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Irrigation and development: which prospects for the sahelian areas ?

Author(s): Example of the Office of Niger (Mali)
Congress: 2008
Florence Brondeau Maître de Conférences UMR 8586 PRODIG Institut de Géographie Université Paris 4 Sorbonne 191 rue Saint Jacques 75 005 Paris tél : 04 90 28 03 20- 06 88 58 24 46 personal adress : "Quartier les plans

Keyword(s): irrigation, food security, hydraulic adjustments, land management, durability, integrated development
AbstractThe "green revolution" in the area of the “Office du Niger” (Mali) relies on the success of the hydro-agricultural programs engaged since the middle of the 1980th and on the introduction of intensive techniques. The hopes to improve the food security in this area are as important as the potentialities which are envisaged (more than 200000 ha). Regarded as a potential "attic of rice" by the UEMOA, this irrigated zone is a pillar of the cooperaion engaged within the framework of Cen-Sad. In this context, vast adjusments are engaged or programmed in the short run (50 000 ha to 2020). Within the framework of these new installations, the lands are allotted in a way privileged to private investors and to States included in Cen-Sad (25000 ha recently granted to Senegal). The ideological rupture is serious because the main part of the 80 000 ha currently cultivated have been attributed to small farmers: the process of agricultural development which has been chosen until now relies on the emergence of a small dynamic farming community. So, does the irrigated zone of the Office of Niger have to become the “attic rice” of West Africa, or should it be confirmed as an island of small prosperous exploitations? A part of the answer will be found in the research of the durability of the process of development which will be chosen. This durability is threatened by disarrangements as well environmental as socio-economic, of which the resolution constitutes real challenges for the future. The first challenge to confront is the improvement of the management of water, as well quantitatively as qualitatively. The water consumption remains very excessive because of much squandering whose resorption incites to a reflexion for the choices of the irrigation techniques to use and cultivations to practise. The risks of a seasonal scarcity are indeed quite present: the recorded incidents during some weeks in june and july 1999 seem to prove it. The durability of the system also lies in the maintenance of the quality of water, threatened by various pollution and the proliferation of invading species. In addition, the absence of an integrated development project in this region is a deficiency, while the population is quickly increasing and while the activities are more and more diverse. This diversity of the activities of the farmers reinforces the conflicts for the use of the resources and the territories. The supply of house-hold energy of the populations leads to the degradation and even the disappearance of the wood resources. The integration of these essential data in an hypothetic regional project is very nit because of the priority given to the increase of rice production; this, in spite of some promising initiatives built in the context of the decentralisation.
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