Side event

IIED at World Water Week 2015

Date: 23-28 August 2015
Family farmers growing rice on their plot of land in the irrigated perimeter of Sélingué dam in Mali (Photo: Mike Goldwater/GWI West Africa)

Family farmers growing rice on their plot of land in the irrigated perimeter of Sélingué dam in Mali (Photo: Mike Goldwater/GWI West Africa)

IIED and IUCN were at this year's World Water Week in Stockholm from 23-28 August, 2015, and held an event on 'Towards socially just and economically viable dams in West Africa'.

The annual World Water Week in Stockholm focused on a wide range of issues relating to water across the globe, and this year's theme was '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.

IIED, together with IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature), leds the Global Water Initiative (GWI) in West Africa that supports family farmers and governments to ensure that large dams improve livelihoods and food security. GWI is funded by the Howard G. Buffett Foundation.

We held a side event, titled 'Towards socially just and economically viable dams in West Africa', at World Water Week 2015 to share some of the lessons learnt from the work of the GWI in West Africa, and exchange experiences with others from across the globe about how to make large multi-purpose dams more 'socially just and economically viable'.

This seminar began by exploring regional (West Africa), state and family farmer perspectives on secure land rights, economic viability of investments in large dams and how to share their benefits for local development.

Findings from GWI work showed that, ultimately, more equitable governance systems can improve social impacts of multi-purpose dams so that local men and women benefit from better agricultural productivity and reduced poverty.


Related events

Skinner was also on a panel for a workshop on 'Water as a driver for sustainable development and poverty eradication' on Wednesday, 26 August. He gave a presentation on how the right to water in West Africa requires secure land rights.

He also spoke at the event 'Cooperation on climate change adaptation and mitigation in transboundary basins' on Wednesday, 26 August 

Towards socially just and economically viable dams in West Africa

Agriculture in large-scale rice irrigation schemes needs to be made to work for both the state, in terms of economic returns and national food security, and for the smallholders whose livelihoods depend on it.

When it comes to the development of new dams and large-scale irrigation, more information is needed about their economic viability and how the water, land, and economic benefits can be shared equitably to support local development.

In West Africa, multi-purpose dams are a key government strategy for addressing national food security and energy needs, particularly in the context of increasing climate variability. Regionally, there are 150 existing dams and 40 more are planned. But do national development needs trump the rights of the local communities affected?

The Global Water Initiative in West Africa addresses the political economy of multi-purpose dams and their social impacts, both positive and negative, on local men and women farmers.

The high cost of developing large-scale irrigation on one hand, and observed low rice production levels on the other, raise a number of questions.

Are these agricultural developments meeting economic or food security needs in a just, equitable and rights-based manner? Are the considerable financial benefits from hydropower generation trickling down to support development in local communities? Who benefits most from government decisions over water use and large infrastructure?

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