The Inner Niger Delta – In Konna, water is a source of life and conflict
Lien vers la version française: 'Le Delta Intérieur du Niger – A Konna, l’eau comme source de vie et de conflits'
The Inner Niger Delta, located in the semi-arid Sahelian zone at the crossroads between the southern tropical-savanna zone and the Saharan north of Mali, is one of the areas most affected by water-related conflicts. Livelihoods in the Inner Niger Delta are determined by the rhythm of the seasonal rains, the tides of the Niger River and the rotations of herd movements. Variations in precipitation and rising temperatures as well as population growth are putting further stress on the dysfunctional governance system of water and land. It is in this context that access to water and grazing land is contested and has given rise to conflicts within and between communities as well as with the local administration.
In the Inner Niger Delta, the exploitation of natural resources is based on the coexistence of three livelihood systems:
- pastoralism, which is characterised by seasonal migration of livestock to the flooded area of the Delta;
- an agricultural system including both dry crops, such as the grains millet and sorghum, and rice, growing in the flooded area; and
- a fishing system as a traditional livelihood system.
International Alert, as a member of the Water, Peace and Security (WPS) consortium, interviewed inhabitants of the Delta to understand their challenges around natural resource management. This series of impact stories brings together the testimonies of representatives of different communities, the fishermen, farmers and herders in the Inner Niger Delta. Here they share their experiences and perspectives and discuss the consequences of climate change, the impact of dams on water levels, their livelihoods and competition for land and water, but most importantly solutions they want to see being developed and implemented by the government and local actors.
Ousmane Coulibaly lives in Konna in the Mopti region. After studying agronomy, he joined the civil service and was assigned to the position of Chief of the Agriculture Sub-Sector of Konna. As a member of the Water, Peace and Security Forum, Ousmane advises producers and farmers on good and sustainable agricultural production practices, innovative techniques for adapting to climate change and methodologies for collecting statistical data. His aim is to make water management practices more accessible to the local population.
"We do not have sufficient resources to adapt to environmental stresses, nowadays it is essential to prepare communities to the practice of sustainable fishing, farming and livestock techniques to better adapt in order to save humanity.” - Ousmane Coulibaly
In Konna, the availability of water has been decreasing steadily over the past 15 years, which has strongly affected the ponds and rivers. The lack of rain has also caused a reduction in fish stocks, and the drying up of the Niger Delta has had a negative impact on rice farming.
Boubacar Kemesso is a father of 11 children and his family lives mainly from fishing, farming and small business activities. As a water manager, he oversees an agreement that defines land and water division between farmers and fishermen. However, the security crisis in Mali and the presence of armed groups have weakened many parts of the country, undermined governance and limited the communities' ability to manage the land and water.
As members of the WPS Forum, Ousmane and Boubacar participated in the dialogue process on the peaceful and non-violent management of natural resources organised by the Water, Peace and Security consortium. These dialogues addressed the specific problems of the communities of Konna. They also participated in training to prevent and manage conflict situations related to natural resources and to set up awareness campaigns in their respective communities.
Nevertheless, Ousmane explains that more action is needed to complement the WPS project in the region, as communities are increasingly facing challenges to their livelihoods in an area where insecurity is growing. He sees a real need for more training and materials on how to adapt to environmental stresses, land development with market gardening areas for small-scale crop, vegetable and fruit production. Moreover, he deems it essential to finance job creation for young people in the protection of natural resources.
"It is important to think about funding sources such as Income Generating Activities for both youth and women. This will help fight unemployment but will also train new experts in environmental stresses and the development of small village irrigation schemes for food self-sufficiency and adaptation to climate change." - Ousmane Coulibaly
There is a need to integrate women into the decision-making process, because they are among the most affected by climate change. The drying up of the river has had a negative impact on women, whose survival and that of their families is intrinsically linked to their income-generating activities made possible by the river. Thus, as the river recedes, daily tasks become more challenging to complete and quick and safe access to a water point is no longer guaranteed. In this uncertain context, the role of the dialogue forum supported by WPS is to provide a safe and inclusive space for women's participation in every decision-making process.