The Omo-Gibe Basin region that extends across the border between Ethiopia and Kenya has undergone rapid developments in recent years, with impacts on water resources in a context of high fragility with a history of local intercommunal conflicts. Due to its remote location from the central governments in both countries, the basin faces institutional, logistical and capacity constraints. The diverse communities living in the region rely on livelihoods, like pastoralism, that heavily depend on ecosystem services. They are expected to be heavily affected by changes in water and ecosystems.

The Water, Peace, & Security (WPS) partnership’s work in Ethiopia focuses on the Omo-Gibe Basin. The Ethiopian government has set ambitious targets for socioeconomic development in its 10-year prospective plan. This development plan calls for substantial expansion in irrigation, energy and industrialization in various parts of the country, including in the Omo-Gibe Basin. These sectoral development plans, along with high population growth and urbanization rates, will require greater access to water. The need to expand access to water, food, energy and other resources for a growing population contributes to intensified competition for water and potential conflict between water users. Water quality challenges related to urbanization, landscape degradation and industrialization in the Basin may further reduce available water supply and increase the severity of water stress.

The success of the development plan relies on the effective and sustainable management of the Basin’s water resources. Climate change further exacerbates the challenges of achieving water security in the Omo-Gibe Basin. While climate change is expected to impact the timing, intensity and spatial distribution of rainfall, it is still uncertain how it will impact overall water supply. The projected increase in water demand as well as variability in water supply make effective water resources management crucial for sustainable development and food security.

The Omo River Basin in southern Ethiopia is the largest Ethiopian river outside the Nile Basin. Source: NASA.

WPS involvement  

Resilient water resources management and sustainable development in the Omo-Gibe Basin can only happen if an operative basin plan guides water and development policy. Effective water resources management — such as establishing water allocation, implementing water efficiency measures, constructing water storage infrastructure, communicating water challenges with stakeholders and establishing and enforcing water policy — requires a reliable basin development plan.

Ethiopia’s Ministry of Water, Irrigation and Energy (MoWIE) has recognized the critical role of a basin development plan to address water-related conflicts and ensure sustainable development. MoWIE has commissioned the preparation of the Omo-Gibe Basin plan in 2022. WPS will support the Ministry in developing the Omo-Gibe Basin plan through capacity building, stakeholder engagement, reviewing development and implementation plans and helping to develop monitoring and evaluation plans.


Zablon Adane
Associate Water Program | World Resources Institute (WRI)
Seleshi Yalew
Lecturer/Researcher Land & Water Management | IHE Delft