Return to list
cours d'eau au Burkina Fasso
des périmètres au Niger

Implemented since 2018 in six countries of the Sahel (Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal and Chad), the Regional Irrigation Initiative Support Project for the Sahel (PARIIS) gives us some hope.

The main challenge is to make irrigated agriculture one of the most credible solutions for the development of the countries of the Sahel.

A commitment declared at the highest level

In the Sahel, one of the world's most vulnerable regions affected by climate change, less than 500,000 ha are irrigated with the use of all available water resources, compared with a minimum irrigation potential of 2.4 million ha in West Africa.

In order to achieve the level of production required for food security, higher income and employment expansion, the question of irrigation has clearly emerged as one of the key factors relevant to the process of increasing agricultural production.


It is within this context that six Heads of State from the Sahel region, who met in Dakar in October 2013, during the High Level Forum for boosting irrigation in the Sahel, unanimously agreed via the "Dakar Declaration", to combine their efforts in order to increase the pace and quality of investments in irrigated agriculture, based on a participative and systemic approach to resolving the problems and developing suitable irrigation solutions.


The objective was to increase investment significantly in agricultural water projects from the current level of 400,000 hectares to 1,000,000 hectares by 2020 for the six countries of the Sahel.


A project for operationalising the Sahel Irrigation Initiative

The Strategic Framework for Agricultural Water in the Sahel as defined in the Sahel Irrigation Initiative (2is) represents a strategic and technical reference within which complementarity and synergy between actions and initiatives taking place in the six countries can be adapted over time and thus allow for the concrete implementation of irrigation projects and programmes, adhering to a shared baseline of effective methods, tools and processes that can be replicated over time and space.

The operationalisation of the "Dakar Declaration" was entrusted to a regional Task Force coordinated by CILSS and made responsible for setting up a regional project known as the Regional Sahel Irrigation Initiative Support Project (PARIIS), with the objective of "improving the planning, investment and management capacity of those involved and increasing the irrigated area to improve the performance of irrigation systems in six countries of the Sahel".


Being the first operational project of the Initiative, "The PARIIS project is perfectly consistent with our States desire to escape from the scenario where 90% of our agricultural production is dependent on variable and uncertain rainfall; and to increase significantly and efficiently the use of water resources for our agriculture. A mere 10% is actually used", according to Dr Abdoulaye Mohamadou, Executive Secretary of CILSS.

The project is based on five types of irrigation: lowland development and controlled flooding (type 1); private small-scale individual irrigation projects (type 2); irrigation projects managed by village communities (type 3); large-scale public irrigation schemes (type 4); irrigation organised by public-private partnerships (type 5).

The planned irrigation schemes will directly benefit 58,600 producers, 35% of whom are women, with a particular emphasis on small and medium-scale irrigation.

The project is expected to reach approximately 72,000 households.

The total area to be developed or revitalised is projected to be 26,207 hectares, with adapted irrigation solutions and a functional knowledge management system set up for the continuous improvement of the irrigation solutions.


Convincing results already achieved

"The PARIIS project represents a paradigm shift away from traditional approaches. The project as a whole aims to reshape the approach to irrigation development in the region.

The project is built around the concept of 'Irrigation Solutions' and the aim is, by the end of the project, to provide the six countries with a comprehensive set of robust solutions for the five types of irrigation systems defined in the strategic framework, as well as the capacity to implement them accordingly,” explains Frédéric Dabiré, the PARIIS Regional Coordinator.


As far as quantitative targets are concerned, the rehabilitation of 5,378 ha of existing schemes is planned, comprising 55% of type 1 (lowland development and controlled flooding), 0% of type 2 (private small-scale individual irrigation projects), 36% of type 3 (small-scale irrigation projects managed by village communities) and 9% of type 4 (large-scale irrigation projects organised by public-private partnerships); as well as the development of 2,829 ha of new schemes, comprising 60% of type 1, 22% of type 2 and 18% of type 3.

An analysis of the project’s state of progress generally shows a gradual increase in the rate of investments made in the field. The achievements recorded in terms of newly developed and rehabilitated surface areas by 31st December 2021 are estimated at 5,364 ha, benefiting approximately 11,000 households.


For all six countries, most of the schemes should be completed in 2022. In fact, it is expected that the total surface area to be incorporated in the scheme is expected to peak in all of the countries, except Mali, which is projected to peak in 2023.

Furthermore, an estimated 19,000 ha are committed in the field at various levels of preparedness. This will significantly increase the actual completion rate by the end of 2022, which is a pivotal year for planning for all six countries.


Among other achievements, we can mention the setting-up of knowledge-sharing groups in all of the countries to discuss better irrigation solutions for their countries; lowland development now with innovative solutions for Type 1; the improvement of existing systems in terms of technical and financing models for the expansion of small-scale private irrigation schemes for Type 2; reviews of Type 3 irrigation systems to make them more efficient and easier to implement; an information system about water and irrigation that can help national and regional players to make decisions; the beginning of the preparation of a portfolio of bankable investments based on the updating of existing studies of types 3, 4 and 5 made available to the member countries by the Permanent Inter-State Committee for Drought Control in the Sahel (CILSS), making advice and efficient tools accessible while providing a space for knowledge exchange and a Regional Information Service relating to Water Resources and Irrigation (SIREI).

The implementation of the PARIIS project is based on a regional approach structured around the CILSS - commissioned by the six participating countries to ensure regional coordination and facilitate the adoption and implementation of responses to the challenges faced.

The use by CILSS of the services of Strategic Partners in the different types of irrigation projects seeks to provide the six countries with highly qualified technical support for the development of the irrigation solutions accomplished in these countries and for the capacity-building of the different players in terms of irrigation planning and the implementation of the solutions identified.

The Pool of high level experts put together according to the specific needs and at the request of the countries is for now being resourced with Consultants in Large Scale Irrigation Projects, Rural Finance, Gender Assessment Studies and Monitoring and Evaluation; and could be expanded in accordance with the needs expressed by the countries themselves and the CILSS.


Giving fresh impetus to research activities in the field of irrigation

The Project also aims to give added impetus to the research activities relating to irrigation in the countries of the Sahel.

The national research structures are involved in the research activities taking place in these countries.

These are primarily the Environmental Institute for Agricultural Research (INERA) in Burkina Faso, the Institute of Rural Economy (IER) and the World Vegetable Research Centre (AVRD) in Mali, the National Agricultural Research and Development Centre (CNRADA) in Mauritania, the National Institute of Agricultural Research (INRAN) in Niger, the Senegalese Agricultural Research Institute (ISRA) in Senegal, the Chadian Institute of Agricultural Research for Development (ITRAD) and the Centre of Research for Innovation and Production Technologies (CRIPT) in Chad.

It is envisaged that the countries involved will be drawing up a consensus of relevant and achievable goals and that a Network of Researchers will be established to study irrigation in the Sahel.


The signals are on green for the future

With approximately $197.2 million, the World Bank is the main provider of funds for the PARIIS project, which is attracting a lot of interest from other development partners.

The Spanish Agency for International Cooperation and Development (AECID) has pledged additional funding to the Regional Irrigation Initiative Support Project for the Sahel (PARIIS).

Thus 15 million is being granted to Niger and 15 million to Senegal, and we are waiting for 10 million euros to be made available for Mali.

UEMOA has also decided to undertake development activities in zones of high potential in member states, particularly through the concept of total agricultural water control.

It has, therefore, decided to support the PARIIS project by making a provision in its programme of activities for offering this experience to four Member States, namely Benin, Côte d'Ivoire, Guinea Bissau and Togo



Targeted intervention zones in each of the six countries.

- Burkina Faso: Regions of Boucle du Mouhoun, the North, Central and Central-Western regions, as well as the provinces of Houet and Tuy (part of the project financed by grants and implemented by the Burkinabe Textile Company, Sofitex)

- Mali: Regions of Koulikoro (Cercles or second-level administrative units of Koulikoro and Dioïla), Ségou (Cercles or second-level administrative units of Ségou and Barouéli) and the Niger Regional Office.

- Mauritania: Senegal River Valley: Trarza, Brakna West, Gorgol, Guidimaka ; Outside the Senegal River Valley: Adrar, Tagânt, Hodh el Gharbi, Hodh ech Chargui, Assaba

- Niger: Four administrative regions: Agadez, Tahoua, Dosso and Tillabéry

- Senegal : Senegal River Valley, Region of Casamance (Kolda and Sédhiou) and the Peanut-growing Basin (centre of the country)

- Chad: Eastern (Ouaddaï, Wadi Fira and Sila), central (Guéra and Salamat), western (Hadjer Lamis and Chari Baguirmi) and southern regions (Mayo-Kebbi East and West, Tandjilé, Logone eastern and western)



The CILSS, almost five decades at the heart of the Sahel challenge

As a sub-regional policy response to the adverse effects of drought and desertification, the Permanent Inter-State Committee for Drought Control in the Sahel (CILSS) was established in 1973.

In keeping with its vision, "Another Sahel is possible", the CILSS has established itself over time as a vital regional hub for involving the member states in developmental regional projects and programmes, and consolidating regional leadership in the implementation of development policies and programmes for the benefit of these member states.

The activities of the CILSS have persuaded ECOWAS and UEMOA to make the entity their technical arm for matters of food security.

Its actions are focused on food security and nutrition; the management of natural resources and climate change; water management; access to markets for agricultural and agri-food products; population, gender and development.

While waiting for other countries to indicate their intention of joining, the institution currently includes 13 member states: Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Vert, Côte d’Ivoire, Gambia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal, Chad and Togo).


Tiégo Tiemtoré