Blog Human-Centered Design Workshop to enhance pastoralists’ resilience in Ethiopia


Borana Zone is located in the southern part of Ethiopia and characterized by a semi-arid and arid climatic condition. The zone is inhabited by pastoral and agropastoral communities. Livestock production plays an important role in the livelihoods of people living around the waterpoint. Livestock, including cattle, goat, sheep, and camel, play a crucial role in the livelihoods of Borana’s peoples.

By: Sintayehu A., Sintayehu W., Liyuneh G., Steven S., Sebastian L., Lidiya T., Selamawit F. and Yodit B. 

Like many arid and semi-arid regions in Africa, the zone is highly vulnerable to extreme weather events such as drought, thereby putting the lives and livelihoods of millions of peoples at risk. During the dry season, water scarcity becomes a prominent concern, and become scarce for domestic and livestock use. For instance, the years 2021 and 2022 were recorded as the worst drought years over the last 40 years in the Zone which caused 3.3 million livestock death due to water and feed scarcity. Addressing this challenge calls for an integrated approach that combines traditional knowledge, scientific research, and cutting-edge technology. 

The Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT in collaboration with Ministry of Agriculture (MoA), Ethiopian Agricultural Research Institute (EIAR), Oromia Agricultural Research Institute (OARI), United States Geological Survey (USGS), along with other key national and local institutions has been implementing a project to develop a livestock water monitoring system to improve drought management and build climate resilience through financial support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF).  

The Livestock Water Monitoring and Risk Management System Project is designed to provide near real-time surface water information in pastoral areas of Ethiopia. By utilizing remote sensing technologies, satellite imagery, and on-ground sensors, the system captures essential data points such as water levels, flow rates, and water source conditions. To enhance pastoralists’ resilience through accesses to a near real-time water resource information, The Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT in collaboration with partners organized “Human-Centered Design (HCD) Approach for Livestock Water Source Monitoring and Risk Management” workshop on May 19th 2023 in Yabello (local level), Ethiopia and May 24th 2023 at ILRI’s Addis Ababa campus (national level), Ethiopia. The workshop was supported by the HCD team of the Digital Inclusion Lever of the Alliance. 

The workshops were specifically designed to address the needs and gather valuable insights from the real end-users including pastoralists and decision-makers. By applying a HCD approach, the project aimed to build a solution that truly aligns with the requirements and challenges faced by pastoralists to buffer the adverse effects of climate induced risks. 


Group photo of human centred design workshop in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

The local level Human Centered Design end users workshop attended by 36 participants comprising pastoralists, agro-pastoralists, local level decision makers, clan leaders, officials, extension officers, and experts from government and non-governmental organizations. The workshop was opened by His Excellency Hassan Huka, Borena Zone Administer. In his remarks, thanked The Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT and other partners for their efforts to enhance Borana Pastoralists resilience to the changing climate and that participatory research-based solution from such kind of project must be taken into consideration for institutions to double their efforts in improving pastoralists support at all levels. He stated in his opening speech by stressing the importance of providing near real time water information for managing risks and exploiting opportunities will help the society to become more resilient in coping with the increasing impacts of drought. 

At national level, more than 32 participants comprising decision makers, researchers, practitioners, and representatives from ministries, government offices, United Nation, NGOs, the private sector, regional sector offices, and academic and research institutions attended the workshop.

At national level, the workshop was opened by Dr. Desta, Lulseged, The Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT Country Representative. He started his opening speech by stressing the importance of human-centered design (HCD) approach to understand the need of the end users and include their need to solve problems related to absence of water information decision support tool for livestock sector to make timely decisions to the recurrent drought.  

During the workshop four different discussion sessions were conducted to identify end-users’ problems and discuss potential tools that could support to address the problems effectively. The workshops established a strong foundation for developing a Livestock Surface Water Monitoring System by identifying and addressing the diverse needs of pastoralists and decision-makers. The information obtained during the workshops is a valuable guide for designing a user-centric and contextually relevant tool that would provide near real-time water information for managing risks and exploiting opportunities as well as designing and implementing targeted policies and interventions. 

Community Leader


" Indigenous people's use of digital technology has been undermined or poorly promoted, particularly in the pastoral area mainly with the wrong assumptions that we are illiterate. In fact, our children and grandchildren are well educated and can benefit from such technology hence, literacy issues can be addressed. The livestock water source monitoring project's approach has bridged the gap, and we were involved in the consultation process from the start of the project to merge traditional knowledge with the scientific to disseminate timely information for planning and decision making purposes. ”


Dr. Girma Mamo, Director Climate, Geospatial and Biometrics Research Directorate, Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research (EIAR).

In closing remark at national level, Dr. Girma Mamo, Director, Climate, Geospatial and Biometrics Research Directorate, Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research (EIAR) pointed out the provision of quality and timely water source information to end-users require the generation, analysis, and sharing of adequate data that enable end-users to fully understand climate phenomenon, develop appropriate early warning system, and make the necessary decisions. It is also envisioned that the need for collaboration and work together to complement efforts by sharing expertise and data to inform the development and delivery of high-quality user-oriented water information for pastoralists and decision makers.

In conclusion, the HCD workshops were crucial to understand the local and national needs related to livestock water management in pastoral areas of Ethiopia. In contrast to decision-makers, pastoralists emphasized the necessity of near real-time information, early warning alerts, and local language communications, whereas decision-makers highlighted comprehensive management frameworks and efficient communication channels. This comprehensive understanding will ensure that the Livestock Surface Water Monitoring System meets the specific requirements of all end-users involved, building resilience, and ensuring sustainable livestock and water resource management in Ethiopia. 

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The Team