The spillway and the dissipation basin of the new built dam of Selmiga.

The spillway and the dissipation basin of the new built dam of Selmiga. Photo: AUREC-AFRIQUE

programmes and projects

New water reservoirs will help prevent drought and famine

Published: Thursday, November 17, 2011

Changed: Tuesday, November 29, 2011

In order to ensure food production in the arid Burkina Faso you need to be able to store water between the rain periods. The small-scale water reservoirs are therefore important for people in rural areas and more drain-off reservoirs will be repaired and new ones will be built under the Sida-funded water reservoirs project.

“As the rain periods are affected by climate change, it is becoming increasingly important to ensure the availability of food. Therefore, we need more dams as water reservoirs to irrigate the crops,” says Albert Compaore, Programme Officer of the Sida-funded support for the construction and restoration of water reservoirs in Burkina Faso.

Today there are approximately 1200 artificial water reservoirs throughout the country. The rainwater that is collected there is extremely important, and is used to provide water for the livestock or the crops of tomatoes, beans, onions and other types of “cash crops” which can be sold on the market to earn some extra income. The project funding will restore ten broken dams and build two new ones.

When Burkina Faso was hit by heavy rainfall and floods in 2009 and 2010, many of the country’s dams were destroyed along with the livelihoods of thousands of people. As the dams and irrigation systems are being rebuilt, it is important that they are better equipped to be able to withstand the flooding that has been occurring due to climate change.

The 12 dams that are to be ready by 2012 will provide around 1000 families with water. This figure may seem low considering the fact that there are 8000 villages in Burkina Faso with the same demand for dams. But the investment can be regarded as a small part of a larger national adaptation programme of action, (NAPA). The government’s objective is that each individual household will be able to build its own small pond which will cover their needs; a pond which is much smaller than the water reservoirs the project is financing.

“These individual small ponds should be able to store water for a few months during the rainy season,” says Albert Compaore. “The cultivation of millet, sorghum and maize form the staple diet among the population and they can usually cope with the rain, but they could be irrigated from the small pond if there is a drought during the irregular rain period thus avoiding ruined harvests and famine. I am pleased that Sida has been able to support this idea.”

To reduce the poor populations’ exposure to drought when the climate is changing is an important objective of the project. The poorest provinces have therefore been given priority when choosing where he reservoirs will be built. Just small and medium-sized water reservoirs have proven to be important for reducing poverty and contributing to local development in several ways, such as an increased local business market in which vegetables are sold, or fish production, continues Albert Compaore.

The building of dams always involves a certain negative impact on the environment, although it is far less for small dams compared to large ones. The preparatory studies that have been conducted have taken into consideration the people living nearby, as well as the sensitive natural environments.

“We can provide financial compensation to the people who have to move, but we can never replace their emotional loss for the land they have lived on for many generations. But when comparing the disadvantages of a dam with the advantages, the latter far outweigh the former. The people in Burkina Faso regard the dams as something extremely positive, something which can ensure that they will have food on the table and avoid suffering,” says Albert Compaore.

Facts: the water reservoir project

The aim of the project which is part of Burkina Faso’s National Adaptation Programme of Action, NAPA, is to enhance the dams’ resistance to the threat that climate change brings with it.

The Burkina Faso Water Directorate, in the Agricultural, Hydraulics and Fisheries Ministry will implement the project that will finance two new water reservoirs and restore ten others. So far, three dams have been completed.

Sweden is contributing with a total of SEK 93 throughout the project period 2010-2012.

Climate-friendly technologies were used for the restoration and new construction of the dams.

Local user committees will be established at each of the water reservoirs to allocate equal access to water. The stakeholders of the project will seek to integrate women, migrants and young girls in the user committees.


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Adapting to a Changing Climate

The Swedish Government's Special Climate Change Initiative
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This project is one of several that was funded through the Swedish Government's Special Climate Change Initiative 2009-2012. A brochure about the initiative was distributed at the Climate Change conference COP17 in Durban November 2011.
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