Monitoring usage of rainwater harvesting infrastructure in Illinta, Somaliland


In recent years, the Horn of Africa has been plagued by multiple droughts, which has proven to be devastating for agricultural and livestock activities across the region. In response, Pharo Foundation is building and rehabilitating several rainwater harvesting dams across Somaliland. Although there is increasing attention on the impacts of climate change in the region, there is surprisingly little data or evidence on the role that rural rainwater harvesting infrastructure can play in allowing communities to adapt to increasingly unpredictable rainfall patterns. Pharo Foundation’s Illinta dam project was designed to capture over 17,000 m3 of rainwater and provide a perennial source of water for 250 households and their livestock.


It is challenging to rigorously measure the causal impact of a single rainwater harvesting dam project, due to the lack of an obvious counterfactual. In this project, we are prioritizing monitoring the usage of the dam, through two separate data collection efforts: (1) daily counts of the number of people and livestock visiting the dam, over a span of a year; and (2) socio-economic surveys of dam visitors, capturing water usage, opinions, migration patterns, livestock loss, and other topics, over a three-month period (n = 183). Through these efforts, we aim to answer a number of questions, including: (1) how would people have accessed water if the Illinta dam did not exist? (2) how far have people travelled to access the dam? and (iii) how much has the drought impacted livestock levels?


From December 2022 to August 2023, we recorded nearly 10,000 visits at the dam. While most of the visitors were from the neighbouring villages, some travelled as far as 85 km to access water. Our data indicates that the dam serves as a consistent and reliable backup water source, particularly during the dry season (e.g., December to March). Importantly, the dam has contained water over the course of an entire year, despite only a handful of rainfall events. We expect to release a detailed summary of findings in 2024.