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 This site is no longer being updated, but allows access to GWI outputs until 1 October 2020 when it will also close.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


The Global Water Initiative in West Africa will be at this year's World Water Week in Stockholm, Sweden from 23-28 August, 2015.

GWI West Africa at World Water Week

Family farmers growing rice on their plot of land in the irrigated perimeter of Sélingué dam in Mali (Photo: Mike Goldwater/GWI West Africa)

The annual World Water Week in Stockholm focuses on a wide range of issues relating to water across the globe, and this year's theme is 'water for development'. Water is seen as central to all the challenges at the heart of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the previous Millennium Development Goals.

The Global Water Initiative (GWI) in West Africa, implemented by IIED and IUCN, supports family farmers and governments to ensure that large dams improve livelihoods and food security. GWI is funded by the Howard G. Buffett Foundation.

We will be holding a side event, titled 'Towards socially just and economically viable dams in West Africa', at World Water Week 2015 to share some of the lessons learnt from the work of the GWI in West Africa, and exchange experiences with others from across the globe about how to make large multi-purpose dams more 'socially just and economically viable'.

This seminar will begin by exploring regional (West Africa), state and family farmer perspectives on secure land rights, economic viability of investments in large dams and how to share their benefits for local development.

Findings from GWI work show that, ultimately, more equitable governance systems can improve social impacts of multi-purpose dams so that local men and women benefit from better agricultural productivity and reduced poverty.

Event details

When: Sunday, 23 August (4-5.30pm)
Where: Room FH 201


An agenda is available below.

Related event: Jamie Skinner (GWI West Africa programme Dwill also be on a panel for a workshop on 'Water as a driver for sustainable development and poverty eradication' on Wednesday, 26 August (9-10.30pm). He will give a presentation on how the right to water in West Africa requires secure land rights.

Towards socially just and economically viable dams in West Africa

Agriculture in large-scale rice irrigation schemes needs to be made to work for both the state, in terms of economic returns and national food security, and for the smallholders whose livelihoods depend on it.

When it comes to the development of new dams and large-scale irrigation, more information is needed about their economic viability and how the water, land, and economic benefits can be shared equitably to support local development.

In West Africa, multi-purpose dams are a key government strategy for addressing national food security and energy needs, particularly in the context of increasing climate variability. Regionally, there are 150 existing dams and 40 more are planned. But do national development needs trump the rights of the local communities affected?

The Global Water Initiative in West Africa addresses the political economy of multi-purpose dams and their social impacts, both positive and negative, on local men and women farmers.

The high cost of developing large-scale irrigation on one hand, and observed low rice production levels on the other, raise a number of questions.

Are these agricultural developments meeting economic or food security needs in a just, equitable and rights-based manner? Are the considerable financial benefits from hydropower generation trickling down to support development in local communities? Who benefits most from government decisions over water use and large infrastructure?

Related publications


  • 4pm: Welcome and introduction, with Jamie Skinner
  • 4.05pm: Multi-purpose dams in West Africa: an overview, with Jérôme Koundouno
  • 4.10pm: Realistic economic and social planning in the development of dams for irrigation in West Africa, with Ibrahima Hathie
  • 4.30pm: Safeguarding rights and sharing benefits: governance considerations around dams in West Africa, with Jamie Skinner
  • 4.45pm: Panel discussion on regional perspectives from civil society and government representatives, with Nouradine Touré, Mahamane Touré and an invited donor representative
  • 5pm: Question-and-answer session, moderated by Jérôme Koundouno
  • 5.20pm: Summary and wrap-up


Lucile Robinson (, knowledge management and communications coordinator – GWI West Africa