AfDB’s USD 33m Harar Water and Sanitation Project Comes on Stream in Ethiopia

Harar water and sanitation project
Harar water and sanitation project


Harar is a historic town with great cultural and religious significance in Ethiopia. It is classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and “a living museum”.

It was the first town in Ethiopia to get piped water supply some 110 years ago. Until just over ten years ago, Harar had sourced its water supply from Lake Alemaya for many years. But that supply became insufficient due to usage of the lake’s water for irrigation, heavy siltation and a rising population. The lake could no longer provide water for the town, which eventually saw its existence threatened by severe water shortages. Restrictions and rationing had to be introduced.

As a result, the AfDB intervened in September 2002 in response to the Ethiopian government’s request to help find a durable solution by approving USD 33 million for the project.



The Harar Water Supply and Sanitation Project was designed to address the looming water and sanitation crisis in the towns serviced by it. In the absence of an economically viable alternative to source water in the immediate vicinity of Harar, the project envisaged to source water from ground water sources near the town of Dire Dawa, some 75km distant. This required transporting water over this distance and lifting it by about 1,000m using four pumping stations, which required the installation of significant electro-mechanical equipment.

Key Facts

The project is now fully operational, providing adequate water to the city of Harar and the neighbouring four towns with an estimated beneficiary population of 250,000 people, including Haramaya University.

The design also included the improvement of the distribution system, institutional capacity building for Harar Water and Sewerage Authority; a sanitation study; and public awareness campaigns on HIV/AIDS and the linkages between water and hygienic sanitation practices with good health.

It also sought to include women’s involvement in the project implementation and management.


The Harar Water Supply and Sanitation Project, funded by the African Development Bank (AfDB) to the tune of USD 33 million, was inaugurated in the historic Ethiopian town on 8 July, during the celebration of International Harar Day.

The project has created a major new water supply and sanitation service for Harar and the surrounding small towns of Adelle, Aweday Dengego and Haromaya in the south east of the country.

The president of the Harari Peoples Regional State, Murad Abdullahadi, presided over the colourful event. Also in attendance were Zondo Sakala, the AfDB’s Vice President, Country and Regional Programs and Policy, together with the Ethiopian minister of water and energy, Alemayehu Tegenu. The speaker of the Ethiopian House of the People’s Representatives, Abadulla Gameda, was guest of honour.

Large numbers of people from Harar, nearby Dire Dawa, the neighbouring towns in the regional state of Oromia and the Harari diaspora, came to the inauguration, as well as members of the diplomatic community.

Speaking at the ceremony, Mr Sakala saluted the unflinching efforts of the Ethiopian government, the Harari and Oromia regional governments and the Dire Dawa administration.  In addition to servicing the resident population, the project could also help unlock the tremendous potential for tourism in the region, as well as bringing other benefits.

Mr Sakala added: “The water you are getting is coming from some considerable distance; and over difficult terrain. As a result, the scheme is quite expensive to operate and maintain. You should manage and use it with care.”

Mr Sakala also shared some of the emerging lessons from the project implementation. “We are fully aware that the implementation of this project has not been without its fair share of challenges; and some useful lessons have been learnt – to cite only a few - the need for sustained engagement and effective coordination between the different administrations - based on a shared vision of the desired outcomes; win-win situations that arises from enhanced cooperation among the three regional state administrations and Dire Dawa city administration, and the participation of beneficiary communities; and that perhaps implementation could have been faster if the design of key components had completed before project activities took off.  We shall make good use of these lessons.”

Mr Lamin Barrow, the Bank’s Resident Representative in Ethiopia, accompanied Mr Sakala at the event.

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