Building dams

An ingenious solution for peasants


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About the project Edit

In Sahel where there is insufficient rainfall, water is a commodity that is both rare and precious. In recent years, the environmental situation has deteriorated because of the lack of water. This deterioration is caused by lower crop yield, decreasing farmable land, increasing land surfaces not appropriated for farming. To deal with this situation, numerous efforts have been attempted not only by local populations, but by the Sahelian states that are supported by technical and financial partners.

Building river dams fits perfectly with this thinking. River dams are simple structures that help rehabilitate degraded lowlands. They are an efficient way to fight erosion. Moreover, they help optimize management and control of water resources and soil, and increase agricultural production in a sustainable way. This technique was developed by HEINZ BENDER after he made several observations in Sahelian countries like Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad.


In what ways is this project unique and creative? Edit

Today, degradation and erosion are occurring at an alarming rate. In large part, soil is often already degraded and suffers acutely from a lack of organic matter. Organic matter is only enough for regeneration of a small amount of land.

The effects of continual degradation is a new phenomenon: sand erosion in watersheds with the long-term risk of submerging and feeding lowlands that are already stable and developed. River dams allow overflow of small- and medium-sized floods and, as a result, submersion of lowlands. The water flows first from the low sides of the structure to the outside limits of the lowlands. Thus, the submersion and infiltration zone becomes more important downstream from the dam than upstream.

What is the social value of this project? Edit

Using EIG to realize the rams, the project provided work for the local EIG populations which in turn helped facilitate the structure’s maintenance. During construction, the local workforce was very active collecting stones, searching and helping bricklayers.

What is the potential of this project to expand and develop? Edit

The approach is certainly reproducible in the Sahelian zone and proof is that it currently covers at least three Sahelian countries, namely Chad, Niger and Burkina Faso. The technique can easily be transferred after a certain amount of practical training.

What was the triggering factor of this project? Edit

The program’s decentralized rural development team of Assoungha, Ouaddai-Biltine and Djourf Al Hamar saw that realizing the micro-dams and filtering dykes would be expensive just as construction and maintenance were becoming more complicated. Given the situation, the idea to build simple structures that were easy to maintain came about, hence building dams.

What is the business model of this project? Edit

Depending on the type of lowland and the region, the cost of rehabilitation range from 250,000 FCFA and 1.5 million FCFA per hectare. Amortization of investment is, therefore, possible over a few years.

With the construction of the dams, the yield in terms of millet (main source of sustenance for Sahelians), for example, has improved considerably. It has gone from 466 kg per hectare on average outside the dam to 692 kg on average with the construction of this dam.


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