Global Water Initiative: Guinea

Our work in Guinea began in 2010 and focused on the impact that the planned Fomi dam in the Kankan region in the north east of the country will have on the local communities, most of whom are dependent on agriculture. The reservoir will flood 500km² and displace 48,000 people (ESIA 2010).

Group photo Guinea

Water for agriculture (2013-17)

We drew lessons from existing dams with hydropower and/or irrigated schemes in other West African countries to see how benefit-sharing mechanisms and improved security of land tenure can be incorporated into the planning of Fomi.

Fomi dam

The Niger Basin Authority (NBA) is an international organisation formed of government representatives from the nine countries in the Niger river basin. In November 2013, it endorsed an action plan for sustainably developing the basin's natural resources. One of the projects included in the plan was the construction of a 90 megawatt hydropower dam at Fomi, which both Mali and Guinea hope to benefit from.

Fomi dam has three key objectives:

  • The production of hydropower feeding into the emerging West African power pool
  • The development of large-scale irrigated agriculture – to improve livelihoods of local communities and contribute to local and national food security particularly in the Office du Niger in Mali, and
  • The regulation of the Niger river flow.

The need to respect rights and set social standards

Fomi dam, if built, will displace approximately 48,000 people – in 58 villages, grouped in six rural communities (known as 'communes rurales'). It will also affect another 70,000 people living nearby who will need to accommodate the displaced communities. People's land rights and livelihoods will be affected and will need to be compensated for; planning for long-term local development is also key.

There is a need, recognised by the NBA as well as the World Bank as the main donor for the technical and environmental and social impact assessment studies, to establish strong social standards and governance mechanisms from the planning stage onwards, with the full participation of local and downstream affected populations. This is seen as key for ensuring continuing financial support for the dam, as well as reducing local opposition and conflict.

Our work on other large dams being developed in the region, including Kandadji dam in Niger, and Garafiri dam (also in Guinea) has provided us with insight and experience that we have brought to the planning discussions for Fomi. We believe that extensive consultations, and processes that respect people's traditional rights and restore the livelihoods of those affected – both those resettled and 'host' communities – are essential for equitable outcomes in the construction of large dams.

In Guinea we worked with all stakeholders involved in the planning of the Fomi dam, including representatives of each of the affected communities, the General Directorate for the Fomi project (DG Fomi), and the National Coordination of Users of the Niger Basin (CNU-Guinée), which forms part of a larger Regional Coordination of Users of the Niger Basin.

Since 2011, GWI West Africa has worked on two main issues in relation to Fomi dam, with nationwide implications: land rights and benefit sharing.

Land rights

We have reviewed the gaps in land tenure legislation which need to be addressed to satisfactorily manage land compensation and new land allocations for the 48,000 people affected by the dam. This research was reviewed and commented on by a "comité de suivi", composed by ministries and civil society representatives, and by local stakeholders including affected communities in July 2014.

It was presented at the national level in March 2015 and is being used to inform discussions and decision-making around the planning process for Fomi. This includes, among others, the proposal to establish a formal agreement between the state and the affected populations on how to proceed with the process of displacement and compensation, as provided for in the Annexe n°1 of the NBA Water Charter.

As a result of this process, a set of guidelines for expropriation of land in the public interest for all the project on the national territory was finalised and validated with the Ministry for Urban and territorial management in September 2017.

Benefit sharing

The principle of benefit sharing from large infrastructure, including dams, is well-recognised at both international and regional level (NBA, ECOWAS). In the context of Fomi dam, the main opportunity for benefit sharing is in relation to the production and sale of hydropower. Our research has looked at how to implement this in practice in Guinea, including what legal and fiduciary measures would need to be put in place to share revenues from electricity sales with affected communities through a local development fund.

In 2017, at the request of the Minister for Water and Energy, we proposed the establishment of a national level benefit sharing policy, endorsed by a national workshop.


Jamie Skinner (, principal researcher, IIED's Natural Resources research group
IUCN PACO Regional office: 
Regional coordinator : Jérôme Koundouno (