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Towards a shared vision: Advisory services that work for smallholders and government in West Africa’s large irrigation schemes

Barbara Adolph


Large government-managed irrigation schemes in West Africa are expected to meet the ambitious rice production targets of governments and ensure the livelihoods of small scale rice producers. Functioning institutions are a prerequisite for achieving these sometimes conflicting objectives.

Agricultural Advisory Services (AAS) have an important role to play in supporting farmers and their organisations along the value chain and linking them to a range of service providers. However, communication and cooperation between the government agencies managing irrigation schemes and providing AAS, and the farmer organisations representing smallholder rice producers are often undermined by weak capacity and fragile governance systems.

This report summarises three years of action research on the institutional and governance aspects of AAS in three government-managed largescale irrigation schemes in West Africa – Niandouba/Confluent in Senegal, Sélingué in Mali and Bagré in Burkina Faso. The report offers practical recommendations on how improved services can better respond to farmers’ needs, and how the empowerment of farmer organisations is essential if they are to effectively represent the interests of their members.

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Adolph, B. (2016), Towards a shared vision: Advisory services that work for smallholders and government in West Africa’s large irrigation schemes. International Institute for Environment and Development, London, UK and the International Union for Conservation of Nature, Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso.

Project information

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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