Natural hazards and disasters
Droughts and seasonal floods are common in the Inner Niger Delta in Mali. A lack of rainfall in 2011 resulted in food insecurity for communities and livestock, and pressure on productive agricultural sites.
Impacts vary from changing patterns of seasonal river-floods, changing use of water resources and land, inadequate traditional management systems, and ecological imbalance.
Climate change and environmental degradation are expected to aggravate current challenges.
Effects on people
In the PfR communities, subsistence farmers, pastoralists and fisherfolk depend almost entirely on ecosystems for livelihoods and fuel.
Communities see negative consequences from water diversion and the alteration of water regimes upstream. Helpful irrigation upstream adversely affects agriculture downstream: irrigable areas are reduced while the chance of unexpected floods increases.
Unsustainable land-use leads to deforestation and degrades pasture, all of which reduces agricultural productivity and undermines social cohesion.
What PfR does
The PfR alliance is working with communities in the regions of Tomboctou and Mopti, where project communities are introduced to simple techniques to strengthen and diversify livelihoods: drought-resistant seeds, rehabilitation of wells, and the cultivation of vegetable gardens.
Micro-credit mechanisms such as “bio-rights” and savings groups have been set up. Partners have also developed hybrid solutions in which the building of dykes is combined with tree planting.
They discuss with the authorities the downstream impact of water infrastructure upstream in the Niger delta, aiming at equitable and sustainable solutions.
Lobby for water allocation
Communities in the Inner Niger Delta of Mali are highly vulnerable to drought. Food-security crises occur on a regular basis. PfR partners in Mali work to increase communities’ resilience, through food banks, by diversifying income generation, and by setting up micro-credit and savings facilities.
Meanwhile, a major threat is looming: foreign investors plan to install large-scale irrigation programmes hundreds of kilometres upstream, which may reduce water flows in the Niger River by a third. This will have a disastrous impact on millions of people in the delta; the land available for rice farming will decrease and wetlands may be lost, along with their vital resources.
The community-level work is complemented by a scientific study to address these issues on a river-basin scale. Cost-benefit and environmental impact assessments are being undertaken to demonstrate the impact of the proposed interventions.
Through extensive lobbying with water managers and land-use planners, it is hoped water will be fairly allocated and safeguarded both for people and ecosystems downstream.
Wetlands International, CARE, AMPRODE Sahel, Organisation pour un Développement Intégré au Sahel, GRAT