This research, outreach and networking project aims to better understand the political economy and governance of river sand commodity chains in Ethiopia to put the topic on the agenda of policy makers and civil society in Ethiopia. Finding ways to sustainably govern sand mining and sand economies more broadly has recently been put on the agenda of both policy makers (UNEP 2019) and academia (Torres et al 2017). Building on a Governance of Commodity Chain (GoCC) framework developed for the study of sand mining in India, Nepal and Bangladesh and in Morocco and Tanzania, this research project aims to deepen our knowledge about on-the-ground realities of river sand mining in Ethiopia. Ethiopia forms an interesting case, as a recent building boom has increased the demand for sand. Ethiopia has a robust mining policy in place and has been developing the sector (with Canadian assistance) in recent years. At the same time, research have surfaced about the negative effects of illegal sand mining (eg Mingist and Gebremedhin 2016 on the Lake Tana basin). Without a better understanding of the political economy and the governance of riverine sand commodity chains, it is near impossible to transition to sustainable management of river sand resources. This project, integrated in a wider research line on the political economy and governance of sand commodity chains, both in Africa and Asia, aims to not only gain a better understanding of sand governance in Ethiopia, but also open the space for debate around this important sector in a context of infrastructural development and urban expansion. While it is beyond the scope of this short initiative to research the potentially wide ranging environmental impacts on and of e.g aquatic life, lowered water tables or altered sediment flows, it aims to provide the starting points to build a network for such an inter-disciplinary exploration of river sand economies in Ethiopia.

  • Funding: VLIR-UOS short initiative
  • Time: 2022-2024
  • People involved: Bert Suykens, Siyum Adugna Mamo (Jimma University and Ghent University), Mery Kapito Zewdu (Jimma University)