Roads to Employment Opportunities and Harmonious Communities

Forcibly displaced persons including refugees and IDPs in Ethiopia could find employment opportunities and maintain harmonious communities through the bridge of labour-based technology approaches between forcibly displaced persons and host communities

Article | 13 December 2019
Thirteen Ethiopian civil engineers from the public sector set out on 14 October 2019 to train in Labour-Based Technology, as a labour-based employment creation approach of ILO’s flagship Employment Intensive Investment Programme (EIIP). Over the past 40 years, EIIP works has entailed employment-intensive and local resource-based approaches for the production of public assets in a range of sectors such as road construction and maintenance, water and drainage, irrigation infrastructure, reforestation, and soil conservation. While doing so, EIIP considers (i) maximization of employment-content, (ii) local resource base and (iii) capacity building of institutions, private and public contractors and dispensation of market-relevant skills in the construction sector.

The Training of Trainers (TOT) was a collaboration between ILO and its long-time partner, the Ethiopian Roads Authority (ERA), which housed the course at its Ginchi Labour-Based Road Construction and Maintenance Technology Training Center, built with the support of ILO in 1981 and located 80kms from Addis Ababa. During their one-month stay at the center, the trainees engaged in a theoretical component through classroom-style learning, as well delved into practical labour-based technology demonstrations, under the coordination of ILO EIIP Specialists and trainers provided by ERA.

The course focused on Road Construction and Maintenance – LBT, organized into eleven chapters, including, 1. Low Volume Roads and Materials Testing, 2. Road Maintenance, 3. Cobblestone Paving, 4. Concrete Technology, 5. Mensuration, Hand Tools and Equipment, 6. Level to Level and Side ditch, 7. Setting Out Using Labour Based Methods 8. Construction Works Organization, 9. Quality of Engineering Works, 10. Pricing of Labour Based Works, and 11. Contract Management Processes. Participants also benefited from excursions to construction sites/works in Addis Ababa as part of the learning process and were assigned to 3 practical workstations to design and lay cobblestones, apply low-cost road surfacing and erect surface water drainage structures, kerbing and footways. Through this exercise, the participants received skills training in masonry, concrete and brick/block work, drainage, and urban road construction.

The engineers came from the Somali and Tigray Regional States, both hosts to refugee and IDP communities. More specifically, the engineers represented the roads, construction, TVET, agriculture, and water from the regional authority administrations and city councils at the city and district levels in the target areas of Jigjiga and Kebrebiyah in the Somali Region, and the cities of Shire and Mekele in the Tigrai Region. Most indicated that the practical nature of the course reinforced their skills in a number of road engineering trades, and that the learning experience was at its best when they faced a challenge and devised ways to solve it together. With the new skills obtained as trainers, the engineers looked forward to returning to their regions to transfer their knowledge to skills building of public and private contractors on low-volume roads, with a special interest in the inclusion of refugees, and other forcibly displaced persons including women and persons with disabilities.

This activity is funded by the Netherlands Government, as part of a wider multi-agency partnership (IFC, ILO, UNHCR, UNICEF & WB) built on the combined strengths, experience and values of specific development and humanitarian organizations to develop a new paradigm in responding to forced displacement crises in eight countries, including Ethiopia.

ILO’s vision within the partnership concerns strengthening decent work in countries impacted by forced displacement to mitigate stress, and support access to labour markets plus empowerment of host communities and forcibly displaced populations. ILO’s flagship labour-based technology approach will intend to bring skills acquisition and employment opportunities to forcibly displaced persons with the ultimate objective of promoting peace and harmony within communities by acting as a bridge between refugees and the hosts. This initiative comes against the backdrop of the Jobs Creation Commission (JCC), which unveiled on 31 October 2019 its plan to create 20 million new jobs by 2025, most of them foreseen to contribute to the country’s booming construction sector.