Afar Pastoralist Development Association

What does the Afar Pastoralist Development Association do?

Today, APDA works on a wide variety of projects to contribute to the development and well being of the Afar people, many of them focusing on vulnerable women and children, including mobile health and vaccination, water provision and harvesting, maternal and child health activities, and education for Afar children.

APDA also supports projects to help people with their livelihoods such as improving animal husbandry, along with protecting and managing the unique Afar environment. In all their projects, APDA works with communities to build relationships and knowledge so that the Afar people can take the lead in their own development. APDA also undertakes relief work in times of crisis such as drought.

  1. APDA works for the eradication of traditional practices that are harmful and against the rights and dignity of women and the enabling Afar women to develop their full capacity
  2. APDA will work to create models for the development of fragile, vulnerable and unique eco- systems and the socio-cultural systems in this region that could be adopted by regional governments, professional and environmental groups.
  3. APDA will work with the AFAR community to develop its own financial and infrastructure resources hence reducing its dependence on outside support

APDA’s Beginning:

The organization began in 1994 as a small group of volunteers bringing health awareness to the pastoralist community. Then the Afar society was described as 2% literate (1994 Government Household Census) and had no access to health or education. The community was unvaccinated and the only assistance for a delivering mother was the traditional cutting knife (makiita) to open her FGM scar. The society had almost no contact with the Ethiopian cash economy living 93% by traditional herding methods, the remainder farming on the Awash River by gravity irrigation.

The organization’s strategy of mobility:

Following the existing pattern in the community of traditional healers and Koranic teachers, APDA has modeled a system of mobile health and education currently reaching out to remote communities in 22 woredas. Over the years, the system has taught around 245,000 pastoralists to read and write Afar and to understand basic calculation and is now providing primary health care based on health education to around 710,000 people. 

The organization structure:

APDA is structured into the following 7 program sectors that manage projects in the field from a core sector group:

  1. Afar language development and education
  2. Primary health leading up to referral maternity emergency hospital of 35 beds in Mille
  3. Women’s empowerment toward stopping harmful practices
  4. HIV response and youth mobilization
  5. Community economic development
  6. Relief, land-use and land protection
  7. Monitoring and evaluation


About the Afar Pastoralist Development Association

Australian nurse Valerie first went to Ethiopia in 1973. In 1989 she married Ismael Ali Gordo, an Afar leader, and since then have been living with and serving the Afar people. In 1993 she and Ismael joined with other leaders to form the Afar Pastoralist Development Association (ADPA), which continues to be run by and for the Afar people.

APDA was established because Afar leaders felt their needs, particularly around health and education, were not being met by formal Government services that did not take into account the unique geography, climate, culture and lifestyle of the semi-nomadic pastoralist Afar people. Over the years APDA has gradually grown from a core group of volunteers, to first taking on international assistance in 1997, and now operating with hundreds of field workers supported by assistance from international NGOs and agencies.