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Summary papers n°37 : Debates regarding irrigated land management in West Africa, the Maghreb and South-East Asia

Aurore Mansion, Jean-Philippe Venot, Charlotte Ravaux | Comité Technique "Foncier & développement"; COSTEA | 2023 |
Summary papers n°37 : Debates regarding irrigated land management in West Africa, the Maghreb and South-East Asia

This summary outlines key points from a day of presentations and debates on irrigated land management, jointly organised by the Scientific and Technical Committee on Agricultural Water (COSTEA) and the “Land Tenure & Development” Technical Committee (CTFD), as part of the final seminar on the COSTEA 2 project which was attended by French and international irrigation actors from consulting firms and research institutions, as well as institutional actors and members of civil society from the three main regions where COSTEA is active (West Africa, South-East Asia and the Maghreb/Mediterranean).

After an introduction that emphasised the importance that AFD places on land issues in the sustainable management of irrigated systems and peaceful territorial governance, and the crucial role that the two networks (COSTEA and CTFD) have played in building frames of reference and shared analytical frameworks in this field, the day has started by introducing the underlying structure that had guided work on the three studies, before the presentations setting out the key findings and messages of each study. Then, participants divided into three geographical sessions to examine the lessons drawn from each study in greater depth. They were assisted by valuable input from members of the two networks who specialise in land issues.

The debates continued over the afternoon in parallel thematic sessions structured around crosscutting issues that reflect the site-specific and shared realities of different contexts. The first session focused on the challenges posed by different modes of access to irrigated land (ownership, leasing, contract-farming/aggregation, share-cropping, concessions, etc.) and the questions that they raise about the sustainability of irrigated systems and equitable access to irrigated land. The second session considered common resources, their multiple, co-existing uses (for fishing, livestock rearing, agriculture, etc.), and the challenge of (re) considering irrigation in a multifunctional territorial approach. The third and final session dealt with changes in the agricultural sector that are driven by the development of irrigation schemes (accelerated land transactions and changes in land use), the increasingly marked differentiation between farmers caused by these changes (indebtedness, capitalisation, etc.), and how to design policies and projects that reconcile different development models.

The day ended with a plenary session with four leading institutional figures highlighted the multifunctional nature of land, the role that irrigated systems play in agricultural production, and the challenges of using integrated approaches where different uses of natural resources and development models have a role to play. Each speaker noted the pressure that the current quest for efficiency and performance is putting on natural resources, and the need to move away from an “extractivist” vision towards more sustainable and equitable management.

This briefing note is also available in french here