For a dam to contribute successfully to the sustainable development of society, local people must also benefit. And since the livelihoods of people in rural societies depend on land, proper land tenure is key to ensuring dams bring benefits for all.
A new animation, produced by the Global Water Initiative (GWI) West Africa, unpicks the challenges around getting fair compensation for affected people, and sets out the various stages to ensuring that expropriated farmers can securely invest and develop their new land after the dam's construction.
For governments, this may mean drawing up new policies and governance tools to use when building dams and irrigation schemes.
The five-minute video, entitled Securing the land rights of people affected by dams in West Africa, is part of the GWI action-research and advocacy project implemented by IIED and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
The video is also available in French (en francais), and with English/French subtitles. Choose one of the five versions above or on IIED's YouTube channel. There is also the facility to access further captions in French and English by clicking on the settings icon within each video.
GWI works with family farmers and governments to shape policies and practices that support livelihoods and food security in the context of large multi-purpose dams.
According to Jamie Skinner, principal researcher in IIED's Natural Resources research group, who leads the West Africa programme of the Global Water Initiative, the animation is a useful way of breaking down the complex issue of land rights in relation to dams.
"Across West Africa, constructing large dams remains a thorny issue, causing huge numbers of people to lose their livelihoods," he said. "This animation explains the challenges in ensuring people are fairly compensated for loss of land and sets out, in a clear and accessible way, how new policies and governance tools can help secure the rights of those affected.
"It provides a quick and easy entry point for governments and other stakeholders – including donors, consultants and the communities themselves – to understand how the rights of displaced people can be protected, thereby ensuring dams benefit the many and not just the few."