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 This site is no longer being updated, but allows access to GWI outputs until 1 October 2020 when it will also close.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.

  • English
  • Français


Our work in Mali focuses on supporting smallholders who are farming, transforming and trading rice in the irrigated area around the Sélingué dam. We are also looking at the overall economic impact of the dam itself, both in terms of return on investment of the dam as a whole, and in terms of the role it plays in improving livelihoods of the communities it affects.

Selingué dam

Sélingué dam serves a variety of purposes, including: production of electricity, agricultural development, better navigation on the Niger river, and the development of fishing and fish farming. In terms of agriculture, 10 per cent of the potential 20,000 hectares available has been developed for irrigated agriculture.

The irrigation scheme at Sélingué, initially destined to compensate displaced communities, covers 1,200 hectares with 1,943 plot holders, of whom 231 are women. The neighbouring Maninkoura irrigation scheme, which also draws water from the river downstream Sélingué dam, developed more recently, measures 1,094 ha for 1,168 plot holders of whom 69 are women.

The dam and associated irrigated perimeters are managed by the Office for Rural Development in Sélingué (ODRS); we work closely with both staff at the ODRS and with representatives from the unions of local producer groups in Sélingué.

The irrigation schemes fed by the Sélingué dam are currently being rehabilitated which provides an opportunity for reviewing how they are managed.

Assessment of rice-producing smallholders

To help empower local smallholders and producers to increase production levels and improve their livelihoods, we are carrying out research to find out more about the issues that they face in large-scale irrigation schemes. This includes analysing the different types of local rice-producing smallholders in Sélingué and how their methods and needs differ. We carried out similar research in Burkina Faso and Mali and in 2014 published a synthesis of the regional findings which provides a comparative analysis across all three countries.

Agricultural advisory services

Our research  on the issues faced by rice-producing smallholders has indicated two important areas that need to be addressed to support productivity and livelihoods of smallholders in Mali:

  • Strong farmer organisations
  • Improved agricultural advisory services

We are working with all the stakeholders concerned in the irrigated perimeter of the Sélingué to identify the key challenges to establishing improved and appropriate agricultural services.

Find out more about our work on agricultural advisory services in relation to Empowering smallholders.

An economic assessment of Sélingué

In parallel to our work with smallholder rice producers, we are also carrying out an economic analysis of the Sélingué dam to evaluate the impact that it has had both as a national investment, and in terms of local livelihoods. We are undertaking similar analyses in Burkina Faso and Senegal which will help us to draw out some comparisons and conclusions at a regional level. This forms part of our wider work on developing awareness and debate about the livelihood impacts and economic viability of intensive, large scale irrigation schemes.

Find out more about our work on Quality investments.

Land rights

A new land tenure law is currently under discussion in Mali, which is an opportunity to address some of the current gaps in how land is allocated and registered – both for the State and for local communities. In the case of Sélingué, a land registration process will formalise the state ownership of the land that the irrigation schemes cover. The new land tenure law would then pave the way for farmers to be granted more secure contracts to the land that they work on within the scheme.

Our work in Kandadji in Niger on developing a new type of long-term lease and new land tenure contracts specifically adapted to the circumstances of local affected populations, means that we are able to provide specific insight and technical advice into this process as it develops.

GWI West Africa will also work with the National Platform of Rice Producers to bring discussions on land tenure activities into the rice farmer forum in Mali.

Find out more about our work on land rights and governance mechanisms in relation to Sharing the benefits.