Our work in Niger focuses on achieving secure land tenure for both the State and smallholders affected by the construction of Kandadji dam. We are also looking at the overall economic impact of the dam itself in improving livelihoods of the communities it affects, primarily through benefit-sharing mechanisms such as the creation of a local development fund.
Large-scale irrigation in Niger has been a major focus of development since the country’s independence in 1964. However, investment in irrigation schemes has been low over the last two decades, due to a lack of financing and land tenure problems. It is only now starting to grow again.
Kandadji dam (currently under construction) is at the heart of government plans to irrigate the Niger Valley in Niger, with a planned 6,000 hectares of developed irrigated land in the current phase, and 45,000 hectares by 2034. The dam site is near the town of Kandadji, in the Tillabéri department, northwest of the capital Niamey.
Construction began in 2008 and is being managed by the High Commission for the Niger Valley (HCAVN), a public body under the Prime Minister's Office. The dam will provide an important hydropower source as well as supporting the development of irrigated agriculture.
The National Office for Irrigation Schemes (ONAHA) was created in 1978 to manage the irrigation schemes and support farmers and producers who work on them. GWI in West Africa works closely with the ONAHA as well as with the HCAVN and local communities and producer groups.
Land tenure: the solution of the long-term lease
In Niger, as in other countries in the region, the success of the irrigated agricultural sector is dependent on resolving issues around land tenure. According to law in Niger, the government can expropriate land if it is deemed to be in the public interest – as is the case with the building of dams and the development of irrigation schemes. However, there is also a legal obligation to compensate the traditional owners of the expropriated land in kind. The government is offering land on the new irrigation scheme to the displaced communities but, as the land will now belong to the state as public property, private land titles cannot be granted.
GWI West Africa has worked with legal experts as well as local stakeholders to develop a proposal for a long term lease. Both the government and the local communities have participated in dialogues and consultations around this proposal and, comments on both sides having been taken into account, there is now agreement from all to go ahead with this innovative land tenure solution.
We are working with ONAHA to implement this new legal solution to secure tenure for one irrigation scheme near Niamey. Based on that experience, we aim to build their capacity – including through the development of an operational guide – to support similar processes in the 73 other irrigations schemes in Niger.
This will include:
- resolving any disputes over traditional land ownership and compensation
- mapping and registering the land in the name of government
- issuing secure legal contracts to all individual famers on the scheme using contract models developed and agreed through our previous work
Our research will also inform the government on inconsistencies in the existing legal framework that hamper effective and transparent decision making around land expropriated by the state for irrigation development.
Find out more about our work on land tenure in relation to Empowering smallholders.
Sharing the benefits through a local development fund: FIDEL-K
The final design studies for the hydropower component of Kandadji dam have now been launched and the public company NIGELEC is expected to manage the plant. GWI West Africa has been helping the Niger authorities design a local development fund (FIDEL-K) which would receive two to three per cent of hydropower revenues at Kandadji.
Over the dam’s 100-year life, this fund would meet the changing needs of local people – such as additional schooling, investments in agriculture or better water supplies – and provide flexible support that reduces dependence on the government to resolve resettlement conflicts. Besides hydropower revenues, shared benefits might include access to irrigated land, a share of electricity, or a structured fishery.
Find out more about our work on Sharing the benefits.