April 1st, 2013 by Alun McDonald Posted in Drought, Ethiopia, ICT 4 Development, Water/sanitation | No Comments »
In the arid Shinile region of eastern Ethiopia, pastoralist communities are now using mobile phones to monitor water points and provide early warning of droughts before they strike.
Ali monitors a water point with his mobile phone
Every morning since he was a young boy, Elmi Farah has walked his family’s animals from their mountain home to the local water point. He’s seen good times and bad, some years of plentiful pasture and some years of drought. During the severe 2011 drought, half of the family’s 200 goats and sheep died. This year has been better, he says – but there are warning signs the situation could take a turn for the worse.
“In the past few months the number of animals coming here to get water has increased a lot.” This, Elmi explains, means there must be poor rains and a shortage of water in other areas, forcing people to come here to find water for their livestock – the main assets of people in this region.
It’s this kind of information and local knowledge that Oxfam hopes to capture more effectively using mobile phones – a new opportunity as phone networks spread to remote areas that still have few basic services, and where droughts are a fact of life.
“We used to write letters when things got bad,” says Ali Mohammed.
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