Building on existing literature and the analysis of a portfolio of development projects (past and under implementation), this paper reviews the evolution of water user associations (WUAs) in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), reflecting on the conceptualization of how they operate, and the promised outcomes related to irrigation development, and the efficient and effective delivery of irrigation services. It also moves one step further from existing studies on WUAs, postulating that additional reflection is needed to understand the limitations of WUAs and proposes alternative, viable and context-based adapted models. This need is particularly strong in SSA where irrigation is incipient, and governments and donors are still consolidating their development approaches. Whereas a growing body of international literature takes into account the sociopolitical context of decentralized irrigation management, practical indication on what remains to be done to address the various limitations found in SSA stays meagre and scattered. The objective of this paper is not to challenge the myth of WUAs but to learn how to better deliver on the promised outcomes. The underlying message is that, if the SSA region is to be made water and food secure while respecting resource sustainability, community development, livelihoods and equality of resource access, the recurrent templates for WUA management and governance need to be revisited and adapted to local needs.
Authors and Publishers
The International Water Management Institute (IWMI) is a non-profit, scientific research organization focusing on the sustainable use of water and land resources in developing countries. It is headquartered in Colombo, Sri Lanka, with regional offices across Asia and Africa. IWMI works in partnership with governments, civil society and the private sector to develop scalable agricultural water management solutions that have a real impact on poverty reduction, food security and ecosystem health.
CGIAR is the only worldwide partnership addressing agricultural research for development, whose work contributes to the global effort to tackle poverty, hunger and major nutrition imbalances, and environmental degradation.