Development assemblages and collective farmer-led irrigation in the Sahel: A case study from the Lower Delta of the Senegal River

Samir El Ouaamari
AgroParisTech, Paris, France; samir.elouaamari@agroparistech.fr

Nadège Garambois
AgroParisTech, Paris, France; nadege.garambois@agroparistech.fr

Mathilde Fert
AgroParisTech, Paris, France; fert.mathilde@gmail.com

Léa Radzik
AgroParisTech, Paris, France; lea.radzik@gmail.com

ABSTRACT: In Sahelian countries, farmer-led irrigation development has contributed to the extension of irrigated areas in formerly state-led schemes, especially from the 1990s onwards. It has usually consisted of individual approaches, revealing the unequal capacities that farmers have had to develop irrigated agriculture. However, in some cases, farmers have performed collective practices geared towards achieving a more concerted and equitable management of resources. This article is centred on such collective enterprises. It is based on a case study from the delta of the Senegal River. In this region, where state agencies, donors, and investors have set the tone of irrigation development over the last decades, the concerted irrigation development led by the inhabitants of a small village (Thilène) can be considered to be a form of resistance. By drawing on the concepts of 'moral economy' and 'assemblage', and using 'comparative agriculture' methods, we situate the emergence of this collective action in order to understand who has governed it by what means or practices, and to know what have been its outcomes. We see these collective actions as an alternative irrigation development pathway to that led by the state and donors. The results highlight the contingent nature of these initiatives and the difficulties in implementing adapted policies to trigger or boost their emergence.

KEYWORDS: Irrigation, collective action, resistance, assemblage, Senegal