Introducing sand dams in the Dawa basin, Borana zone, Ethiopia

The Borana zone in southern Ethiopia has a typical semi arid savannah landscape. Most of the 960.000 inhabitants are active in dry land farming, herding livestock based on traditional pastoralist systems. Projections for the coming century for the Borana zone are that temperature will rise with approximately three degrees, rain is expected to become more variable and droughts will occur more frequently.

This projects aims to increase the resilience of communities to climate change through improving water availability in the region, by introducing sand dams and other rain water harvesting systems. It will be assessed whether these are an effective and sustainable measure under current and future circumstances in the zone, and how they can be included in the tradition of pastoralist communities.

Local action

Several sand dams have been constructed by Action for Development (AfD) in two areas of the Borana zone, in a joint activity between ADAPTS and the RAIN foundation. The hydrologic and socio-economic impacts have been evaluated under the ADAPTS project. The sand dams successfully store water. The experiences are shared with other NGOs and governmental institutions to stimulate replication in other regions.


Sand dams are successful and the potential role of sand dams in the management of the area is being explored. Meetings have been organised at the national level with government officials showing interest in these local scale activities. Also several other Ethiopian NGOs have been trained to construct sand dams in their regions.

For resilience, the government recognises that local interventions, such as sand dams, are a promising addition to the more conventional water resources, like deep groundwater. It is a strong example of a small scale community based measure that can help reducing the negative impacts of climate change.


Synthesis report Ethiopia

Factsheet Ethiopia

Report on general characteristics of the Borana zone 

Report on impacts of  Climate Change and sand dam construction on discharge of the Dawa river in South Ethiopia