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Voices in Shaping Water Governance

Exploring Discourses in the Central Rift Valley, Ethiopia

18 February 2023

A metal water hand pump mounted on a concrete bed amongst greenery and shrubs
A metal water hand pump mounted on a concrete bed amongst greenery and shrubs

Manually operated water pumps are the only source of domestic water in some parts of Ethiopia's Central Rift Valley

Authors: Amare Bantider, Bamlaku Tadesse, Adey Nigatu Mersha, Gete Zeleke, Taye Alemayehu, Mohsen Nagheeby and Jaime Amezaga

Abstract: As is the case elsewhere in the world, water governance in Ethiopia is a by-product of a complex set of various global and local socio-political, economic, and ecological discourses and narratives. However, the many competitive and often conflicting discourses on shaping water governance in the Ethiopian Central Rift Valley (CRV) have not been examined and chronicled. This paper investigates the different discourses, narratives, and debates of water governance and their implications for satisfying the growing demand for water. The study was grounded in political economy and political ecology theoretical frameworks. Data were collected through literature surveys and intensive fieldwork and were analysed following a discourse analysis and using narrative analysis techniques. The study found that the dominant competing discourses that have greatly influenced water governance in the CRV focus on decentralisation, water-centred development, marketisation, land/water degradation, climate change, water scarcity, and weak water governance. We suggest that the analysis and documentation of the diverse narratives and discourses from multiple perspectives could help to unravel the complex nature of water governance in the CRV and lay the foundation for attempts to implement sustainable water resource management in the region.

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