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18 June 2020

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Return Water to Ethiopian Tribes


In the Omo Valley, Ethiopia, new infrastructure developments threaten lives and livelihoods by altering the seasonal floods on which local tribes rely for their harvest. These indigenous groups, including the Kara, Mursi, Hamer and Nyangatom, have lived in the Omo Valley for thousands of years and have used annual river floods to irrigate their crops. A complete failure of the seasonal floods due to the construction of multiple hydroelectric dams upriver has prevented this irrigation. Tribal elders have searched for financial, political and technical solutions to restore their livelihoods. Without a viable solution, the tribe’s traditional way of life and community is slowly crumbling; some are fleeing for food and protection, some are suffering alongside their children, and others have starved to death.

In 2019, the Kara Tribe partnered with Miyamoto Global Disaster Relief (“Miyamoto Relief”), conservation management nonprofit Wild Philanthropy and its on-the-ground ecotourism operator, Wild Expeditions, to develop a technical solution for the loss of agricultural water and subsequent loss of food. This solution is a solar-powered, sustainable irrigation system. When fully operational, this system can support the establishment of a community farm that supplies the Kara with both water and food security.

The program comes from a critical, time-sensitive need to take action in support of the tribes living along the Omo River. In January 2020, Miyamoto Relief gathered a team of technical engineering experts to visit the tribes of the Omo Valley and assess viable options for the solar-powered irrigation system. The team was graciously hosted by Lale Biwa, a Kara Elder, at his camp. The information and recommendations contained in this report are a result of this field visit, meetings in Addis Ababa with solar pump suppliers and Wild Expeditions, and subsequent research and engagement conducted post-visit. At this time, this report and the technical solution presented herein consider only the Kara people, Kara villages, and the five Kara community farms of Kundama, Chelete, Korcho, Labuk and Lale’s Camp.

In the following section, the team’s technical engineering experts will be introduced, and an itinerary of the field visits conducted will be given. In Chapter 2, a brief overview of the team’s approach and methodology is given. Chapter 3 contains an overview and recommendations for the existing pump at Lale’s Camp. Chapter 4 provides information on how to pilot the recommended prototype system and Chapter 5 then discusses how that system may be replicated on other farms; aerial maps and site-specific information are provided. Chapter 6 gives an overview of community engagement within the tribes and provides recommendations to garner support and fundraise moving forward. Finally, Chapter 7 describes the recommended budget and schedule.

Meet the Project Team

The Return Water to Ethiopian Tribes: Save Lives, Livelihoods, and Culture project represents a collaboration between Wild Philanthropy, Miyamoto Relief, and the Kara Tribe.

Wild Philanthropy

Based out of the United Kingdom, Wild Philanthropy is a charitable foundation designed to protect at-risk ecosystems and to support and enable vulnerable communities in Africa to realize the value of conservation through tourism. Wild Philanthropy’s ecotourism operating partner, Wild Expeditions, has a strong local presence and helps demonstrate the positive contributions that effective responsible tourism can have. Ongoing projects in Botswana, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe aim to provide multiple ways to invest in the future of Africa, its people, wildlife, and wilderness.

The foundation is financed by Friends of Wild Philanthropy and Journeys by Design, which covers operating costs and allows 100% of donations received to be passed on directly to on-the-ground projects, including the Kara Community Farm helmed by Lale Biwa. The existing pump for the Kara Farm, described in Chapter 3 below, was financed and sourced through Wild Philanthropy’s efforts.

Miyamoto Relief

Headquartered in the United States, Miyamoto Relief applies engineering expertise to return hope to, and sustain life in, at-risk communities around the world that have been affected by all types of disasters. While we often focus on seismically upgrading schools to safeguard the most vulnerable lives and preserving cultural heritage through the strengthening of historic structures, our passion lies in helping underserved populations through engineering. We implement programs that empower community-led solutions that are resilient, climate-smart, and sustainable. By utilizing our global engineering and humanitarian experience, we provide exceptional technical solutions that strengthen structures and communities.

Miyamoto has assessed, retrofitted, and restored schools in Haiti and Nepal, and led the restoration and seismic strengthening of the Gaddi Baithak, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Kathmandu, Nepal. In the Omo Valley, Miyamoto Relief is assisting with technical design and implementation, as well as fundraising and outreach.

Meet the Technical Team

The technical team came together in October 2019 after Dr. Kit Miyamoto, Sabine Kast and Lale Biwa gave a call to action at the 2019 Elevate the Industry conference, hosted by the Zweig Group. After hearing Dr. Miyamoto and Lale speak about the challenges the Kara Tribe are currently facing, Pete Atherton, Dustin Rosepink, Daniel Harsadi and Blake Calvert were moved to lend their personal and professional expertise and support. The technical team came together in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on January 13, 2020 to begin works.

The technical team supporting these works is as follows:

Dr. Kit Miyamoto is the President of Miyamoto Relief, and the President and CEO of Miyamoto International, Inc, a global structural engineering firm and disaster-risk reduction firm providing resiliency expertise that sustains industries and safeguards communities around the world. Dr. Miyamoto is a world-leading expert in disaster risk reduction, disaster response and reconstruction, and is passionate about projects that increase resilience and save lives worldwide.


C:UserscbilgramAppDataLocalMicrosoftWindowsINetCacheContent.MSO3545929D.tmp Pete Atherton, P.E., is a civil engineer and President and Founder of ActionsProve, LLC, a firm that supports high-achieving professionals and organizations with strategic planning, executive coaching, leadership and more. He is an accomplished consultant and coach, with over 26 years of experience as a professional engineer. Pete has been helping indigenous groups in Nicaragua to build irrigation systems and improve livelihoods for over 15 years. He brings a wealth of knowledge on engineering solutions for sustainable water systems and community engagement.


About Us | 4 S.T.E.L Engineering Dustin Rosepink, S.E, is the CEO of 4 S.T.E.L. Engineering Inc, a structural engineering firm that is passionate about designing safe and resilient structures to protect lives. Dustin and his firm are pioneers in the solar energy and renewables market and are experts on solar-powered irrigation systems. Dustin is actively involved in community activities in California, where he supports local non-profits and provides opportunities for his employees to serve as well. Dustin is a mission-driven leader who advocates for safe engineering and helping others.


Daniel Harsadi, P.E., is a Senior Electrical Engineer at 4 S.T.E.L. Engineering, Inc. He has been an electrical engineer for more than 15 years and has considerable experience with renewable energies. He is an expert on bridging the gap between engineering and constructability to ensure design and construction are streamlined and efficient. Daniel has been at 4 S.T.E.L. for one year and is leading the creation of their Electrical Engineering Division. He is active in his community and works to support at-risk families at home and abroad.


Blake Calvert Blake Calvert, P.E., is the President and CEO of CORE Consultants, Inc. Based in Littleton, Colorado, CORE Consultants offers civil engineering, natural resources and land surveying services. Blake and his firm have a passion for what they do, and work to innovate, learn and challenge themselves daily. With degrees in civil and environmental engineering, Blake brings experience in land surveying and development, engineering and operations. He empowers his employees to support nonprofit causes and leads by example through active community engagement.


Sabine Kast is the Executive Director of Miyamoto Relief and the Director of International Programs at Miyamoto International. She is a globally recognized leader in urban disaster risk management and policy. Her leadership skills enable her to build and effectively manage multi-disciplinary expert teams in both pre- and post-disaster situations. Her passion is to save lives in underserved and disaster-prone communities. When Sabine visited the Omo in August 2019, the cultural landscape and resilience of the community inspired her to facilitate Miyamoto Relief’s support.


Calley Bilgram is the Senior International Program Specialist for Miyamoto Relief and Miyamoto International. She holds a Master of Science in Transition Management and has managed development projects related to disaster risk reduction, infrastructure resilience, and microfinance. She supports the development, implementation and compliance for DRR projects funded by USAID, the World Bank, IDB, and more. She is passionate about supporting at-risk communities by utilizing a technical yet holistic, participatory approach.


Site Visit: January 2020

The technical team, consisting of Pete Atherton, Dustin Rosepink, Daniel Harsadi, Blake Calvert and Calley Bilgram, visited the Omo Valley from January 14–January 20, 2020. The team was hosted by Lale Biwa, an Elder from the Kara Tribe and a member of Wild Expeditions, at his camp along the Omo River. The team conducted site visits to investigate previously installed diesel water pump systems, allotted farmland for community farms, and other existing infrastructure. The team was also given the opportunity to visit other tribes in the area, namely the Hamer and Mursi, where they were warmly welcomed, learned about the tribe’s culture and traditions, and heard firsthand accounts of the struggles the tribes are currently facing. Below is a detailed outline of the site visits, including noteworthy technical observations and relevant information, followed by two maps that show the locations that were visited and a map of Dus, the main village of the Kara Tribe.

Day Activities
Day 1

Jan. 14, 2020

The team arrived to Jinka in the early afternoon on Tuesday, January 14, and drove to Lale’s Camp. We arrived late in the evening and were warmly greeted by Lale and his team.
Day 2

Jan. 15, 2020

The team visited multiple farming sites and the Kara village of Dus. The following was noted:

1. The Kara Community Farm near Lale’s Camp: the team investigated the existing pump system, including solar panels and the floating pump.

2. Kundama: This farm provides food for the village of Dus and around 20 Kara live here. The site had two broken, unused diesel pumps and there was farmland along the riverbank and up on the hill. A system of canals has been dug here to facilitate irrigation of crops.

3. Dus: The main Kara village of Dus has around 850 people and existing outdated infrastructure, including a manual pump and pump room, water treatment systems, etc. The team explored the various structures on site, including the Elder Meeting House, and heard about the rich culture and traditions of the Kara Tribe from Lale.

4. Chelete: The team visited the village of Chelete, which has 40-50 people, and their farm, which had one fully operational diesel pump of considerable size. There was also a stilling basin and canal that were functioning well.

5. Korcho: Finally, the team visited the farmland of the Korcho village, which has about 100 people and also had a large electric pump that was operational. There were manmade canals and a concrete basin on-site.

Day 3

Jan. 16, 2020

On this day, the technical team met with the village elders to hear the needs of the community and explain our mission and purpose for visiting their tribe. The Kara Elders communicated their desire for progress and self-reliance, but also the need for someone to show them the way. The following needs were told to the team from the Kara Elders:

Food insecurity – there is a lack of food in the village, forcing people to forage in the forest. The Elders have disdain for the diesel pumps that were installed by the Government of Ethiopia because without the necessary training and maintenance, they quit working after three months. They need food to survive; this is the top priority.

Education – the school near Dus is slowly decreasing in its attendance and without proper learning materials, clean and accessible water, and food, it is impossible for children to learn. The female Kara Elder asked us how children are supposed to learn without food and stressed the important correlation between education and food security.

Health – many have died recently in the Kara Tribe, and the Elders asked for more support to the clinic and medications.

Water – women are responsible for collecting water from the river and bringing it to their villages. This is a time-consuming and hard task, made more dangerous by the presence of crocodiles in the river. The Elders asked for support to pump or collect water.

Farmland – there is a need for machinery or more advanced tools to help clear farmland.


The team also visited the village of Labuk, which had one broken diesel pump, an earthen basin, and well-made manmade canals. Around 200 people are living in Labuk.

In the evening, the team was warmly welcomed into the village of Dus and viewed their traditional dance ceremony.

Day 4

Jan. 17, 2020

On the fourth day, we visited the Mursi tribe. The Mursi live 3 hours upriver, by boat, and have their own unique cultural traditions and language. The team learned a great deal about their way of life and possible interventions that could support the Mursi in the future, such as improved agricultural techniques and education.
Day 5

Jan.18, 2020

The team visited the Hamer tribe on the fifth day, where we saw their impressive flocks of goats and cattle, learned about their cultural traditions, and heard how the various tribes who were once enemies are now allies in order to combat these challenging times together. The Hamer are living on Kara land, so they have easier access to the Omo River to water their herds. Due to the building methods of the Hamer, we also discussed the possibility of using their structures to harvest rainwater.

In the afternoon, the team had a technical brainstorm for the solar-powered irrigation system. We discussed possible solutions, information we had and what was required, next steps for when we return to Addis, etc. We also visited the Kara Community Farm again to survey the land and collect information on the solar panels and pump.

Day 6

Jan. 19, 2020

On our last full day in the Omo, we visited the village of Dus again to inspect the existing infrastructure and meet with the representative from the clinic run by the German NGO, humedica[1].

In the afternoon, we met again with Kara Elders to communicate our findings, our recommendations, and reiterate our commitment to support their tribe. The Kara Elders slaughtered four goats to commemorate our visit, and we were honored to participate in their feast. In the evening, they welcomed us to participate in their dancing ceremony.

Day 7

Jan. 20, 2020

On Day 7, we visited the village of Korcho on our way to the air strip. The village of Korcho was in a different area than the farmland we visited on Day 1, but we were informed that solar panels and other infrastructure may be stored there. We also were able to view the plot of land cleared and developed for a Turkish cotton factory. While the infrastructure and supplies there were not usable, it was a valuable visit to see what other progress has been made in the region.
Figure 1.Southern Ethiopia vicinity map & location of Kara tribes in the Omo Valley (Source: Google Earth)
Figure 2. Villages and tribes visited within the Omo Valley (Source: Google Earth)
Figure 3.Dus village and humedica NGO (Source: Google Earth)

Approach and Methodology

The technical team came together in Addis Ababa on January 13, 2020, to begin works. The following gives a high-level overview of the approach and methodology taken.


The technical team strived to undertake a technical yet holistic and participatory approach to this project. We are a diverse team of engineers (and humanitarians) who worked together to investigate, assess and deeply consider the current state of the farms, the tribes, and what was needed. We communicated our thoughts and plans openly with Kara Elders and Lale Biwa to confirm any assumptions and get their buy-in throughout the process.

By engaging in a holistic approach, we were able to see the broader picture and consider the social and environmental impacts our technical solution may have. We were innovative in our thought processes while also drawing on past experiences and lessons learned from recent interventions in the Omo. Within our technical team, there is firsthand experience with solar-powered systems, irrigation systems in underdeveloped areas, geotechnical investigations, etc., and by using the team’s expertise coupled with input from the local community, we were able to adapt this unique approach to support the Kara Tribe.


The participatory approach lends itself to our methodology, which included a site visit to the Omo Valley. We visited the Omo Valley in order to better understand the current state of the existing pump at Lale’s Camp, to gather information and lessons learned on what has been done in the Omo thus far, to assess the topography of the farmland and river to support the design of a technical solution, and to gain an understanding of the cultural context. Our research goals revolved around the question: what kind of irrigation system can we create that is efficient, sustainable and cost-effective?

Outside of the site visit, we also conducted extensive research on various irrigation systems, lessons learned and best practices within Ethiopia, and fit-for-purpose technical solutions. Much of the research on lessons learned and best practices came through discussions with various organizations and agencies successfully working in Ethiopia and East Africa. There is further information about outreach conducted in Chapter 6.


There are a few limiting factors to our study and recommendations, including:

  • Large-scale solar-powered irrigation systems are relatively new in Ethiopia, especially in the Omo Valley. While D&S has experience in the Omo, they just installed their first large-scale floating pump last year and are still working on the testing and maintenance of it. Other organizations, such as Solar Development, focus on small-scale systems that irrigate 1-2 ha. While their German counterpart has the capacity to create and import a larger scale system, they currently do not have this experience or capacity in-house. The lack of tested solutions for larger scale systems, in the Omo and Ethiopia in general, creates some uncertainty on the proposed solution that can nonetheless be overcome with a knowledgeable provider and continuous technical oversight and support.
  • The remoteness of the sites and capacity of locals has narrowed down the list of feasible solutions. It is difficult to receive certain supplies in the Omo Valley and oftentimes, there is no technical know-how or capacity to utilize the supplies once received. For example, getting concrete to the site is expensive and difficult. Once it is on-site, there is little to no local knowledge about how to mix and pour the concrete where needed. These limitations have guided our solution to one that does not require certain building materials and includes training and capacity building.
  • Preconceived notions of external influence and defunct technical systems. The Kara Tribe has witnessed many well-to-do individuals and organizations implement activities to support their food security, water sanitation and hygiene (WASH), education, etc., only to be left without significant improvements or with non-sustainable systems that they do not know how to operate. The team saw evidence of a large, outdated water treatment system in Dus, defunct diesel pumps installed by the Government of Ethiopia, and heard from various stakeholders on the mistrust of outsiders. The technical team adopted a participatory approach to get stakeholder buy-in and develop a technical solution that will be culturally accepted and trained on to mitigate this limitation.
  • Limited geographic information system (GIS) data and mapping information. There is limited mapping information and GIS data for the Omo Valley. Professional survey equipment and data connections will be needed to do more detailed mapping of the sites. The technical team has collected sufficient mapping information to begin works, but it is recommended that in-depth survey work be conducted in the future.

Phase 1: Existing Pump System at Lale’s Camp


To address the challenges described in Chapter 1, Wild Philanthropy began to research and discuss how best to support the tribes of the Omo Valley. Through technical discussions with solar providers in Addis Ababa and after a fundraising campaign, they decided to implement a solar-powered irrigation system. The team at Wild Philanthropy, together with Wild Expeditions, hired Davis and Shirtliff[3] (D&S) to design and install a floating-platform submersible pump system at Lale’s Camp. Located in Addis Ababa, D&S is a well-respected supplier of water-related equipment in East Africa. They have experience with solar equipment and solar-powered irrigation systems. Appendix B includes the technical specifications for the existing system and Figure 5 shows the quote received from D&S.

Figure 4.Quote from Davis and Shirtliff for existing pump

Parts of this pump, including the floating platform and solar panels, were installed mid-2019. Lale’s Camp and the Kara were chosen as the starting point for this irrigation system because of Lale, who is a Kara Elder and the Chief Guide for Wild Expedition’s southern Ethiopia program. It was initially envisioned that the pump and the community farm would serve as a model and guide for other Kara villages along the Omo. While it is possible that Lale’s Camp still serve as a model for farming techniques and best practices, the technical team evaluated the existing conditions and potential of various sites, including arable farmland, river flow, etc. and recommend a different pilot site. Recommendations for construction are made in the event of potential future improvement and expansion, and not as part of the pilot program described in Chapter 4.

Consultation for Existing Pump

Prior to our arrival on-site on January 14, 2020, the existing floating pump system installed by D&S was not operational. The pump platform cables that were installed to stabilize the floating pump platform in the river channel were broken. The platform where the pump was mounted was unable to float; therefore, the pump was laying against the side of the river, as seen in Figure 6.

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Figure 5. Existing floating pump at Lale’s Camp

The team was informed that the damage occurred as a result of floating debris collisions during high river flows, which most often occur during the rainy season. However, floating debris is a noted challenge on the Omo throughout the year. Even prior to being damaged, it appeared that the pump system had yet to be used for irrigation, as there was no discharge piping to convey pumped water to the planting area for irrigation. It was speculated that there may have been some confusion over “equipment supply” versus “overall system operation.”

Despite the floating pump being non-operational, the technical team found that the 16 solar panels, along with the controller, cables, and inverter, as well as the structure that was installed, were all in good condition. Upon further investigation, it was found that all systems were fully functional and operational. There were some minor issues with general maintenance and upkeep of the system; in the future, these can be avoided by following the guidelines provided in Appendix A, Solar Photovoltaic (PV) Maintenance.

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Upon returning to Addis Ababa, technical team representatives met with the system supplier, D&S. We were advised that D&S has ongoing projects in the Omo Valley region and had a service technician in the area. D&S agreed to send the service technician to the project site. Within days, the D&S representative had assessed the situation and made recommendations to repair the damage to make the pump system fully operational. Over the next weeks, repairs were made, and the new discharge piping was installed to make the existing system operational; see Figure 8. These simple actions brought the pump online, but further actions to secure the pump are necessary.


Further Construction Needs for Existing Pump

Even though the existing pump system was made fully operational in February 2020, there is concern that its operation could be disrupted again by floating river debris.

To remedy, or at least minimize this concern, D&S suggested that a protected “inlet zone” be used to house the pump platform. This would need to be located away from the natural main river flow channel and high velocity zone. Such an area may be naturally present along the shoreline, or this is something that could be constructed through excavation. The use of a “post fence” barrier system around the floating platform could also be considered to provide a greater degree of debris protection if the platform is ultimately relocated closer to the shoreline but not fully within a protected inlet.

On the last day, while driving out of Korcho, the technical team noted tractor-type equipment at one of the farms. If the former “inlet zone” is chosen for protection, a tractor or other machinery would be helpful for excavation.

While at the site, the technical team noted certain areas that may be better situated and protected from high velocity zones and river flow channels. The below images show where the existing pump is located and where a pump inlet that would provide more protection could be considered.

Any future construction activities should be undertaken with the supervision of a Design/Construction Manager hired by Wild Philanthropy or Wild Expeditions. This person would serve as quality assurance/quality control during construction, provide technical oversight, and can begin training and capacity building activities with interested members of the Kara Tribe.

Existing Inlet Zone (Higher risk for debris flow)

Pump Inlet Area with better protection and potential for sheet pile installation.

Existing Solar Array

Figure 8. Current versus recommended location of existing inlet zone
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Figure 9. Photograph depicting existing inlet area versus recommended area

Training and Maintenance Plan

A solar-powered system was chosen in part because of its durability and limited maintenance. Compared to a diesel pump, electric pumps have a higher likelihood of sustainable operational capacity with little maintenance required, as described below.

It is recommended that D&S be contracted to provide routine pump and solar-power system inspection and maintenance services on at least a monthly basis for the next 12 to 24 months. It is further recommended that during site visits, more than one designated Kara Tribe representative be present and formally and actively engaged with all diagnostic and maintenance activities. In addition to being coached, mentored, and taught in-person, each activity should also be documented in identical (and protected and secured) training manuals. Photos and video documentation should also be employed and secured as part of the training manuals.

For the solar panels, training and maintenance will also be key to ensure continuous functionality. Appendix A, Solar Photovoltaic (PV) Maintenance, describes needed maintenance for the solar system, including general upkeep, module washing, and what to do in the event of a major natural event. While this list is not exhaustive, it includes the minimum routine maintenance required to keep the system running. It is also recommended that future solar panels be installed with remote monitoring included.

Remote Monitoring

Remote monitoring will allow engineers in the U.S., Addis Ababa or elsewhere to be alerted to any issues that arise with the solar panels and controls in real-time. This quick-acting troubleshooting of problems and guidance on how to resolve will support the system’s resilience and effectiveness. For remote monitoring, the controller unit on the solar panel will need to be connected to the following:

• Lorentz Pump System (PS) Data Module and Pump Scanner
◦ A data logger that can store up to 10 years of data (at 10-min frequency) with two-way communication to control and program.
◦ It was noted in the information from Lorentz that a “Lorentz Pump Scanner for Android App” exists. However, at the time of writing, the team could not find this App in the Apple or Google App store. Further inquiries are needed.
• Lorentz PS Communicator
◦ Controller with integrated GPRS/cell modem.
◦ Connects to each pump (max. 8) on Bluetooth range. Pump must have PS Data Module installed.
◦ Encrypted and secure data.
◦ Inclusive monthly fee for cell data access, app updates and web service.

Once a provider is chosen, it is recommended to check with the provider to ensure they can provide the above services for new sites in the future and that they can add onto the existing system; we would need to confirm that the cell data service provided as part of the PS Communicator equipment is reliable and dependable.

Others Notes and Recommendations

Since the existing pump system is now operational, it is recommended next that local labor be used to construct irrigation channels within a 1- to 2-acre portion of the planting area in order to be able to receive the pump’s new discharge piping. The channels can be hand-dug, similar to the channels in other Kara villages that were built around the time when the diesel pump systems were installed; see Figure 11. Once in service, an assessment of the channel’s ability to hold and convey the pumped water to the designated planting areas must occur. If there is excessive seepage or absorption into the ground, consideration could be given to lining the channels with local clay or hand-mixed concrete.

Figure 10. Canals and stilling basin at Korcho

During the site visit, the technical team conducted surveys to measure the size of the arable land at Lale’s Camp. These measurements, combined with Google Earth data, show that the initial 2-acre area could be expanded by 8 acres, as seen in Figure 13. However, in order to continue a “direct pump” irrigation approach to the entire proposed planting area, a larger pump system needs to be installed as part of a potential future phase.

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Figure 11. Technical team surveying arable land at Lale’s Camp
Figure 12. Possible expansion and recommended locations for irrigation system at Lale’s Camp (Source: Google Earth)

As an alternative, a reservoir structure could be built. It is the technical team’s understanding that a reservoir structure was initially planned for Lale’s Camp to better mimic the seasonal floods. The size would need to be determined if not done already. Given the topography of the area, and to avoid having to pump a second time, the reservoir would need to be an above-grade structure. The means, methods, and materials to construct such a structure would need to be further assessed as it is understood that concrete materials and the associated skilled labor are not available locally. Due to this limitation, a reservoir structure is not included in the pilot site prototype described in the following section.

Finally, the technical team recommends that the community farm at Lale’s Camp continue to be used as a “model farm.” Ideal use and maintenance of the solar-powered system, planting methods, use of canals, etc., can showcase how strong harvests result from “model” techniques. Using a smaller plot of land to start will allow other tribes to see the benefits of the system and encourage them to adopt these techniques. Besides model use of the system, an external partner who understands and supports local agricultural techniques may offer “model” farming techniques as well. Alternatively, a small plot (approx. 100 square meters) could be used at Kundama (the recommended pilot site) for a “model” farm and could be used for training purposes and to showcase success.

Phase 2: Piloting the Prototype System


Following the site visit to the community farm at Lale’s Camp and after considering the conditions of the current system, the technical team conducted further research on possible technical solutions, including required specifications, costing, availability, transport and logistics, etc. Appendix C includes all quotes we have received for various solar-powered irrigation systems that have the required specifications and size for the five different Kara community farms. This chapter outlines the solution recommended by the technical team for a pilot system. It is recommended that this larger prototype system be installed at the Kara community farm of Kundama and tested before subsequent systems are purchased. This chapter describes the recommended system, including an overview of the site, systems not chosen, and potential next steps with regards to construction, training and maintenance.


The Kundama community farm was chosen as the recommended pilot site for the prototype system. The existing crop area is approximately 50 acres (see Figure 14) and provides the food for the village of Dus, which is a less than a 2-mile walk from Kundama.

Figure 13.Approximate existing crop area (50 acres) at Kundama (Source: Google Earth)

The technical team recommends this site for the following reasons:

• Close proximity to Dus and its current use as the main source of food for villagers.
• 50 acres of land have already been cleared and farmed on, with room for approximately 127 acres of expansion (see Figure 15).
• Existing infrastructure, such as well-dug canals, already exists on-site, and the presence of defunct diesel pumps indicates the Government of Ethiopia also saw the potential for intervention at this site (see Figure 16 and Figure 17).
• The farmland is located inside the turn of the river, where the current is not as strong and there is less chance of large debris collisions.
• Excellent soil conditions with limited soil erosion
• Shallow bank access, which is conducive for pumping water to a large area of land.
• The banks are well-sloped and well-planted.
Figure 14.Existing 50-acre crop area and expansion area of 127+/- acres at Kundama. Red line shows potential 1.8+/- mile access road alignment from Dus (Source: Google Earth)
Figure 15. Details of crop area at Kundama and existing diesel pumps to the north. Plots vary in size; many approx. 25-30 feet long x 10-15 feet wide (Source: Google Earth)
Figure 16. Existing diesel pump at Kundama
Figure 17. Broad, flat banks and crop areas along the south bank of the Omo River at Kundama

One limitation found with this site is the possible difficulty of transporting the large pump from Dus. Through satellite imagery, the technical team believes there is an access road (highlighted in red in Figure 15 above), but the current condition of the road is unknown. However, as large diesel pumps were found at this site, and due to the availability of local labor to clear land as needed, we believe this potential logistical challenge can be overcome.

Consultation and Specifications for Prototype System

Based on our site visits and consultations with D&S and other suppliers, including Solar Development, it is recommended that the prototype system consist of a solar-powered centrifugal pump mounted on a floating platform within a natural or constructed protected inlet zone of the river. A centrifugal pump is necessary to deliver the higher flows needed for direct irrigation.

Mounting the pump on a floating platform allows for direct access to the river, a much shorter suction pipe, and a greater likelihood that the foot-valve will remain sealed and maintain prime. In contrast, a pump system mounted along an embankment would require a much longer, horizontally positioned suction pipe. Given the location of the suction pipe along the ground and river surface, the foot-valve is more likely to become silted by river sediments and lose its ability to seal, and thus lose prime. If pump prime is lost and a pump is forced to “run dry,” damage is likely to occur. It will also be time consuming and labor-intensive to routinely clean and reset the foot-valve and subsequently re-fill the suction pipe with river water by hand in order to re-prime the pump.

A solar-powered system was chosen for a variety of reasons, including:

• Diesel pumps were previously installed at numerous sites occupied by the Kara. As no training or maintenance was provided, nearly all diesel pumps are no longer working.
• Diesel pumps require experienced mechanics to maintain the motors.
• Diesel is expensive and not locally available, requiring transport from Jinka, where it is also subject to losses in transport. Diesel in the area is also oftentimes low quality or contaminated.
• Other types of pump systems, for example hand pumps, would be very labor intensive and not feasible for farmland that is up on a steep embankment, as often is the case in the Omo.
• A solar-powered system is relatively low maintenance and can easily employ local villagers.
• The ability to remotely monitor the solar-powered system and get real-time alerts of any issues.

For the above reasons, the technical team recommends the Grundfos NB 150-200/224, 15kw motor with Grundfos RSI, 15KW Controller (System 1B). This pump has an 8-inch suction and 6-inch discharge piping, and it can deliver 287.2 m3/hr. of water at 12m head. The 287.2 m3/hr. delivery equates to approx. 1,265 gallons/minute, which is consistent with the diesel pumps effectively irrigating farmlands along the Omo now. This floating solar pump delivers enough water to adequately irrigate approx. 30 ha (approx. 74 acres) per day, if run for 5 hours/day. This is enough for the existing crop land and suitable for parts of the expansion area.

One of the goals of piloting the prototype is to better understand how long and how well one of these pumps will operate. There are other potential lessons learned, i.e. how much water is retained in the canal, how often it needs to be run, level of maintenance, etc., that will be determined from the pilot site.

A screenshot of a cell phone Description automatically generated
Figure 18.Specifications on performance for recommended System 1B

Technical write-ups and quotes for other systems can be found in Appendix C. The full technical specifications for System 1B are attached in Appendix D. 126 solar panels, rated at 270W, would be needed for this system.

The cost quoted by D&S for System 1B, including VAT, all equipment, transport, installation and testing is ETB 3,774,509.88 (USD 112,554.34[4]). This figure does not include the 10% discount given by D&S if customers pay in USD. Other costs that must be included are estimated in Chapter 7.

Construction Activities

Similar to what was done with the existing pump described in Chapter 3, it is recommended that, for construction activities, a turn-key installation approach with the recommended equipment supplier be undertaken. This contract must include the appropriate contracting and payment methods to ensure proper installation, start-up, and long-term operation.

The technical team recommends that they support Wild Philanthropy and Wild Expeditions to review the Bill of Quantity and construction documents before a final decision is made. Alternatively, if a technical partner is involved at this stage, they may serve in this role.

Having a Design/Construction Manager employed by Wild Philanthropy or Wild Expeditions on-site throughout construction is also recommended. This person would serve as quality assurance/quality control during construction, provide technical oversight, and can begin training and capacity building activities with interested members of the Kara Tribe.

In addition, depending on whether an inlet zone or fence post barrier is built, construction will have to be done around the chosen type of protection system. The technical team does not anticipate the need for an inlet zone at the recommended pilot site.

Finally, as mentioned in Chapter 3, other construction needs may include the building and maintenance of irrigation trenches and canals to properly disperse the water being pumped from the Omo. While canals and infrastructure already exist for this purpose at Kundama, these works may be needed when rolling out this system to other sites. Information about maintenance of canals and how they function within this irrigation system will be gained through the pilot site. Knowledge on building canals and stilling basins exists within the Kara Tribe, so no external support is anticipated.

Training and Maintenance Plan

The recommendations for a training and maintenance plan are identical to those in Phase 1 (Chapter 3). On-site initial training and capacity building on usage and maintenance will be critical to the sustainable operation of the recommended system. The provider may provide this training, or if a technical partner is involved at this stage, an external expert may provide the training.

An operations and maintenance (O&M) training manual should also be developed to ensure the Kara are properly trained on the system’s function and maintenance.

Others Notes and Recommendations

Similar to the final recommendations given under Phase 1 (Chapter 3), if not already existing, it is recommended that earthen channels be constructed for use with the new prototype pump system. This would allow the users and technical team to monitor and assess needs for channels moving forward.

The technical team also recommends that for the pilot site, five members of the Kara Tribe be trained on the system’s operation and maintenance. These five “farm managers” will then each have managerial duties and oversight for the five community farms once all are up and running using the new system. Wild Philanthropy and the tribe can look to successful examples of hiring farm managers in other parts of East Africa as an example of best practice. One such example is the “One Acre Fund[5],” which has full-time field staff at all of their locations to offer direct support to farmers and monitor and evaluate implementation. While the model would have to be adapted, having technically trained farm managers to oversee operations would greatly support successful systems and farming.

The technical training can come directly from the service provider, or a technical provider if possible. If a technical provider, it is recommended that this person be on-site for installation and at least two weeks following installation, and then routinely for the next 1-2 years to check on the system, do follow-up training and maintenance as needed, and support the trained farm managers.

In the past, the Kara have been dependent on seasonal floods to irrigate their crops. With the introduction of a solar-powered irrigation system, there is the possibility of having more than one harvest per year. This shift will mean an increase in the agricultural potential per site, and eventually, this may affect the quality of the soil. While the quality of soil and other consequences of the system are outside the scope of this report and are better assessed by an agriculture expert, the increase in agricultural output may allow this site to serve a wider population.

Every member of the Kara Tribe is being affected by climate change and the damming of the Omo; despite this, the technical team was surprised to learn that sharing among villages within the Tribe is uncommon. With increased communal farming and higher crop yields, there is the possibility of a cultural shift that incorporates sharing of crops. There is a change coming to the Kara Tribe and the technical team was pleased to find the Elders accepting of this change. Communal farming plots were unheard of just a few years ago and now they have become central to the solution. When the pilot system is successful at Kundama, this may present an opportunity to share food across the villages and serve a greater number of people – we hope that before the other systems are rolled out, food is shared with those who need it.

Phase 3: Rolling Out the System to Other Farm Sites


After Phase 2 is complete, the team will be ready to roll out the system to the four other Kara community farms. Besides Kundama, there are four future sites that are demarcated as communal farming plots for the Kara, namely Chelete, Korcho, Labuk and Lale’s Camp. The lessons learned from Phase 2 on everything from design to installation to maintenance will greatly benefit future systems. All testing and gaps in information, implementation, etc., will be known, supporting a smoother, more efficient installation and ongoing maintenance.

This section contains maps from Google Earth of the various sites, highlighting existing farming areas, potential expansion, and where current water system infrastructure exists. It is intended that these maps will be used for future planning and reference going forward.

Figure 19.Approximate existing farm area at Chelete (13 acres, west); potential expansion area (8 acres, east) (Source: Google Earth)
Figure 20.Existing crops at Chelete (13 acres) (Source: Google Earth)
Figure 21.Approximate existing farm area at Korcho (17 acres); potential expansion area (50 acres) (Source: Google Earth)
Figure 22.Approximate existing farm area at Labuk (24+/- acres); potential expansion area (25+/- acres) (Source: Google Earth)


When the Kara are ready for Phase 3, the technical team can be re-engaged to assess the recommended systems, i.e. to ensure pump quote data is aligned with site-specific features, to design the optimal solution in terms of location, size, selection of pump system, etc., and to analyze lessons learned from the pilot site.

Construction Activities

Recommendations for construction activities will be based on lessons learned from the pilot phase of the prototype system and may include future civil works, building of canals and a stilling basin, construction of an inlet or barrier protecting the pump, etc.

Training and Maintenance Plan

Recommendations for the training and maintenance plan will be based on lessons learned from the pilot phase of the prototype system.

Others Notes and Recommendations

The technical team recommends that before Phase 3 begins, there are trained and knowledgeable “farm managers” and members of the Kara Tribe that can support the five community farms. There needs to be sufficient capacity to expand. In addition, it is recommended that a Design/Construction Manager be on-site for installation and the weeks following for training on maintenance and operation. In addition, detailed survey work is needed to ensure the proper system is implemented at each farm.

Fundraising and Raising Awareness


During the site visit, the technical team met with Kara Elders to hear about the needs of the community, and to explain our mission and purpose for visiting their tribe. The Kara Elders communicated their desire for progress and self-reliance, but also the need for external help to show them the way. The following needs were conveyed to the team:

• Food insecurity – there is a lack of food in the village, forcing people to forage in the forest. The Elders have disdain for the diesel pumps that were installed by the Government of Ethiopia because, without the necessary training and maintenance, they quit working after three months. They need food to survive; this is the top priority.
• Education – the school near Dus is slowly decreasing in attendance; without proper learning materials, clean and accessible water, and food, it is impossible for children to learn. A female Kara Elder asked our team how children are supposed to learn without food and stressed the important correlation between education and food security.
• Health – many have died recently in the Kara Tribe, and the Elders asked for more support to the clinic and securing medications.
• Water – women are responsible for collecting water from the river and bringing it to their villages. This is a time-consuming and hard task, made more dangerous by the presence of crocodiles in the river. The Elders asked for support to pump or collect water.
• Farmland – there is a need for machinery or more advanced tools to help clear farmland.

Although the project team is working to address the most prioritized need, ideally, external partners could assist in this mission as well as assist in addressing the remaining needs (education, health, etc.). Very little efforts have been made to help these tribes with any of the needs they have expressed. The German NGO, humedica, established and runs the local clinic, but there is virtually no government, private-sector, or NGO presence in this area. For potential partners, the remoteness may present a challenge; thus, partners already familiar or operating in the region would be advantageous.

Over the last months, the project team has conducted extensive outreach to potential partners and to gather information for lessons learned for the project. Recommendations on fundraising and raising project awareness are given below.

Fundraising and raising awareness

Fundraising and raising awareness are critical components of project success. While partner organizations may be able to support fundraising, the project team recommends exploring all available avenues for fundraising. In light of COVID-19, some supporters may be limited in their ability provide on-the-ground support. However, due to the necessity of these works, fundraising and awareness-raising efforts should continue and/or begin immediately after restrictions ease. A few notes and recommendations on fundraising include:

• Foundations and donors: Miyamoto Relief has written a marketing proposal to raise funds for this project. In addition, various letters of inquiry have been written and sent to targeted foundations. Continuous outreach to foundations and individual donors, including through use of personal networks, would benefit this project. Building strong relationships with foundations and donors is key to successful fundraising.
• Social Media: social media is a powerful tool, especially when so much of the world is staying at home. Contracting a social media expert or finding a volunteer to lead a social media campaign would help raise awareness for this project. Miyamoto Relief has been targeting the architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) industry with tailored mailers and other marketing materials; further marketing and expertise is needed.
• Kickstarter/GoFundMe: creative platforms such as Kickstarter or GoFundMe are cost-effective ways to raise funds for a cause. It is recommended that one person be actively engaged in leading this type of campaign in order to post frequent updates and manage outreach. In addition, the campaign would benefit from social media and marketing strategies to help position the message and raise awareness.
• Educate: the project has a rich history and story behind it; educating potential donors and supporters with a clear, consistent message will support fundraising and awareness-raising activities.
• Matching Period: fundraising campaigns are oftentimes more successful when individual donors know their contributions are being matched by a firm or organization. Partnering with a large organization that would be willing to match donations up to a certain dollar amount may encourage others to participate and support the project.

Estimated Project Budget and Schedule

Estimated Project Budget

Below is a high-level overview of the estimated project budget using the recommended System 1B from Davis and Shirtliff[6] at Kundama and includes approximate additional costs calculated as a percentage of construction costs. Additional costs are included to ensure the system is designed for site-specific conditions, for technical oversight and additional civil works, other start-up costs related to training, logistics, maintenance and testing. A 25% contingency was included to account for any exchange rate fluctuations and unforeseen costs and expenses. Through partners, some of these costs may be mitigated by in-kind donations.

Activity Cost (USD)
Transport, installation and testing of System 1B $113,000[7]
Engineering/Design Services and Technical Coordination
(est. at ~20% of cost)
Additional construction and installation costs related to civil works
(est. at ~25% of cost)
Startup costs related to training, including development of manuals and materials, travel, lodging, etc.
(est. at ~15% of cost)
Other costs, including additional equipment, system maintenance, and testing
(est. at ~15% of cost)
Contingency funds, including inflation/exchange rate fluctuations
(est. at ~25%)
Total: $250,000

Estimated Schedule

At the time of writing, information from D&S regarding their proposed schedule and timeline had not been received. However, based on experience, the project team estimates nine months to one year to finalize the engineering designs, procure and install the system, and conduct initial training.


The timeliness and effectiveness of the proposed technical solution will impact the lives and livelihoods of the Kara. The technical team has completed this report to provide their observations, recommendations for a technical solution and future outreach, and possible next steps. Regardless of the route forward, active involvement and information sharing with the Kara Tribe, and other tribes of the Omo Valley, will be critical. Training and capacity building are also key to a sustainable solution that will support food security and livelihoods in the Omo for years to come.

The technical team welcomes the opportunity to discuss any findings and recommendations within the attached report. Please contact Calley Bilgram from Miyamoto Relief at for all inquiries.