Clean Water & Environment


Clean Water

In Ethiopia, around 38% of the rural population has no access to a clean water source. In our area, where unprotected springs are used widely by local people and animals, it is nearer 50%.

Mother, infant, and child mortality in Ethiopia is among the highest in the world. A common cause is waterborne diseases. Clean water projects are therefore a major part of Lalibela Trust’s work and because water-borne diseases are so prevalent, parents quickly recognise the benefits of clean water. Also, in Ethiopia, where cattle, sheep and goats are an important source of income, clean water is vital in reducing intestinal parasites, which debilitate and kill. Health-wise, clean water probably gives the best return of all our projects per £ invested.

How we work

In our mountainous rural area, clean water can be provided by Spring Development Projects or Hand-Dug Wells. In some communities, there is no water supply which is capable of being protected by either of these methods. However, in hundreds of locations they would be practical, are needed, and are wanted!

We work with the local community who can identify all springs. Hydrologists, employed by the local government, decide which springs are practical for development. We then talk with community leaders and we will only proceed if they agree. Some communities are fearful of such a development; some regard the water from a particular spring as holy; in one case it was simply that “women are afraid to go to that place”.

When all these issues have been resolved, a local contractor is appointed through a tendering process. The construction is overseen by the Woreda hydrologist and our Project Manager. Lalibela Trust’s contribution is a fixed sum of 80% of the cost of the materials plus the professional labour, the current average is £2,100. The local government woreda must provide the remaining 20%.

Spring Development Projects

In a Spring Development Project, the existing spring is opened out to maximise its water-bearing capacity. A concrete ‘box’ structure is built around it to collect and seal all the water. The water then flows by gravity through a pipe from the spring to a stone and concrete reservoir typically 3 x 4 x 1 metres.

The reservoir is also sealed and built in an accessible and acceptable site for local people. Three taps on the reservoir provide clean spring water for drinking.

A pipe from the reservoir fills an animal drinking trough and another feeds into concrete trays for washing. The drinking water is thus supplied directly from the spring, mainly for humans but also for livestock. Farmers tell us their animals quickly detect “sweet” water. The incidence of debilitation and death, mainly from water-borne ruminant parasites, is greatly reduced when the animals have clean drinking water.



Cattle, ladies and children together collect impure water from untreated springs


Click images below  to enlarge

Hand Dug Wells

Hand-dug wells are constructed in locations where there is reliable underground water and the geology is suitable. These are hand dug to a depth ranging from 2-6 metres, in our area. (The man at the bottom is tied to a rope from the surface so he can be pulled up quickly if water rushes in!) The hole is then lined with concrete rings and a platform laid on top. A hand pump is mounted on this platform. The uncontaminated underground water is thus pumped directly to the beneficiaries.


This spring is below ground level. Inevitably it becomes contaminated and heavy cans must be handed up to the beneficiaries at the top.


Click images below to enlarge



(6 failed but 2 have been rebuilt)


Of these, 122 are Spring Development Projects; 13 are Hand-Dug Wells

Total beneficiaries 53,000 (including one regular hyena in one location!).


Green Environment




The Ethiopian government had a major tree-planting programme to achieve 5bn plantings by the end of 2020. This has been seriously interrupted, but not ceased, by Covid-19 and security problems.


Tree seedlings growing at our tree supplier

All the schools and Health Posts we have been involved with, have up to 3-4 hectares of land in their fenced boundary where the local government encourages us to plant trees. All schools and Health Posts have guards, and we pay a small addition to their salary to water the trees and report any problems to the Agriculture Department. In school term-time, the children help out.

We have planted 3300 seedlings. Many will not survive, some say 25-30%, but we will replace these. This programme is a minute contribution to the government’s target, but it also helps the awareness of the children. We believe there is scope for 1000 more on “our” project land.


Health Posts need energy for refrigerators and lighting. In the past, the refrigerators have been fuelled by kerosene but now half of our Health Posts have solar panels which, with batteries, are a more reliable fuel source; less expensive, and of course environmentally desirable. All Health Extension Workers now have mobile phones. We also have a programme to supply small solar panels, less than A4 size, to charge them.




The guard at Dorolaba Health Post. Tiny solar panels for the Health Extension Workers’ phones (bottom left)



Human Power and Gravity

All our Hand Dug Wells are pumped by excellent handpumps from an Indian supplier and all Spring Improvement Projects depend solely on gravity. There are occasional requests to mechanise, but reliability and servicing would be extremely difficult in our areas and of course have an environmental cost.