Is joint water management possible in Djenné, Mali?

The last chapter of our WPS stories in Mali takes us to the commune of Djenné, south of Mopti, which faces the same challenges as the other communes along the Delta: the drying up of ponds, rivers and wells, due to the drought and desertification of the region and public authorities struggling to slow down this damage which poisons relations between the different communities. This is why in Djenné, the WPS Forum was also established to implement conflict resolution and community engagement dialogues by addressing conflicts related to the use of water resources, working to strengthen the capacities of local actors and promoting dialogue and cooperation between stakeholders.

Children learning to fish in the river.
Children learning to fish in the river. Photo: Ousmane Makaveli Traore/International Alert.

Moctar Touré works in the civil service and is responsible for raising awareness among producers about sustainable water management, irrigation, and watering by adopting a low-water-consuming cultivation system. He explains that the over-exploitation of natural resources in the Inner Niger Delta harms the ecosystems, and local populations whose livelihoods are dependents on these ecosystems.

Fishers using a Pinasse boat to fish
Fishers using a Pinasse boat to fish. Photo: Ousmane Makaveli Traore/International Alert.

However, he says that the local authorities, with the help of partners such as local elected officials, heads of rural development services and civil society groups like the Coordination of Women’s Associations and Organisations (CAFO), have realised the extent of the problem and are beginning to work on developing and strengthening water management committees.

The assessment of water resources is a prerequisite for sustainable development and rational water management. It is crucial for the planning, design, construction, operation and maintenance of irrigation and drainage systems.

Moctar Touré
A fisher in the Niger River in Djenné
A fishers in the Niger River in Djenné. Photo: Ousmane Makaveli Traore/International Alert.

Konssissi Tientato also lives in Djenné and owns a fishing pond. His daily work evolves around water, and he explains that over the years he has witnessed the drying up of the river, the direct consequences of which are the shrinking of its fishing pond and the reduction of fish.

Before, we could fish for more than four months a year, now this period has been reduced to only two months.

Konssissi Tientato

Although the inhabitants of Djenné are aware of the environmental stress on the water resources, Konssissi explains that the challenge is the management of the resources which causes multiple conflicts. The Pondorie Dam illustrates the issue: located at the entrance of the city, every year fishers, herders and farmers clash over the management of the dam according to their own needs. Because when the fishers need water for fishing, the farmers need dry land to prepare their fields with seeds and herders need to feed their livestock.

The Pondorie Dam
The Pondorie Dam. Photo: Ousmane Makaveli Traore/International Alert.

In Djenné, the WPS Forum organised monthly meetings to bring together the local water management actors that are the farmers, fishers, herders but also the local authorities and the customary law authorities. They were able to discuss how best to resolve conflicts between themselves. This has led to a reduction in conflict related to the management of dams, and conflicts between farmers, fishers and herders through the creation of a pastoral track which is a small corridor for livestock to pass. And many local civil society organisations, such as the Coordination of Women’s Associations and Organisations (CAFO), applauded and joined the WPS Forum.

According to Moctar, Konssissi and other local actors involved in the WPS Forum, it remains important to put in place concrete solutions for the inhabitants of the region by developing a Natural Water Resources Management Convention, by approving and implementing conventions for fishers and by widely disseminating the texts of the law on water management. Land disputes can also be reduced by strengthening the capacities of the Land Commission, and checks on compliance with existing laws and regulations are now regularly organised.

Inhabitants of Djenné swimming on the banks of the Niger River
Inhabitants of Djenné swimming on the banks of the Niger River. Photo: Ousmane Makaveli Traore/International Alert.

Looking at the efforts made by WPS and local actors in the towns of Konna, Mopti and Djenné has brought to light techniques of resilience and adaptation to climate change that were previously considered traditional and outdated. And the progress made by the local actors in these towns now proves that sustainable water management is possible through dialogue, cooperation and the restoration of ancestral fishing, livestock, and agricultural techniques.

The Water, Peace and Security (WPS) partnership

WPS brings together knowledge, capacities and activities directed at speeding up and scaling up preventative action in the context of water stress–induced conflict, migration or other forms of social destabilisation, supported by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

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