Can dams work for local communities alongside national good?

News, 18 August 2015
The Global Water Initiative (GWI) in West Africa is holding a side event at this year's World Water Week in Stockholm, looking at ways to make large multi-purpose dams more 'socially just and economically viable'.

Seydou Kassojue, 47, has a garden plot where he grows lettuce close to the Sélingué dam in Mali. The Global Water Initiative has been working with smallholders in the area since 2009 to find out how the dam affects the livelihoods of local farmers and what improvements could be made (Photo: Mike Goldwater/GWI)

Large dams and hydroelectric power station projects are often the subject of negative headlines, due to their impact on local sustainable development. The Global Water Initiative (GWI) in West Africa will be exploring the tension between national needs and immediate local concerns at World Water Week in Stockholm, which runs from 23-28 August 2015. 

The side event, 'Towards socially just and economically viable dams in West Africa', looks at a region where multi-purpose dams are a key government strategy for addressing national food security and energy needs, particularly in the context of increasing climate variability.

In West Africa there are 150 existing dams and 40 more planned. But in the context of a rapidly changing world, do national development needs trump the rights of the local communities affected?

The International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), together with IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature), leads the GWI in West Africa, supporting family farmers and governments to ensure that large dams improve livelihoods and food security.

Speakers at the GWI event on Sunday, 23 August (4-5.30pm in Room FH 201) include:

The speakers will also be available for comment on some of the wider issues under discussion at this year's World Water Week, the them of which 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 GWI in West Africa is an action-research and advocacy project. We work with family farmers and governments to shape policies and practices that support livelihoods and food security in the context of large multi-purpose dams. The project is funded by the Howard G. Buffett Foundation and implemented by IIED and IUCN.

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The International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) is an independent, non-profit research institute. Set up in 1971 and based in London, IIED provides expertise and leadership in researching and achieving sustainable development (see:

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