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PRISE – Workshop on the ‘Urban-Rural Water Interface’, Burkina Faso, November 12th, 2015

The goal of the PRISE project (‘PRESA’ in French) is to identify and promote ‘Pathways to Resilience in Semi-Arid Economies’ in the context of the climate change. A first step can be to highlight issues which need to be publicly debated, but are not currently on policy agendas. As noted by two authors writing on power and poverty*, a decision is ‘a choice among alternative modes of activity’ and a ‘non-decision’ is ‘a decision that results in suppression of thwarting of a latent or manifest challenge - to the interests of the decision-maker’.

The PRISE workshop organised by researchers of the University of Ouagadougou and ODI and held on November 12th, 2015 in Ouagadougou, capital of Burkina Faso, presented the ‘urban-rural water interface’ as one such subject for debate. The Vice-President of the University opened the workshop – the first in a series of three PRISE day workshops on water governance, value chains (cotton) and migration (12th-14th November). The report of the preliminary study launched and distributed at the first workshop described the challenge of providing water for the fast-growing population of Ouagadougou whilst also ensuring adequate access for rural communities.

The workshop was well–attended with over 60 participants, representing government, donors, private water supplies and civil society (NGOs and academia/research). To bring the subject of the urban-rural water interface to their attention (‘l’arbitrage urbain-rural’ in French), the research team had circulated a short summary of the report prior to the event

The persons present included a group of 20 local actors from the area around the Ziga dam which supplies 70% of Ouagadougou’s water supply - whom the PRISE team had met during the field research. The traditional/customary chief leading the Ziga group was given the floor for 20 minutes in the morning to make his case that the local communities around the Ziga dam had not been sufficiently compensated and supported with alternative revenue-generating opportunities after the construction of the dam which had displaced them from fertile land, flooded by the reservoir. By not making water adequately available to local people, the authorities are unwittingly fuelling rural-to-urban migration, including to the capital. The researchers presented population forecasts (from the UN Population Division and a French demographic expert - see section 4.3 of the report) which suggest that the number of residents of Ouagadougou could double from the current figure of c.2 million in 2015 to c.4 million in 2030 and, potentially, to 8 million in 2050, thereby putting an immense strain on water services in the capital and depriving the rural economy of water for productive activities. As discussed at the workshop, the 8 million scenario is avoidable, if appropriate action is taken by government and other actors. The workshop participants discussed, in break-out groups, what that action could be. There was no shortage of proposed policy measures.

From an equity perspective, it was important that PRISE provide this platform for airing of the local issues. Maybe, after the presidential and parliamentary elections on 29th November, 2015, more efforts will be made to implement the decentralisation agenda in Burkina, including more voice to local people (e.g. those affected by large projects). The interpreters provided a simultaneous translation of the chief’s speech in the local African language (a mistake we made was not to arrange for a 3-way French, English and Mòoré (spoken by about 40% of the population, mainly in the central region around the capital) throughout the day’s proceedings.

The feed-back from the water workshop was good. All but one of the persons who filled in the evaluation form agreed that the urban-rural water interface is a key issue requiring to be debated and addressed in Burkina Faso - as indeed it is in other countries in Africa – see the examples in Senegal, Kenya and Tanzania referred to in section 1.2, on page 11, of the report.

Peter Newborne, Research Associate, Water Policy Programme, ODI

French blog to accompany the report : http://prise.odi.org/comment-villes-et-campagnes-ou-villes-v-campagnes-larbitrage-urbain-rural-dans-la-gestion-de-leau-en-terres-semi-arides-le-cas-du-burkina-faso/

French report and resume/ short version of the report : http://prise.odi.org/research/investissements-et-repartition-des-ressources-en-eau-au-burkina-faso-etude-preliminaire-sur-larbitrage-urbain-rural/

* Bachrach, P. and Baratz, M.C (1970), Power and Poverty : Theory and Practice. New York : Oxford University Press - page 39 and 44.