The Global Water Initiative (GWI) was an action-research and advocacy programme that ran from 2008-17. The project is now closed. This site is no longer being updated, but allows access to GWI outputs until 1 October 2020 when it will also close. After that date, information about the project and core GWI technical publications will continue to be available from the IIED website and Publications Library.

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Our work in Guinea began in 2010 and focuses on the impact that the planned Fomi dam in the Kankan region in the north east of the country will have on the local communities, most of whom are dependent on agriculture. The reservoir will flood 500km2 and displace 48,000 people.

We are drawing lessons from existing dams with hydropower and/or irrigated schemes in other West African countries to see how benefit-sharing mechanisms and improved security of land tenure can be incorporated into the planning of Fomi.

Fomi dam

The Niger Basin Authority (NBA) is an international organisation formed of government representatives from the nine countries in the Niger river basin. In November 2013, it endorsed an action plan for sustainably developing the basin’s natural resources. One of the projects included in the plan was the construction of a 102 megawatt hydropower dam at Fomi, which both Mali and Guinea hope to benefit from.

Fomi dam has three key objectives:

  • the production of hydropower feeding into the emerging West African power grid
  • the development of large-scale irrigated agriculture – to improve livelihoods of local communities and contribute to local and national food security particularly in the Office du Niger in Mali
  • the regulation of the Niger river flow

The need to respect rights and set social standards

Fomi dam will displace approximately 48,000 people – in 58 villages, grouped in six rural communities (known as ‘communes rurales’). It will also affect another 70,000 people living nearby who will need to accommodate the displaced communities. People’s land rights and livelihoods will be affected and will need to be compensated for; planning for long term local development is also key.

There is a need, recognised by the NBA as well as the World Bank as the main donor for the technical and environmental and social impact assessment studies, to establish strong social standards and governance mechanisms from the planning stage onwards, with the full participation of local and downstream affected populations. This is seen as key for ensuring continuing financial support for the dam, as well as reducing local opposition and conflict.

Our work on other large dams currently being developed in the region, including Kandadji dam in Niger, and Garafiri dam (also in Guinea) has provided us with insight and experience that we are bringing to the current planning discussions for Fomi. We believe that extensive consultations, and processes that respect people’s traditional rights and restore the livelihoods of those affected – both those resettled and ‘host’ communities, are essential for equitable outcomes  in the construction of large dams.

In Guinea we are working with all stakeholders involved in the planning of the Fomi dam, including representatives of each of the affected communities, the General Directorate for the Fomi project (DG Fomi), and the National Coordination of Users of the Niger Basin (CNU-Guinée), which forms part of a larger Regional Coordination of Users of the Niger Basin.

GWI West Africa focus

Since 2010, GWI West Africa has been working on two main issues in relation to Fomi dam:

Land rights

We have reviewed the gaps in land tenure legislation which need to be addressed to satisfactorily manage land compensation and new land allocations for the 48,000 people affected by the dam. This research was reviewed and commented on  by a “comité de suivi”, composed by ministries and civil society representatives, and by local stakeholders including affected communities in July 2014. It is now going to be presented at the national level and is being used to inform discussions and decision-making around the planning process for Fomi. This includes, amongst others, the proposal to establish a formal agreement  between the State and the affected populations on how to proceed with the process of displacement and compensation, as provided for in the Annexe n°1 of the NBA Water Charter.

Benefit sharing

The principle of benefit sharing from large infrastructure, including dams, is well-recognised at both international and regional level (NBA, ECOWAS). In the context of Fomi dam, the main opportunity for benefit sharing is in relation to the production and sale of hydropower. Our research has looked at how to implement this in practice in Guinea , including what legal and fiduciary measures would need to be put in place to share revenues from electricity sales with affected communities through a local development fund.