Endorsement by the national power utility, Ethiopian Electric Power, has paved way for Gibe Dam, a producer of hydro-electric energy, to open up for fish farming, benefitting 250 migrant returnees and their communities in Oromia’s Sokoru district.

Located 57km northeast of Jimma, the dam – whose full name is Gilgel Gibe I - sits on the Gilgel Gibe River, one of Ethiopia’s biggest rivers. The reservoir is located in an area that is among the country’s migration-prone regions where many struggle to re-establish their lives when they make the journey back.

This community project has been set up by Jimma University College of Agriculture and Veterinary Medicine in partnership with the EU-IOM Joint Initiative for Migrant Protection and Reintegration in the Horn of Africa. Other partners in the project are the Sokoru District Livestock and Fishery Resources, and the Rural Job Creation Agency.

The project complements efforts made by the Ethiopian authorities to create jobs locally especially for the youth, while aiming to fight against irregular migration, in addition to supporting the successful reintegration of returnees.

Project participants will be selected on the basis of their vulnerabilities, and will include destitute households since by the time the dam was commissioned in 2004 some residents have lost their land.

One of them is Kedir, also a migrant returnee: “My family lost all our land during the construction of the dam. My parents found shelter in a nearby village while my siblings migrated to Sudan, Egypt and Libya, and I went to Yemen. Life was much harder in Yemen; I worked for four months as a labourer, barely earning money. Later, I was detained and returned to Ethiopia.”

Now 28, and living with his wife and three children, Kedir continued: “I worked in a fish farm in Yemen. My experience is helping me a lot and complements the trainings I have received from Jimma University. I assist the staff and support other returnees as well. The project is promising; I have big hopes.”  

The beneficiaries of the project will be organized into five micro-enterprises: three in Bore kebele and two in Enkure kebele.  Each enterprise will have 50 members drawn from migrant returnees, potential migrants, and those in the local community already involved in fishing.

Two of the micro enterprises will be engaged in an integrated fishery and poultry business, while two other enterprises will participate in an integrated fishery and small ruminant fattening business. The fifth will be involved in the development of a recreational centre that will cater for those visiting the dam for leisure, or those who may want to book the space for special events such as weddings.

Expectations are that the project will also contribute to the replenishment and protection of fish species through sustainable harvesting. Environmental conservation will be further enhanced with the careful management of a variety of plant species.

At the project’s onset, training was provided to beneficiaries, covering pisciculture, animal husbandry, along with business management and marketing.

Ahmed Seid, project coordinator of the project at Jimma University, said: “It is encouraging to see beneficiaries engage with dedication. They volunteer their time during construction and planning. The Government is highly engaged as well. So far, they have provided us with more than five hectares of land for free, and assigned staff to follow up and support.”

The project is just one of 21 community projects funded by the EU-IOM Joint Initiative in Ethiopia. Since 2017, the programme has been assisting more than 8,500 returnees and other vulnerable community members in Amhara; Oromia; the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples' Region; as well as in Addis Ababa and Dire Dawa city administrations.

About the EU-IOM Joint Initiative

Launched in December 2016, and funded by the European Union (EU) Emergency Trust Fund for Africa, the programme brings together 26 African countries of the Sahel and Lake Chad region, the Horn of Africa, and North Africa, the EU, and IOM around the goal of ensuring migration is safer, more informed and better governed, for both migrants and their communities.

For more information please contact Helina Mengistu, email: hmengistu@iom.int, or at Regional Office: Julia Hartlieb, email: jhartlieb@iom.int and Wilson Johwa, email: wjohwa@iom.int