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1 million water cisterns give hope to Sahelian farmers

17/01/2019

Efficient and sustainable management of water resources is a priority to improve the resilience of vulnerable communities. The “1 million cisterns for the Sahel” initiative promotes simple and cost-effective rainwater harvesting and storage systems for vulnerable communities, especially for women.

The objective is to enable millions of people in the Sahel to access safe drinking water and to have a sufficient water for household agricultural production in order to improve their food security and nutrition and strengthen their resilience. The initiative is similar to the “1 million cisterns programme” implemented in Brazil through the “Zero Hunger” programme. South-South cooperation with the Brazilian civil society organization Articulação no Semiárido Brasileiro is facilitated by FAO.

In 2018, FAO together with partners and communities, launched pilots in Senegal and the Niger. In Senegal, 16 cisterns – each measuring 15 m3 – were constructed for families and three cisterns – each measuring 50 m3 – for agricultural production at community level, reaching a total of 360 beneficiaries. In the Niger, FAO constructed five family cisterns and six community cisterns, reaching a total of 500 beneficiaries. Family cisterns cover household drinking water needs during the entire dry season, and can also be used for micro-gardening, while community cisterns cover water needs for agricultural production during recurring dry spells during the rainy season and ensure an additional production cycle for 0.5 ha of land.

In addition to accessing water, women benefit from climate-resilient inputs for vegetable gardening and training, including on the use and maintenance of cisterns. The project contributes to providing safety nets as local communities also receive cash in exchange for work to build the cisterns using local materials. In the coming three years, the project is expected to reach an additional 10 000 women in Senegal, 5 000 in the Niger and 5 000 in Burkina Faso. Resource mobilisation is ongoing to increase the number of beneficiaries and the countries involved in the initiative.

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