Responsible water and land management through Ziway Shalla Sustainability Partnership

The Central Rift Valley area is one of the very few fresh water ecosystems in Ethiopia with significant economic, ecological and social importance. Lake Ziway is used for drinking water, small-scale commercial fishing, large-scale floriculture, wine farming, livestock ranches and smallholder horticulture. The water quantity and quality are declining due to over-abstraction, pollution and land degradation. This will in time threaten agricultural production and (local) fisheries. Businesses dependent on the lake’s water supply have a clear business case to invest in sustainable water management.

IDH has established the Ziway Shalla Sustainability Partnership to facilitate dialogue between key stakeholders. It co-funds projects that improve water and land management and livelihood options for local communities. The partnership is composed of five flower companies, a wine farm, a beef processing company, a lodge/resort, the local government, the Meki Batu Farmers’ Union (MBCU) – representing more than 8,000 smallholders, and local and international civil society organizationss operating on the western shore of Lake Ziway.

IDH supports Global Good Agriculture Practices (GGAP) implementation and certification for smallholders. For the first time in Ethiopia, there are 135 smallholders that were GGAP certified. These smallholders are also connected to Ethiopian Airlines (EAL) to supply this airline with a premium price. In addition, the project also showed the reduction of pesticides used by the farmers that is leading to reduced production costs, less health hazards for farmers and safer products for consumers.

Through its Flower Sustainability Initiative, IDH works with Afriflora Sher to promote Integrated Pest Management in the floriculture industry, focusing on biological pest control methods. The floriculture industry is also actively participating in cleaning up Ziway town as well as funding reforestation projects in the upper catchment of Lake Ziway.

As a next step, IDH is looking to provide Service Delivery Model (SDM) analysis for MBCU (representing  more than 8,000 farmers) and EAL to scale up the number of farmers and volume of produce under GGAP, generating significant impact on incomes for farmers and safe agrochemical use.

The Ziway Shalla Sustainability Partnership towards the sustainable management of land and water resources in the Lake Ziway catchment has directly resulted in:

  1. The rehabilitation of degraded land and alternative livelihoods development options for communities
  2. GGAP certification and IPM trials for smallholders on the Western shore of Lake Ziway. This complements IDH’s support to selected flower farms on IPM
  3. Water Allocation Plan Development for Ziway Shalla Sub Basin
  4. Municipal waste management to curb pollution to the lake

This collaboration is proof that, given the right platform, all stakeholders recognize the need for joint action and are willing to invest in initiatives that safeguard key public goods -land and water.

The wetland ecosystem in the Central Rift Valley is the largest fresh water ecosystem of Ethiopia. It is a biodiversity hotspot for flora and fauna, containing a diversity of water plants and water birds, which breed primarily in the ecosystem. The islands in Lake Ziway are unique for their historical and cultural heritage. Lake Ziway is the only freshwater lake in the area, used for drinking water, small scale commercial fishing, and small- and large-scale agricultural irrigation.

The Central Rift Valley is a sourcing area for floriculture, horticulture and viticulture, as well as a major source of drinking water. The horticultural sector comprises a mix of smallholder growers and commercial fruit and vegetable producers. Large smallholder mixed-farming produces wheat, maize, barley and teff, with predominant livestock of cattle, sheep and goat. Irrigation schemes are expanding and plans to develop aquaculture are in the making.

The area provides economic opportunities to local small scale farmers and large exporters. To be able to maintain and increase production in a sustainable way, issues of water pollution, unbalanced water use and deforestation need to be mitigated.

Large variations in water level due to irrigation is resulting in salt water intrusion of the lakes,  thus heavily impacting the supply of fresh water. This causes competition between water users, which, compounded with deforestation, is threatening the complex and vulnerable ecosystem of the Central Rift Valley.

There is a recognized need to foster land and water management at a landscape level that offers feasible technical solutions to both smallholder and commercial farmers, while strengthening the social-institutional environment required to catalyze change.

Since early 2015, ISLA Ethiopia has been convening, facilitating dialogues, and planning co-funding of worthwhile initiatives with key stakeholders. We have brought together and built a public private coalition with key public and private sector actors including the flower companies, farmers’ unions, Central Rift Lakes Basin Authority and other government stakeholders and NGOs.

Based on studies and bilateral consultations with these stakeholder, we have been piloting joint activities fostering sustainable land and water management. Our joint projects include:

  • Solid waste management
  • GLOBALGAP certification of smallholder farmers
  • Reforestation
  • Watershed management.


We are now in the process of scaling up these joint projects to achieve significant impact. Further, we are in the process of formalizing the established public private partners’ coalition into a supervisory committee. This financially viable governance model will then continue to take action for sustainable natural resources management in the Central Rift Valley. IDH will exit in 2020.


Title Type Year Regions TAF
Learning from Landscapes Report 2022 Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin American Landscapes Program
Landscapes Information Brief: IDH’s approach to sustainable landscapes Brochure 2018 - -
Ethiopia newsletter June 2018 Report 2018 - -
IDH Landscape program Brochure 2018 - -
Ethiopia newsletter December 2017 Brochure 2017 - -
Public private governance for thriving landscapes: Central Rift Valley Ethiopia Brochure 2017 - -

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