Setting up a manual drilling sector and supply chain in Tigray (Ethiopia)


In Ethiopia, especially in the dry periods many people lack access to clean potable water. The conventional hand-dug wells often produce water of poor quality or dry up in the dry season. Deep mechanically drilled boreholes are (too) expensive. Another drilling technique is possible, namely manual drilling. This technique is cheap and supplies year-round sufficient clean potable water. However, this drilling technique is not yet known in Tigray (4 – 5 million people), in northern Ethiopia.

What is manual drilling?

Manual drilling 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 for drinking and for irrigation to unserved rural populations at a fraction of the cost of conventional drilling.

Determining the feasibility in 5 Woredas in Tigray

The Huisman Foundation led a consortium that examined the feasibilty (geohydrological and market) of manual drilling in 5 woredas in Tigray. The results were positive and formed the basis for an implementation project with Woord & Daad (lead), Tear, Idea and with the Integrated Water and Sanitation Program of the Ethiopian Kale Heywett Church and the Mekelle University. This project is financed by Partners for Water III, Woord & Daad, Aqua4All and the Huisman Foundation itself.

The project: setting up drilling companies and establish a supply chain

The main objective of the project is to give poor people a cheap way to access water. To this end, after finalizing the project (2016), a manual drilling sector and supply chain in northeastern and southern Tigray is set up. The manual drilling sector and supply chain consist in this project of 6 manual drilling companies, 2 welding workshops and 2 (rope) pump companies.  All companies will get sufficient trainings to be profitable, to operate independently and sell at least 200 wells per year. During the project period 160 wells (for irrigation and use at household level) and 10 communal drinking water wells will be drilled. Favorable conditions for investing in manual drilling will be realized; additional feasibility mapping, organizing banks/Micro Finance Institutions to provide loans and lobbying for government support. Finally, we want to create sufficient demand for manual drilling by setting up social marketing strategies and campaigns and by involving Self Help Groups and new donors. 

Project budget

The total cost for the sustainable development of a manual drilling sector in northeastern and southern Tigray amount to approximately € 400.000. The contribution of the Huisman Foundation for the implementation project is in total € 30.000.


Click on the following link to find more information about our manual drilling project in Tigray. project document on manual drilling