It was around one o’clock on a Sunday afternoon in early November. The airport – consisting of a single building – was undergoing maintenance. As I was waiting to be checked out, I could see people scrambling for their extra baggage as they headed for the exit. I followed suit.
This was Jijiga in Ethiopia, about 600 km from Addis Ababa. It’s one of the closest towns to the Somalia-Ethiopia border. The Ethiopian Ministry for Water and Energy (MoWe), in partnership with Unicef, is using Akvo FLOW to conduct a water point mapping exercise across the whole of the Somali region, the largest region in Ethiopia. The reason for this exercise is that the previous information the government had was in paper format and much of it was damaged or lost. If the Somali region water point exercise is successful, the next step will be to map the water points of the whole country.
This would be my third Akvo training workshop and earlier Luuk had briefed me that it was to be one of the biggest courses ever conducted by Akvo on this side of the continent. I had to compose myself both mentally and physically for the task ahead.
When we reached our hotel, the security was so tight that we were searched before going in. It was just over a month since the Westgate incident and nothing was left to chance.
We arrived at the venue of the Akvo FLOW training around nine the next morning. The atmosphere was buzzing. Around forty people had gathered, most of them from MoWe together with UNICEF Ethiopia, eager to see what was in store for them. It was a much bigger group than I thought. Even a national radio journalist was present, recording a news story about the event which was broadcast during the lunchtime news – an indication of the significance and profile of this initiative.
During the workshop, the connection speed to the technology we presented was faster than other previous courses I’ve taken part in. This – as I came to know later – was due to most of the people being in possession of Android smart phones, which are prevalent in that region. Furthermore, we realised that we could submit data using 2G-enabled sim cards. It was like a revelation for both Francis and I. Nonetheless, I trained selected supervisors on how to manually upload data to the dashboard just in case the network decided to misbehave.
Above: participants of the Akvo FLOW training workshop in Jijiga, Ethiopia. Photos by Francis Warui.
Below: the workshop in full flow. Photo by Andrew Molo.
Top: Andrew arriving at the workshop venue. Photo by Francis Warui.
One final thought; I must say this experience was an eye-opener, a different kettle of fish to usual training courses. Was it because of the distance, culture, reception, residents or the ambience? I’m not sure, but one thing is certain, I am in for more of these and I am pretty sure that each of them will have a different story to tell.
Andrew Molo is junior partnerships assistant in Akvo’s East Africa hub.