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Searching for pathways towards equitable and sustainable reservoir management

Bioversity International and partners work closely with local communities in Burkina Faso to tackle the dry season water constraints by supporting community-driven innovations that increase the equity and sustainability of reservoir management.

Bioversity International and partners work closely with local communities in Burkina Faso to tackle the dry season water constraints by supporting community-driven innovations that increase the equity and sustainability of reservoir management.

The tropical savannas of Burkina Faso are under pressure from seasonal water scarcity, climate change and demographic shifts that place stress on local livelihoods and ecosystems. While agriculture represents the main economic activity in Burkina Faso, the rainfed growing season is only 3-5 months long. Small reservoirs can transform livelihoods by reducing dry season water constraints and opening up new fish, livestock, and crop production opportunities. Since the 1900s, over 700 small reservoirs have been established across the country. Yet, declining water supplies, water and land use conflicts, poor market access and unsustainable crop production practices have left many people with the unfulfilled promise of food security and market returns from improved agricultural yields.

The ‘Pathways out of Poverty for Reservoir-dependent Communities in Burkina Faso (POP-BF)’ project, coordinated by Bioversity International and implemented with SNV World, University of Ouaga I, and King’s College London, is finding innovative ways to tackle these ‘wicked problems’. The initiative brings together local reservoir users and resource managers, including women and men farmers and herders of different ethnic groups and a range of institutional actors including local NGOs - AJVLS,* OCADES CARITAS Tenkodogo and DAKUPA - to support community-driven innovations that increase the equity and sustainability of reservoir management.

Project activities started with a workshop in Ouagadougou on 13 February 2018. The workshop offered a space for dialogue and cooperation among 11 regional and national institutes involved or with stakes in water or dam management. In addition to providing feedback and guidance on how to make the POP-BF project a success, participants discussed possible solutions to small reservoir management challenges and the role that environmental, socio-economic, and resource use data can play in guiding reservoir monitoring and investment decisions.

This convening was followed by a second workshop in Tenkodogo, Centre-East Burkina Faso, attended by 34 representatives of local communities, including customary authorities, members of water user committees, herders’ and farmers’ associations, and women’s groups, as well as 11 government, municipalities, private-sector, and NGO representatives with an interest in the management of two small reservoirs: Ladwenda and Bidiga. These reservoirs were the focus of the Targeting Agricultural Innovations and Ecosystem Service Management in the northern Volta basin (TAI) project, funded by the CGIAR Research Program on Water, Land and Ecosystems, which studied dam management through an ecosystem service perspective. The current POP-BF project will build on the TAI findings by testing the effectiveness of a number of community-driven social and ecological innovations in the collective management of small reservoirs. These innovations will be defined through the SNV World-coordinated ‘Innovation Platforms’ that provide diverse stakeholders a space for structured dialogue and learning through workshops, field days and the formation of interest-led community of practices.

These workshops were accompanied by King’s College London-led training that provided 16 students, scientists and policymakers the skills needed to run WaterWorld and Co$tingNature modelling tools and use the environmental and ecosystem service data outputs in their work. Throughout the POP-BF project, the University of Ouaga I and King’s College London, in close collaboration with communities, will collect and share environmental data, including information on weather, reservoir water quantity and quality, and irrigation activities. The aim is to democratize access to high value information that can inform reservoir use and management and associated farming activities (e.g. crop selection and watering). In parallel, Bioversity International, University of Ouagadougou and SNV World will collect data on reservoir uses, local governance arrangements, and perceptions of management challenges and solutions through household and mobile surveys, and will explore social data collection scaling options. Finally, the team will use a range of modelling tools to explore the potential for improving the agricultural and natural ecosystem productivity through diversification of crops in the irrigated and upstream areas, and through a range of other ecological solutions identified in project workshops. Social solutions will be evaluated as part of SNV World-Bioversity International coordinated workshops using participatory approaches and role playing games.

Stay tuned for news about the upcoming fieldwork activities planned for March and April 2018.

*Volunteer Youth Association for the Promotion of Leadership, Health and Development (AJVLS)

The project ‘Pathways out of Poverty for Reservoir-dependent Communities in Burkina Faso (POP-BF)’ is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and contributes to the CGIAR Research Program on Water, Land and Ecosystems (WLE). For more information about the project, please contact Marlène Elias (marlene.elias@cgiar.org) or Mansour Boundaogo (mboundaogo@snv.org).

Photos from top to bottom:

Irrigators at work at Bidiga reservoir. Credit: Bioversity International/M.Elias

POP-BF inception workshop in Ouagadougou. Credit: Arnout van Soesbergen, King’s College London

Discussing the value of environmental information at the POP-BF workshop in Tenkodogo. Credit: Mansour Boundaogo, SNV World

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