Water, climate and energy: the Netherlands and Ethiopia

The Netherlands is your partner in tackling water, climate and energy issues.

Water management

The Dutch delta has the world’s best flood defences. 70% of the Dutch population lives below sea level. That’s why the Netherlands has so much expertise in flood control and clean water.

The Netherlands works together with other countries to tackle water-related issues around the world, like irrigation, safe river banks and clean drinking water. Our country also contributes to transboundary management of 7 international river basins in Africa, the Middle East and Asia.

A Special Envoy for International Water Affairs has been appointed to promote Dutch knowledge and expertise in the area of water management.

Climate and energy

The Netherlands wants to promote the use of sustainable energy.

The Netherlands endorses international agreements on reducing CO2 emissions and the depletion of natural resources.

Water, climate and energy: the Netherlands and your country or region


The sustainable development and management of water resources in Ethiopia will largely determine how far the country will be able to attain its water, food and energy security goals. Water resources development and management in Ethiopia is a complex and challenging matter. The country is endowed with surface and ground water resources that are unevenly distributed in space and time. Some of its major river basins such as the Blue Nile are for a large part situated in deep gorges that makes it difficult to access the water of these rivers. Even at places with abundant rainfall, people suffer from water shortages due to infrastructural, institutional and water quality constraints.

‘Water’ is not among the three development cooperation ‘spearheads’ selected by the embassy. However, (1) the presence of a considerable number of Dutch organizations working in the water sector in Ethiopia, (2) the strong linkages between water, health, food security and private sector development, and (3) the strategic ‘water’ role Ethiopia has in the Horn of Africa, being the ‘water tower’ for the region, has led the embassy to recognize the need for a solid water portfolio as part of its development cooperation strategy. Within this portfolio, the embassy does not play a direct financing role -as it has no delegated ‘water’ funds-; but it much rather acts as instigator, facilitator and mediator between the various actors in the water sector.

The water portfolio of the embassy consists largely of three areas of actions:

  1. Promoting efficient and sustainable use of water, particularly in agriculture, through environmentally sound integrated water resources management, including watershed/river basin management as well as efficient irrigation and on-farm water management practices.
  2. Supporting water governance and basin management programs in such areas as   inventory of water resources, development of regulatory frameworks on access and use of water resources for the public sector and the private sector, integrated planning and promotion of cooperation in the development, management and utilization of trans-boundary water resources. 
  3. Providing a platform for the Dutch water sector (public actors, private sector and knowledge institutes), with the aim to serve as a medium for fostering coherent and impact-focused activities, while promoting complementarity between bilateral and multi-lateral interventions and enhancing  (Dutch) private sector engagement in the development of Ethiopia’s water sector


In 2015, Ethiopia ranked 146 out of 181 on the Notre Dame Global Adaptation Index, reflecting its high vulnerability to climate change and low readiness to cope with the effects, although  the latter has somewhat improved during the past ten years. The economy and the well-being of the people of Ethiopia are tightly bound to natural resources that are sensitive to a change in the climate. Ethiopia is experiencing increasingly unpredictable rains, and sometimes the complete failure of seasonal rains – problems which are linked to climate change. Global climate models anticipate more intense and irregular rainfall for the highlands and increased temperature and droughts for the lowlands of Ethiopia. The exceptional severity of the drought in 2015 caused by the El Niño climatic phenomenon in large parts of the country is, for instance, believed to be a consequence of climate change. Delay in seasonal rainfall early 2017, has also resulted in food insecurity for about 4 million people in the eastern and southern lowlands of the country.

The government of Ethiopia has developed a Climate Resilience Green Economy Strategy (CRGE) that encourages development to become climate smart. In the long run the aim of the strategy is to develop a carbon neutral economy.  Furthermore, Ethiopia has written its Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) to tackle climate change, which implies that it intends to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 64% in 2030 from what it would produce under a business as usual scenario. If implemented successfully, both the CRGE and INDC put Ethiopia in the right track to cope with climate change. 

The Netherlands also has a pro-active policy on climate change that underlines the need for all development programs and trade initiatives to become climate smart through mitigation, adaptation, disaster risk reduction or a combination of strategies. Climate change adaptation and mitigation is not considered to be a ‘burden’ on the economy, but as an opportunity to develop innovative and profitable response to climate change. Rather than having ‘special’ climate projects, the overall strategic approach adopted for climate-smart development is to mainstream climate change adaptation and mitigation in development cooperation programs and trade, most prominently in natural resource management, agriculture and agri-business.  All programs need to have explicit climate change adaptation and/or mitigation objectives, pathways as well as indicators to monitor results.