030 and has since helped facilitate $1Billion of investments into water.

Other emerging partnerships include the 50L Home Coalition, which aims to solve the urban water crisis, tackling both water security and climate change; and the Mobilizing Hand Hygiene for All Initiative, formed in response to close the 40% gap of the global population not having access to handwashing services during COVID-19.

Want to join our mission to address the global water challenge? Contact us to get involved.

PRODERMO helped construct and overhaul some 116 water access points, which included cisterns, open reservoirs, boreholes, wells and micro-dams—providing almost 2 million cubic meters for households, livestock, wildlife and irrigation. Close to 10,000 households in lagging rural areas now have access to drinking water. These achievements are groundbreaking, helping reduce the drudgery, travel distance, and time entailed in fetching water, particularly for women, providing additional scope for economic and household activities. Aside from increasing the supply of water, PRODERMO acted strategically to reduce the demand for water by diversifying community livelihoods to rely less on livestock and pasturage. PRODERMO also supported 110 income generating activities for close to 2,000 beneficiaries (47 percent of which are women). The project also successfully piloted a hydroponic agriculture operation, expanded areas for irrigation to about 84 hectares and distributed micro-irrigation kits to 50 gardens to support private enterprises.

a women smiles whilst holding a plant up to the camera

Image: World Bank

To help preserve livelihoods, small-scale fishing gear were distributed to community associations and training was provided on equipment use, innovations in fishing, marketing and handling. Nine warehouses were built and the fish market and ice unit in Obock were restored. The project also helped provide laboratory equipment and veterinary drugs to treat and vaccinate livestock. Livestock feed were provided to pastoralists who were affected by droughts.

PRODERMO also supported a nutrition education program which helped address malnutrition in target communities. Of the women surveyed after participating in the program, 91 percent understood the health benefits of early breastfeeding and practice it, 57 percent knew it is essential to give complementary food to children ages 6–23 months to prevent stunting, and 75 percent knew that at least four consultations at regular intervals are recommended during pregnancy.

PRODERMO achieved positive results and today embodies benchmarks and models that show improved access to water for people, livestock, and poverty reduction in rural areas. The continuation of this kind of rural development project is more than necessary to improve the resilience of vulnerable populations by emphasizing the promotion of sustainable agro-pastoral livelihoods.

—Mr. Ibrahim Elmi Secretary General, Djibouti Ministry of Agriculture