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Irrigation, food security and poverty – Lessons from three large dams in West Africa

In recent years, the governments of the Sahel have committed to combat poverty and food insecurity through a significant increase in the development of irrigable areas. For GWI West Africa, this has presented a timely opportunity to analyse, alongside the relevant ECOWAS guidelines, the socio-economic results achieved on irrigated schemes associated with large dams in the West Africa region.

From 2013 onwards, GWI has carried out retrospective studies on three existing dam and rice field sites: Sélingué in Mali, Bagré in Burkina Faso and Anambé in Senegal. The aim of these micro and macro-economic studies was to analyse the financial and economic viability of water infrastructure projects and opportunities for improving the living conditions of smallholder farmers after the construction of dams.

This report summarises the results of four years of research and identifies parallels between the different sites that provide wider lessons for the West Africa region. Based on field data, policy dialogue and collective learning, the report concludes on the cost-effectiveness of the schemes, the quality of their management and the persistence of poverty and food insecurity. It also makes recommendations for action and for the better alignment of public policy objectives with the interests of a diverse set of smallholder farmers, from making better use of existing systems to improving the design of future projects.

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Bazin F., Hathie I., Skinner J. and Koundouno J. (Ed.) (2017) Irrigation, food security and poverty – Lessons from three large dams in West Africa. International Institute for Environment and Development, London, UK and the International Union for Conservation of Nature, Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso.

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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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GWI West Africa: project background

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