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New irrigation initiative in the Sahel


FAO’s Investment Centre has helped six Sahel countries – Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Senegal - to design a new USD 173 million World Bank financed project to strengthen irrigation development and management capacity.

The project, known as the Sahel Irrigation Initiative Support Project (SIIP), contributes to the Initiative for Irrigation in the Sahel (2iS) adopted by the High Level Forum in October 2013. Under its “Dakar Declaration”, the 2iS set the goal of expanding the current 428,000 hectares of irrigated and exploited land to 1 million hectares by 2020.

SIIP is using a holistic approach in all six countries to tackle key constraints to irrigation development. The initiative will target the development of 23,480 hectares of irrigated land, benefiting approximately 80,000 farming households.

Developing and managing irrigation

Roughly three-quarters of the budget will go towards investing in new irrigation infrastructure and upgrading current irrigation systems, as well as related value chain development. This support will focus on five types of irrigation systems: development of lowland irrigation; small-scale private irrigation systems for individuals or producer groups; small-scale village-based irrigation; large-scale irrigation schemes managed by public authorities, and medium to large-scale irrigation schemes involving public private partnerships.

These investments will be combined with measures that have a significant potential for the creation of an enabling environment for private and public investments in the irrigation subsector. Measures include new sectorial policies and strategies, improvements to institutional governance, and access to financial and technical services.

This is the first time that a stand-alone project on irrigation schemes has been designed at regional level in West and Central Africa, building on the best practices and potential of the six participating countries, lessons learned and innovation,” said Lazare Hoton, an FAO investment officer. “It was exciting to participate in the design because it seeks to establish an approach based on key transformational actions to unlock the irrigation potential such as: equitable land and water access for vulnerable groups, access to financial and technical advisory services and to markets. It also provided institutional clarity on roles and responsibilities including the appropriate delegation of responsibilities for the development and management of irrigation systems.”

Funding for the SIIP will be shared among the six countries and the Permanent Interstate Committee for Drought Control in the Sahel (CILSS). CILSS will coordinate the SIIP at regional level, ensuring communication, knowledge management and sharing, and learning. It will also provide specialised technical assistance and capacity building to the six countries, and coordinate supervision, monitoring and evaluation activities.


FAO’s support

Under the FAO/World Bank Cooperative Programme, FAO’s Investment Centre facilitated the SIIP’s overall design process, contributing to the preliminary assessment on land tenure, writing-up the project appraisal document, particularly the technical component descriptions, budgeting and financial and economic analysis.

FAO provided technical assistance to the six countries in developing their national project proposals through scoping notes and methodological support on project design. “FAO’s comparative advantage was in helping countries to identify their successful irrigation systems and to build a set of responses to address the structural and operational constraints that affect them," said Hoton. "This was really important for the scaling-up of country best practices and experience sharing at regional level.”

FAO supported CILSS in developing and aligning the regional activities with country specific needs and priorities by proposing innovative instruments and mechanisms for partnership among countries and technical assistance to ensure the sustainability of the investment and ownership by countries.

The SIIP will be submitted to the Board meeting of the World Bank during the first quarter of 2017.