Knowing water better: towards fairer and more sustainable access to natural resources - KnoWat

Stories from the field: Navigating water tenure in Senegal


In the northern Senegalese fishing village of Ngaolé, local residents intone long traditional poems, known as pekaans, to placate the water spirits on the nearby Senegal river. The fishermen and their communities believe these lyrics help offer protection from the teeming crocodiles on the red muddy banks. But crocodiles aren’t the only challenge facing people in this part of the country, just a short distance from the Sahara Desert.

For Ousmane Ly, a 59-year-old pastoralist living near the village, eking out a livelihood is becoming ever tougher. He says he and his fellow herders have dwindling numbers of animals, which they’ve had to move ever earlier in the year and further afield to find grazing. Apart from the obvious factors of climate change and prolonged drought, together with overuse of groundwater and pollution, Ousmane sees the cause as a surging population, expansion of surrounding villages and the demand for water from nearby large-scale irrigation projects.

All this adds up to trigger growing competition over water between farmers and herders. Moving from one place to another, pastoralists need water for their livestock, but farmers are not always willing to share their limited water resources.

These are precisely the kinds of tensions that an assessment of water tenure in this area by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) aims at addressing. The process looks at the relations that people have around water resources, whether based on formal laws and regulations or custom and tradition. The goal is to promote social cohesion and peace among different water users.


Read the full story featured on the FAO corporate website:

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