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Land tenure conditions and the viability of irrigated rice farming

Analysis of land allocation strategies in irrigated agriculture schemes in West Africa yields lessons which can guide the design and implementation of current and forthcoming projects. Allocation of insufficient land makes the main purposes of large dam projects – to combat poverty and to increase national cereal production – more difficult to achieve. Research by the Global Water Initiative (GWI) at three dam project sites in West Africa shows that the area of land allocated per family is usually about 1 hectare (ha). This surface area is not large enough by itself to enable an average sized family to meet its needs, still less to invest in improvements to its economic and technical performance. As sale or rent of rice fields is not allowed, the initial allocations made are important as land holdings are then fixed and inflexible in the long term.

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Agriculture in large-scale rice irrigation schemes needs to be made to work for both the state, in terms of economic returns and national food security, and for the smallholders whose livelihoods depend on it. When it comes to the development of new dams and large-scale irrigation, more information is needed about their economic viability and how the water, land, and economic benefits can be shared equitably to support local development.

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Global Water Initiative — West Africa