Integrated Water Management in Burkina Faso

A study of social context and decision architecture

Researchers: Carla Roncoli (PI), Benjamin Orlove (PI), Brian Dowd-Uribe

This case study centers on a watershed in one of the moister areas of a semi-arid West Africa country, the Upper Comoé River Basin in southwest Burkina Faso. In the region, a set of dams built several decades ago supplies water to a large firm that grows and refines sugar cane, to a regional city, to some agricultural cooperatives and to a set of small farmers. Burkina Faso has started to implement Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM) – a type of participatory planning used in many parts of the world—and has established Local Water Committees to serve as consultative fora for more equitable water resource allocation. We explore social context issues by a diverse group of water users with different interests, different claims on water and different positions within regional social and political systems. We are investigating how group identity and social goals shape actors’ participation in water governance frameworks and their evaluation of negotiated decision outcomes. We are particularly interested in seeing how the new participatory organizations influence the conflicts that arise over finite water resources.

We examine decision architecture aspects by experimenting with different framings of climate and environmental uncertainties that affect water resources, and we also explore how people respond to different time horizons and to different visual, textual and numerical ways of representing information. We conduct research in this case with a strong awareness of the comparisons to other natural resources and sectors, and with an awareness as well of the importance of history and culture in shaping perceptions, values and institutions. This work allows us to examine key issues in decision science; it also fosters outreach, since we work closely with community, regional and national organizations in Burkina Faso and elsewhere in West Africa.

Farmers working an irrigated field in Burkina Faso

Farmers work an irrigated field (Photo by B. Dowd-Uribe)

Water pipeline in Burkina Faso

Pipelines channeling water to multiple users in the Upper Comoé River Basin (Photo by C. Roncoli)

Related Publications:

Roncoli, C., P. Kirshen, D. Etkin, M. Sanon, L. Somé, Y. Dembélé, B.J. Sanfo, J. Zoungrana, & G. Hoogenboom. 2009. “From Management to Negotiation: Technical and Institutional Innovations for Integrated Water Resource Management in the Upper Comoé River Basin (Burkina Faso).” Environmental Management, 44(4):695-711.