When a large dam is constructed, it transforms the use of and access to land and water in the area while creating new resources (irrigated land, fisheries, energy). This transformation of resources is accompanied by a move from customary governance of resources, to modern governance through written law.
The change from customary to modern forms of governance can lead to misunderstandings or conflicts around access to resources or management responsibilities of different actors. Extensive consultations, and processes that respect people’s customary rights and restore their livelihoods (for those resettled) are essential for equitable outcomes as envisaged by the World Commission on Dams or the Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Protocol.
Sharing benefits from dams equitably between different sectors and users
Our work: GWI West Africa has been working with local stakeholders to plan for sharing of benefits from the planned construction of the Fomi dam in Guinea since 2011. We focus on the following priorities:
- Sharing benefits from energy production;
- Reaching and respecting written agreements between state and people;
- Identifying and addressing the gaps in land tenure legislation to satisfactorily manage land compensation and allocation for the 48,000 people who will be affected by the dam.
We also support local smallholder and civil society organisations to advocate for secure tenure and benefit sharing measures - such as the proposed creation of a local development fund in Niger. Security of land tenure is also an important element of our work on Empowering smallholders.
Agreeing roles and responsibilities
Large irrigation schemes in West Africa are institutionally complex. They are generally small islands in the landscape, managed directly by the State, in ways that do not conform to the local elected government, nor the regional authorities, nor customary local authorities. At the same time, decentralisation is taking place and local democracy has a key role to play.
Our work: GWI West Africa believes that empowering local smallholders and redrawing the roles and responsibilities of the State, the local municipality and producer organisations can lead to more sustainable and equitable outcomes. Our work in Senegal has led to local actors signing up to a Water Charter redefining roles in irrigation management for the areas irrigated by the Niandouba and Confluent dams. For more information see our country work on Senegal.