Global Water Initiative: Senegal

Our work in Senegal focused on supporting smallholders who are farming, transforming and trading rice in the irrigated area around the Niandouba and Confluent dams in the Anambé river basin. We also looked at the overall economic impact of the dams, both in terms of their overall return on investment, and in terms of how they improve the livelihoods of the farming communities.

2008 – 2017
Jamie Skinner

Senior associate, Natural Resources

Global Water Initiative – West Africa
The Global Water Initiative sought to improve global food security by enabling farmers to better access, manage and use water resources for sustainable agricultural production
Example of bucket and pulley system on a traditional well - Senegal

Example of bucket and pulley system on a traditional well in Senegal


  • National rice production only covers 20% of national consumption requirements
  • In the Anambé basin, 31.5% of land suitable for irrigated agriculture has been developed (5,000 hectares out of a potential 16,000)
  • Around 8% of the country’s land surface is irrigated
  • GWI focus dams: Niandouba dam (completed 1997) and Confluent dam (completed 1984)

Water for agriculture (2013-17)

Irrigated agriculture, and rice in particular, play a key role in national food security policies, namely through the National Social and Economic Development Strategy (SNDES), the National Rice Self-Sufficiency Plan (PNAR) and the Emerging Senegal Plan (PSE).

Niandouba and Confluent dams (Anambé basin)

In order to reduce Senegal’s cereal production deficit and to bolster the livelihoods of local producers through irrigated agriculture, the national authorities decided in the 1970s to develop the Anambé river basin. The basin (which covers an area of 1,100km²) is in the Haute-Casamance area in the Kolda region in southern Senegal and is drained by the Kayanga river and its tributary, the Anambé river.

In 1984, a dam was built at the confluence between the two rivers, followed in 1997 by the construction of a second dam on the Kayanga river at Niandouba. The dams, known as the Niandouba and Confluent dams, are interlinked and work together to provide water for the irrigation schemes, which cover 5,000 hectares.

There are seven local districts (known as 'communes rurales') in the area covered by the Anambé river basin. The development of the area reshaped local livelihood systems and gave irrigated agriculture a central role, although there remains a strong pastoralist tradition among the people living in the Anambé basin.

The Society for Agricultural and Industrial Development in Senegal (SODAGRI)was created in 1974 as a public limited company with technical oversight from the Ministry of Agriculture and is responsible for the management of Niandouba and Confluent dams and the associated irrigation schemes.

Reducing conflict over land through community participation

Access to water and the use of land in the irrigation schemes can often be a source of conflict between farmers and pastoralists. In 2013, GWI West Africa worked with four communities in the Anambé river basin to promote understanding and implementation of local resource use agreements known as 'Land use and allocation plans' (Plans d’occupation et d’affectation des sols – POAS).

The proposed structure of these agreements were set out as far back as 2008, but there had not been any information dissemination or capacity building to implement them. Following our work with local communities and the SODAGRI on the POAS, the number of conflicts over land use dropped dramatically in the communities involved.

Assessment of rice-producing smallholders

We have looked at the different types of rice producers in the irrigated perimeters of the Niandouba and Confluent dams (Anambé) and in particular at how their methods of farming differ and consequently how their needs differ. We carried out similar research in Mali and Burkina Faso and in 2014 published a synthesis of the findings which provides a comparative analysis across all three countries.

Agricultural advisory services

Our research on the issues faced by rice-producing smallholders has indicated two important areas that need to be addressed to support productivity and livelihoods of smallholders in irrigation schemes:

  • Improved agricultural advisory services, and
  • Strong farmer organisations.

We worked with all the stakeholders concerned in the irrigated perimeter of Anambé – including both SODAGRI and local farmer organisations – to identify and address through an action plan the key challenges to establishing improved and appropriate agricultural services.

Economic assessments of Niandouba and Confluent dams and farming systems

In parallel to our work with smallholder rice producers, we also carried out an economic analysis of the Niandouba and Confluent dams to evaluate the impact that they have had both as a national investment, and in terms of local livelihoods.

We undertook similar analyses in Burkina Faso and Mali, which helped us to draw out some comparisons and conclusions at a regional level. This formed part of our wider work on developing awareness and debate about the livelihood impacts and economic viability of intensive, large scale irrigation schemes.

Integrated Water Resource Management and Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (GWI programme Phase 1: 2008-2012)


  • Project area: 39 villages
  • Basin: Sandougou
  • Implementation: CRS and IUCN, with support from CARITAS.

Starting point

Our 2008 study showed that wells, both modern and traditional, were the principal sources of drinking water in the project area. Inhabitants had reasonable access to wells, but struggled to draw water and faced shortages in the dry season. Only 10% of those we surveyed used improved wells. We also found that wells were used for both agricultural and domestic purposes, with no distinction, resulting in a number of hygiene and management issues.

Project achievements

We worked with 39 villages, reaching a total of 11,252 people.

In these villages, we built and repaired wells, and established committees to manage water points and hygiene-related matters. The committees designated a specific use for each well under their responsibility (ie for drinking water or livestock watering). They also set up village financing structures, tailored to households' means and circumstances. For example, contributions could be determined by the number of water containers or married women the household had.

Village households have adopted more hygienic practices, such as using separate dispensing jugs and retention trays for each water container, to avoid cross-contamination.

As a result of launching community-led total sanitation in three pilot villages, which replaced a subsidised latrine programme that was not increasing sanitation cover, 99% of households now have access to a traditional latrine.

We established a forum, presided over by the provincial governor, to foster greater coordination between water-service stakeholders in Tambacounda and to get local policies in place.

Conservation areas have been marked out to reduce riverbank erosion and prevent river clogging.