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, which is why many drain-off reservoirs have been repaired and two new ones were 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 1005 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 was meant to 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.
Out of the 12 dams that were to be ready by 2012, two new have been built and seven old repaired, providing around 800 families with water (March 2015). 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 hope that Sida will be able to continue to support this idea thanks to the new foreseen country strategy of Burkina Faso.”
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 the 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, two new dams have been constructed and seven old repaired. 180 ha of irrigated area were also restored; 20 new hectares prepared in the vicinity of one of the new dams and the works have just been launched for 50 additional hectares, in the area of the second new dam.
Sweden is contributing with a total of SEK 103 million throughout the extended project period 2010-2015.
Climate-friendly technologies were used for the restoration and new construction of the dams, as well as for the design of irrigation systems.
Local user committees have been (or 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.