Opening up new markets through new methods

Pilot phase to set-up a sustainable, financially independent Manual Drilling sector in Ethiopia.

Posted on 4 September 2014


Core to setting up the Manual Drilling sector is a comprehensive training program for equipment manufacturers and professional drillers. Before we run the training cycles, an inventory will take place to map the actual and potential sector in detail (supply chain actors and existing entrepreneurs, credit organizations and other relevant market players). In the training and certification process, 160 irrigation and multiple-use wells are drilled, and 10 communal wells.

To support potential business, social marketing strategies will be piloted among end-user communities, with support from a contracted professional marketing agency. Financial services will be made available through mobilizing local credit organizations for the water sector, and implementing a Social Venture Capital Fund.

A lobby for government support will be set up, targeting enabling policy and financial support for large scale feasibility studies. During the pilot we target to map the Drillability of the Tigray region as a whole, and create an interactive borehole information system.


Result 1: A well-organized Manual Drilling supply chain in the pilot area is established and delivering effective services.

Result 2: Manual Drilling enterprises are independently and profitably in business.

Result 3: There is an enabling environment for investments in the Manual Drilling sector and purchase of their services.

Result 4: There is an active demand for Manual Drilling services through social marketing.

Current status
Pilot recently started (2014).

Technologies used

Manual drilling (MD) is a practical and affordable solution for wells less than 40 meters deep in alluvial soils and soft weathered rock formations. It can effectively provide water to un-served rural populations at a fraction of the cost of conventional drilling. This is especially true in small isolated communities that will never benefit from the large donor funded drilling programs because they are often not included in national plans. Manual drilling is 5-10 times cheaper than machine drilling, can be applied wherever the geo-hydrological characteristic are favourable, and provides sufficient and clean water year-round. 

There are several manual drilling initiatives going on in Ethiopia, However, all focusing on floodplain areas. Unfortunately only a very small percentage of Ethiopia consists of these flood plains. The majority of Ethiopia, including the highlands of Tigray, cannot or have not been drilled with the simple sludge method. To open up new markets for manual drilling in Tigray, a combination of sludging (for clay) and manual percussion drilling (for weathered and soft consolidated rock formations) will be piloted. 

In Tigray, this project aims to pilot a combination toolkit of sludging and percussion, unique in Ethiopia, to investigate and open up new markets for manual drilling in Tigray. Very specific knowledge and expertise is needed to work effectively with this combined methods, which is what the consortium aims to embed in the local Tigray context.

Project location

Project partners

  • Partners voor Water
  • Stichting Woord en Daad