The Upper Sululta Participatory Integrated Watershed Development Project was officially launched on January 18 at Ramada Addis at a stakeholder engagement workshop.
The main objectives of the project include changing the livelihood of peasants, ensuring the sustainability of production in the area, building eco-city, establishing a solid and liquid waste management system, and improving social services.
The project is mainly funded by the French company, Nestle Waters. It hired the Water and Land Resources Center (WLRC) as a consultant. Nestle Waters owns 51 percent of Abyssinia Springs, which is located in the town of Sululta in the Oromia Regional State since May 2016. Nestle Waters is the No. 1 bottled water company worldwide. Nestle Waters operates in 33 countries and has 93 production facilities. In Africa, it operates in Ethiopia, Egypt, Algeria, South Africa and Nigeria. It also owns 51 brands of bottled water.
WLRC has a very good experience in watershed development. It started operation in the 1980s. However, it was reestablished in 2011 under the Addis Ababa University. The center has 12 observatories in the country where it follows climate change, sedimentation, water flow, erosion and land degradation as well as socio-economic conditions. “The largest geospatial information of the country is found in our Center,” Gete Zeleke (PhD), Director of the WLRC of the Addis Ababa University, said. He also noted that information gathered by the center were available on its website free of charge.
Gete said that the project was the first of its kind in Ethiopia where a private company had tried to support local area development efforts through a private-community-public partnership. “Sululta is a fast-growing area with a lot of potential and challenges. The project aims to ensure that the livelihood of people is improved, and environmental quality of the area maintained. We are happy to be part of this initiative,” Gete told participants of the workshop. “Our aim is to make Sululta a model eco-city in the country,” he told The Reporter.
On his behalf, Hubert Genieys, Nestle Waters senior vice president for external communication and corporate responsibility, said that his company was always interested in maintaining the sustainability of the environment and developed expertise in the management of water resources globally.
Seleshi Getahun, head of the Oromia Bureau of Agricultural and Natural Resources, said, “Sululta is an area where there is an urban expansion resulting in the exploitation of key natural resources and land degradation including encroachment of wetlands, inappropriate solid and liquid waste management systems, deforestation and uncoordinated competition over land.” In light of these emerging challenges, Seleshi appreciated the efforts of Nestle Waters Ethiopia.
Seleshi explained that Nestle Waters was a beneficiary of the natural resources of Sululta and hence its corporate social responsibility emanated from it. “The project has the full support of the government. It would not only improve the quality and quantity of the water but also improve the lives of the local community. We want to attract investments assuming that they would improve the lives of the community,” he told The Reporter.
According to Gete, the project has two phases. In phase one, the consultant is expected to develop the project proposal and undertake a detailed biophysical and socio-economic study of the Upper Sululta Watershed and develop comprehensive watershed development plan that will help the rational utilization of resources within the watershed. This phase has been ongoing since October 2016. Phase two of the project is concerned with implementation as per the action plan.
“We will conduct the study and coordinate its implementation. The local community and authority will be in charge of its implementation. But we will follow the day-to-day activities and mobilize human and material resources required for implementation. We will also offer different kinds of assistance, including technical support,” Gete told The Reporter.
Nestle Waters paid USD 150,000 for the study. It is also expected to substantially fund its implementation. However, Gete is of the view that the Oromia region and other concerned bodies should own the project. The duration of the project is 10 years. The total cost of the project is yet to be decided.