The U.S. Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) invested $252.9 million in the Alatona Irrigation Project in Mali to build irrigation infrastructure (above) and designed a package of complementary activities to ensure the physical canals would have lasting effects.
Though much smaller than the construction in dollar terms, these complementary investments will mean the difference between a well-maintained system that operates for decades and a short-lived one that falls into disrepair within a few years, MCC said.
The project approach differed from the typical “top-down” management of irrigation systems in Mali. Traditionally, a centralized agency would fix water prices and dictate how farmers would use their land.
In the Alatona zone, a federation of nine water-user associations now has the legal authority to set water prices, use proceeds to operate and maintain the secondary and tertiary systems, and use proceeds to pay the government irrigation agency to operate and maintain the primary system and deliver water to the perimeter. With the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) providing post-compact assistance, the federation is operating, managing and maintaining the secondary and tertiary systems of the Alatona Perimeter, while the Malian government is responsible only for the primary canal and drain. The beneficiaries now have an active voice in governing the system that provides them with water.
MCC’s investments to build the capacity of the water-user associations and federation, improve land tenure security, establish revenue authority and build irrigation infrastructure work together to sustain economic benefits for farmers in Alatona, MCC said on its website. USAID’s follow-on support for these critical institutions developed local skills and help the region toward its goal of self-sufficiency, the agency said.