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 This site is no longer being updated, but allows access to GWI outputs until 1 October 2020 when it will also close.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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The Global Water Initiative: Water for agriculture programme in West Africa (2012–2017)


This factsheet provides an overview of the work of the Global Water Initiative in West Africa between 2012 and 2017, which focuses on 'water for agriculture'. The Global Water Initiative is funded by the Howard G. Buffett Foundation and the West Africa programme is implemented by IIED and IUCN.

Preparing for 'quality' investment at Kandadji (Niger)


This factsheet establishes a foundation for discussions between the state and investors as part of the establishment of a future growth pole at Kandadji in Niger. In Niger, as in other countries in West Africa, the government is developing initiatives to attract private investment in agriculture. In this context, the installation of a “growth pole” based on irrigated agriculture around the Kandadji dam is emerging as an important catalyst for this process in Niger. Proper preparation to enable "quality" investments in Kandadji is crucial.

From demonstration latrines to Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTS)


In 2008 GWI began a sustainable sanitation project in Burkina Faso, Ghana, Mali, Niger and Senegal. We focused primarily on implementing ‘demonstration latrines’ in rural areas, where the culture of open defecation (OD) and non-hygienic disposal of children’s faeces was widespread. However, demonstration latrines (particularly the government promoted Ventilated Improved Pit latrine) proved ineffective in terms of cost, sustainability and replication.

Lessons learned from GWI’s experience of CLTS in Niger


GWI are tackling sanitation issues in rural regions of Niger in the lower Tarka valley. Our 2008 ‘demonstration latrine’ project made way, in 2010, for Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTS). CLTS is an approach focussed on empowerment and changing behaviour. This document follows the progress of CLTS in Niger, drawing out noteworthy examples from communities in the Tarka river basin. We show that CLTS has great potential for communities in West Africa where open defecation is commonplace.

Lessons learned from GWI's experience of IWRM in the Tarka Valley, Madaoua, Niger


GWI Niger saw the 3-year milestone as a key moment to assess the impact of its IWRM programme. This report encompasses 2 practical themes: successes seen so far and improvements needed. As well as clarifying the objectives of IWRM, the author explains the legal and political considerations and covers important geological points. GWI Niger witnessed many positive changes through IWRM, such as improvement in farming practices and increased engagement from local water authorities.

6th World Water Forum - solution proposed to ensure sustainable water supply


The GWI Mali team presented this template for proven solutions at the 6th World Water Forum (held in Marseille in 2012). We document the establishment of the Malian focus group for the repair of water facilities, outlining the problems that were resolved and the potential for wider application of this method. Our approach promotes close collaboration between public and private institutions, since this is beneficial for sustainable water infrastructure. We recommend that all facilities should automatically be replaced after 20 years, through the State Water Fund.



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

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.