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 This site is no longer being updated, but allows access to GWI outputs until 1 October 2020 when it will also close.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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Where we work

The Global Water Initiative operates in three separate regions: Central America, East Africa and West Africa. Further information on the global programme is available at In West Africa, GWI works in five countries: Burkina Faso, Guinea, Mali, Niger and Senegal. During our previous work on IWRM & WASH (2008-2012), GWI West Africa also worked in Ghana.

Click on the map below to find out more about our work in each country. We also work regionally across countries and river basins, mainly with regional inter-governmental bodies working across the region.

Overview of focus countries

Four of the GWI West Africa focus countries – Mali, Senegal, Burkina and Niger – are all semi-arid and water scarce. Yet they all have large river systems flowing through them and many projects to store and divert this water for irrigated agricultural production have been implemented over the last century. Rain fed agriculture focusses mostly on millet and sorghum, with some traditional low yielding rice fields along valley bottoms and floodplains. Livelihood security strategies include investing in a range of farming, livestock and commercial activities which, in the face of fluctuating rainfall, spread the risks of livelihood failure in drought years. National policies for food security focus on rice as the main irrigated food crop, primarily through large dam-fed irrigation schemes.

Over the lifetime of our current programme of work (2013-2017) GWI West Africa aims to promote an enabling environment to increase smallholder productivity and promote better livelihoods in three irrigation schemes linked to large dams in Mali, Burkina Faso and Senegal. We will use experience from these established large-scale irrigation schemes to advocate for new or improved governance mechanisms – particularly for land tenure and benefit sharing – in new dam-linked irrigation programs planned or under construction in Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Guinea. This work, together with our analysis on the overall economic impact of investing in large-scale irrigation infrastructure, will also feed into policies and regional programs of ECOWAS, river basin organisations, and the Permanent Interstate Committee for Drought in the Sahel (CILSS).