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Grounding the nexus: Examining the integration of small-scale irrigators into a national food security programme in Burkina Faso

Brian Dowd-Uribe
International Studies Department, University of San Francisco, San Francisco, CA, USA; bdowduribe@usfca.edu

Moussa Sanon
Institut de l’Environnement et de Recherches Agricoles, Gestion des Ressources Naturelles, Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso; moussanonw@gmail.com

Carla Roncoli
Department of Anthropology, Emory University, Atlanta, GA, USA; carla.roncoli@emory.edu

Ben Orlove
School of International and Public Affairs, Columbia University, New York, NY, USA; bso5@columbia.edu

ABSTRACT: The water-food nexus literature examines the synergies and trade-offs of resource use but is dominated by large-scale analyses that do not sufficiently engage the local dimensions of resource management. The research presented here addresses this gap with a local-scale analysis of integrated water and food management in Burkina Faso. Specifically, we analyse the implementation of a national food security campaign (Opération Bondofa) to boost maize production in a subbasin that exhibits two important trends in Africa: a large increase in small-scale irrigators and the decentralisation of water management. As surface water levels dropped in the region, entities at different scales asserted increased control over water allocation, exposing the contested nature of new decentralised institutions, and powerful actors’ preference for local control. These scalar power struggles intersected with a lack of knowledge of small-scale irrigators’ cultural practices to produce an implementation and water allocation schedule that did match small-scale irrigator needs, resulting in low initial enthusiasm for the project. Increased attention from national governments to strengthen decentralised water management committees and spur greater knowledge of, and engagement with, small-scale irrigators can result in improved programme design to better incorporate small-scale irrigators into national food security campaigns.

KEYWORDS: Water-food nexus, small-scale irrigators, food security, decentralisation, irrigation, Burkina Faso