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 This site is no longer being updated, but allows access to GWI outputs until 1 October 2020 when it will also close.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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Comparative study of the current value of the Sélingué dam and the State's financial results


This report conducts an ex-post evaluation of the wealth produced by the Niandouba and Confluent dams in Senegal. It provides a financial assessment of the dams for the state and draws lessons for future intervention anbd planning. The report seeks to nurture the wider debate and reflexion on the costs and benefits of large dams in West Africa. 

Please not that this document is only available in French. 

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.

Analysis of the productive systems in the Bagré irrigation scheme (Burkina Faso)


The development of irrigation is one of the priority strategies in the Sahel countries to tackle poverty and food insecurity. At a time when governments are once again committing to increase irrigable areas, it seemed relevant to analyze, in line with the ECOWAS guidelines, the results achieved in large irrigated schemes developed in the 1980s and 1990s to draw lessons for future developments.

Institutional diagnosis of farmer organisations around the Sélingué dam in Mali


In 2013, GWI initiated a participatory process on agricultural advisory services around the Sélingué dam in Mali, to change the relations between the Sélingué Rural Development Office (ODRS) and farmer organisations (FOs). An action plan was drawn up to define strategic priorities, concrete actions and detailed budgets to improve advisory services and agricultural productivity.

Securing land tenure for farmers in the Sélingué and Maninkoura irrigation schemes


This study presents the results of field interviews with farmers, managers and the private sector from the Sélingué and Maninkoura (Mali) irrigation schemes to discuss how the current terms and conditions of the farming contract are implemented. These interviews focused on the functioning of the land management system as perceived by the stakeholders. The aim was to discuss the necessary and possible reforms of land tenure security which might allow a better development of smallholder farms.

Analysis of the productive systems in the Sélingué irrigation scheme (Mali)


The development of irrigation is one of the priority strategies in the Sahel countries to tackle poverty and food insecurity. At a time when governments are once again committing to increase irrigable areas, it seemed relevant to analyze, in line with the ECOWAS guidelines, the results achieved in large irrigated schemes developed in the 1980s and 1990s to draw lessons for future developments.

Towards a shared vision: action plans for adapted advisory services in West Africa’s rice irrigation schemes


Farmer organisations and government agencies managing large scale irrigation systems in West Africa need to collaborate to agree on a vision for agricultural services that increases scheme viability while meeting the needs of different types of farmers. However, there is no institutional mechanism in place that enables different groups of actors – with different levels of power – to engage at a strategic level or to negotiate and take forward such a common position.

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


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.

Workshop on irrigated land tenure in the Sahel (Task Force for implementing the 'Dakar Declaration')


This is the report of a workshop held on 8 and 9 June 2015 in Bamako, Mali, to present and discuss the results of a study on securing irrigated land tenure in the six countries within the Permanent Inter-State Committee for the Fight against Drought in the Sahel (CILSS) in the context of the "Dakar Declaration".



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.