Global Water Initiative: Niger

Our work in Niger focused on achieving secure land tenure for both the  state and smallholders affected by the construction of Kandadji dam. We also looked at the overall economic impact of the dam itself in improving livelihoods of the communities it affects, primarily through benefit-sharing mechanisms such as the creation of a local development fund.

Example of Volanta pump in use - note pump parts external to mounting - Niger

Water for agriculture (2013-17)

Our work in Niger focused on achieving secure land tenure for both the state and smallholders affected by the construction of Kandadji dam. We also looked at the overall economic impact of the dam itself in improving livelihoods of the communities it affects, primarily through benefit-sharing mechanisms such as the creation of a local development fund.

Large-scale irrigation in Niger has been a major focus of development since the country's independence in 1964. However, investment in irrigation schemes has been low over the last two decades, due to a lack of financing and land tenure problems. It is only now starting to grow again.

Kandadji dam

Kandadji dam (currently under construction) is at the heart of government plans to irrigate the Niger Valley in Niger, with a planned 6,000 hectares of developed irrigated land in the current phase, and 45,000 hectares by 2034. The dam site is near the town of Kandadji, in the Tillabéri department, northwest of the capital Niamey.

Land clearance for construction began in 2008 and was managed initially by the High Commission for the Niger Valley (HCAVN), a public body under the President's Office, and subsequently by the Kandadji Dam Agency. The dam will provide an important hydropower source as well as supporting the development of irrigated agriculture.

The National Office for Irrigation Schemes (ONAHA) was created in 1978 to manage the irrigation schemes and support farmers and producers who work on them. GWI in West Africa worked closely with the ONAHA as well as with the HCAVN and local communities and producer groups.

Land tenure: the solution of the long-term lease

In Niger, as in other countries in the region, the success of the irrigated agricultural sector is dependent on resolving issues around land tenure. According to law in Niger, the government can expropriate land if it is deemed to be in the public interest – as is the case with the building of dams and the development of irrigation schemes.

However, there is also a legal obligation to compensate the traditional owners of the expropriated land in kind. The government is offering land on the new irrigation scheme to the displaced communities but, as the land will now belong to the state as public property, private land titles cannot be granted.

GWI West Africa worked with legal experts as well as local stakeholders to develop a proposal for a long term lease. Both the government and the local communities have participated in dialogues and consultations around this proposal and, comments on both sides having been taken into account, there is now agreement from all to go ahead with this innovative land tenure solution. A government decree adopted the lease in November 2017.

We worked with ONAHA to implement this new legal solution to secure tenure for one irrigation scheme near Niamey and developed an operational guide to support similar processes in the 73 other irrigation schemes in Niger.

The guide includes steps that can be taken in:

  • Resolving any disputes over traditional land ownership and compensation
  • Mapping and registering the land in the name of government, and
  • Issuing secure legal contracts to individual famers on the scheme using contract models developed and agreed through our previous work.

Our research also informs the government on inconsistencies in the existing legal framework that hamper effective and transparent decision making around land expropriated by the state for irrigation development.

Sharing the benefits through a local development fund: FIDEL-K

The final design studies for the hydropower component of Kandadji dam have been launched and the public company NIGELEC is expected to manage the plant. GWI West Africa helped the Niger authorities design a local development fund (FIDEL-K) which would receive two to three per cent of hydropower revenues at Kandadji.

Over the dam's 100-year life, this fund would meet the changing needs of local people – such as additional schooling, investments in agriculture or better water supplies – and provide flexible support that reduces dependence on the government to resolve resettlement conflicts. Besides hydropower revenues, shared benefits might include access to irrigated land, a share of electricity, or a structured fishery.


Integrated Water Resource Management and Water, Sanitationand Hygiene (2008-12)

Starting point

Our baseline study in the lower Tarka Valley showed that there was limited access to drinking water and to sanitation facilities, poor hygiene and sanitation behaviour, and a lack of coordination between those involved in water-resource management.

The water table was less than six metres below ground level in the Tarka area and farmers were irrigating their dry-season crops (mainly onions) using diesel-powered pumps. Groundwater was being overused and also contaminated by traditional latrines and agricultural products (fertilisers, pesticides and herbicides). Greater coordination of management efforts was required to ensure sustainable use of the resource.

Our aim was therefore to increase access to water and sanitation services, in a sustainable manner, for poor and vulnerable inhabitants in the project area.

Project achievements

Access to water: From 2010 to 2012, we observed a significant change with regard to the length of time inhabitants spent fetching water. In 2010, only 41% of the 400 households we surveyed claimed to spend less than 30 minutes on the task. By 2012, that figure had risen to 51%. This improvement was the result of repair work in 2010 (to two boreholes with manual pumps and six village wells) and construction in 2011 (of nine OFEDES village wells) in communities with severely limited access to water.

Sanitation: We promoted community-led total sanitation (CTLS) to foster the adoption of good hygiene and sanitation practices. After piloting this approach in 10 communities, we broadened our scope to encompass a total of 20 villages. Over 2,400 latrines were constructed without any subsidies. Two communities were declared open-defecation-free zones and, by the end of September 2012, at least five communities had shown a marked improvement in hygiene levels and a drop in open defecation.

Some local leaders have decided to visit neighbouring villages to raise awareness of the importance of ending open defecation and adopting good hygiene and sanitation practices. We helped professional builders to establish an economic interest group with a view to promoting safe and sustainable latrines, built with low-cost pre-fabricated slabs, in the CLTS villages.

Teachers have continued to raise students' awareness of hygiene, especially with regard to washing hands with soap and water, and parents have joined forces to build latrines in schools. Live radio broadcasts in local languages, with listener interaction, played a key role in achieving these outcomes. Interviews recorded during monitoring visits by departmental CLTS committees, and broadcast on the radio, have raised a lot of interest and questions about hygiene and sanitation among villages not covered by our project.

In the lower Tarka Valley, it was clear that our activities had raised significant awareness of these issues. For the first time, municipal councils were organising annual events for citizens and elected representatives to exchange views on water and sanitation issues face to face, with GWI support. Known as Municipal Water Days, they provide a platform for cases of poor governance to be discussed openly and objectively, and for the villages displaying the best water and sanitation management to be rewarded.

Integrated water-resource management in the Tarka Basin: administrative authorities have signed a written resolution pledging support for the integrated water-resource management (IWRM) process. We engaged with 90 to 120 villages, via local water committees (four of which were established by GWI), about the management of water and related resources. Women played a significant role in the process of establishing local water committees (one male and one female delegate from each village).

Local-level conversations incorporated the concept of IWRM. IWRM conferences were held at the regional level (Tahoua), national level (Niamey) and in the administrative regions of Zinder and Diffa. Attended by stakeholders active in the area covered by DANIDA funding, these provided an opportunity to raise awareness about the concept of IWRM among a broad audience.

Local water committees have been officially recognized through decrees issued by departmental governors. At forums, elected municipal representatives have stated that they now consider the committees to be key partners in water-resource management;
stakeholders have gained a greater understanding of their role in water-resource management as a result of the Water Code and its implementing decrees being published in more accessible language. Both the quality and quantity of water resources are now being monitored, with support from community entities.

Niger contacts

Boureima Adamou (, project coordinator
Souley Gonda (, IWRM
Kabirou Moutari (, Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning
Mahamadou Bouda (, Hygiene, Sanitation and Ecosan
Moussa Djibrina (, Hardware
Moustapha Lamine Abagana (, Social Mobilisation and Capacity-Building


Jamie Skinner (, principal researcher, IIED's Natural Resources research group
IUCN Niger office:
National coordinator : Kiari Zeibada (