Charlotte van der Schaaf:
Decentralised Irrigation Management and the Role of the State in Eastern Burkina Faso


Centre for Development Research (ZEF), University of Bonn, Department for Political and Cultural Change, Germany

Decentralisation of water management responsibilities has been one of the main international policy solutions for efficient and sustainable water management. In Burkina Faso, one of the countries with increasing water scarcity problems, public irrigation development was initiated in the 1960s. The following political trends had the general effect that dominant authority of the central government was reduced and that the significance of local level decision-making was increased. Due to more recent decentralisation policies the departmental and regional state authorities have obtained more legislative power and responsibilities regarding conflict management and decision-making support for the farmer users' groups of the irrigation systems. In the same time the state agricultural organisations that were expected to provide technical support have been reduced.

From July 2002 to October 2003 a study was conducted in the Eastern part of Burkina Faso in order to analyse the different institutions dealing with water management and the national policies, their implementation and the outcome on the local level management. In this paper the management structure and situation of two irrigation systems is described, and the influence of the local state authorities as well as the influence of the agricultural extensive services and other local authorities, such as chiefs, is analysed. The research shows that the policies implemented at the local level have had different outcomes regarding farmer management in the two cases. This partly due to its location and the connected land claims, though also the social, cultural and historical context as well as the different extent of intervention of the local state authorities play a large role. Accountability and credibility problems, rent-seeking activities, social and political relationships, and disrespect of the (in)formal authority structures are among the factors that have influenced water management within the two systems. The challenge is to support and strengthen these local management structures as well as the local state administration in the execution of their responsibilities in order to come to a more efficient management system.

Keywords: Burkina Faso, decentralisation, farmers' organisations, irrigation management, state


Contact Address: Charlotte van der Schaaf, Centre for Development Research (ZEF), University of Bonn, Department for Political and Cultural ChangeWalter-Flex-Straße 3, 53113 Bonn, Germany, e-mail:
Andreas Deininger, September 2004