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Framing the fluidity of water management conflicts in the Bagré irrigation scheme, Burkina Faso

Gabin Korbéogo
Joseph Ki-Zerbo University, Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso; kgabin1@hotmail.com

ABSTRACT: Anchored in qualitative and quantitative research, this article analyses the main factors of water-related conflicts in the Bagré large-scale irrigation system in Burkina Faso. It addresses the question of how conflicts over the uses of water emerge, and how conflict management works in terms of local conflict resolution mechanisms. The analysis illustrates how water-related conflicts are connected to material objects or assets as well as to the deviant behaviours of some farmers such as non-compliance with water allocation rules. The occurrence of conflicts and their severity depend on the nature and density of social ties between local stakeholders and the economic value of what is at stake. When solutions to water-related conflicts are contested by stakeholders they can become exacerbated until they extend beyond the irrigation scheme and spread to other social spheres at the village and regional level; this shows the fluidity of water-related conflicts and their potential to grow beyond the issue at hand. The article points out that water conflicts are settled with the help of various social actors, networks and mechanisms, and through interpersonal negotiations which unfold in farmer-based and official institutions. The article goes on to argue that because of the social networks that connect local actors, and because of the necessity of preserving social peace, farmer-based institutions and face-to-face conciliation are the most commonly used conflict resolution mechanisms; through these mechanisms, those participating in irrigation schemes have modified the ways in which local institutions deal with water-based conflicts.

KEYWORDS: Irrigation systems, water resource management, rural livelihoods, water conflicts, conflict management, Bagré, Burkina Faso