Moving from highly centralized governance to more democratic decision making was the goal of WANI’s work in partnership with the Organization for the Development of the Senegal River Basin (OMVS). A severe drought had forced riparian nations to work together, but they had failed to engage civil society. WANI facilitated dialogues in the riparian countries resulting in a “terms of engagement” document, which laid out a shared understanding of all parties’ responsibilities and expectations.

Senegal, Mauritania

The Senegal River is the second longest in West Africa with 2 million people living along its banks and many relying on it for their livelihoods. The Sahelian drought of the 1970s brought the governments of Mali, Senegal and Mauritania together to create the OMVS and to construct two major dams for irrigated agriculture, hydroelectric power and river navigation. The mechanisms and infrastructure put in place to manage the Senegal River reflected government priorities, with little engagement of civil society and local stakeholders.  Nor had stakeholders been consulted about development decisions made by OMVS despite the existence of consultation mechanisms. In 2002, a Water Charter was adopted, however this was top-down and not well understood in the basin.

WANI worked with OMVS to raise awareness of the opportunities the water charter provided for participation in decision making.  It held a series of national and community workshops in riparian countries with representatives from civil society, the private sector, communities and OMVS. Mass media communications and publications in local languages echoed the need for integrated basin management and the benefits of participation.
Dialogues among OMVS, civil society organizations and the scientific communities contributed to greater awareness.  These dialogues are expected to continue through newly developed national and local coordination committees that will help OMVS manage the basin.

In 2008, transboundary agreement reached higher levels. A regional workshop on transboundary biosphere conservation in the Senegal River Basin was convened. This was attended by the OMVS, the Transnational Management Committee for the Biosphere Reserve of the Senegal River Delta, parliamentarians from Senegal and Mauritania, local nongovernmental organizations and experts. The dialogue addressed the functioning of dams and water politics in the river basin. In 2009 the River Basin Committee was formed which included a broad range of water users. The OMVS has also adopted a Strategic Plan for Water Development and Management which has an education component with technical language into concepts more easily understood by local communities.


Story: Giving Voices to a Trans-National River Mouth

The rehabilitation of the delta of the Senegal river in Mauritania: fielding the ecosystem approach from the IUCN website. Also available in French.

Integrated wetlands and water resources management : proceedings of a workshop held at the 2nd International conference on wetlands and development from the IUCN website