Manatali Dam: the catalyst for development?


The Senegal River Valley is in a continual state of turmoil. In 1972, the collective governments of Mali, Mauritania and Senegal formed the Organisation pour la Mise en Valeur du Fleuve Senegal (OMVS). The ultimate goal of this organization was to build infrastructure in the form of dams to overall increase irrigation productivity, generate power and easily navigate the Senegal river. In 1981, Construction of the Manatali Dam began.

In this region, most livelihoods rely on agriculture and herding. The type of irrigation used is a system based on flood recession farming. In creating this dam, flood recession agriculture was essentially eliminated. This lead to mass population displacement, lower that expected overall agriculture development, and higher risks of mosquito born illnesses due to a now stable and stagnant river.[4] Primary crops in the region are sorghum, millet and rice. All of these crops are very water intensive, and grown in a region experiencing extreme drought. In suppressing the seasonal flood cycle, had depleted groundwater aquifers and is leading to forest degradation. The displacement has left an entire region of people unstable, often turning to extreme religious organizations such as AlQaeda for security and stability in acquisition of necessities for survival.

According to the FAO’s report on the status of water use efficiency on main crops, as yield increases, so do rates of evapotranspiration. Even if there was to be increased water efficiency usage from the dam to actual croplands, there will still be unequivocal loss of this precious resource for the area.[1] The new irrigation plan that the OMVS had planned was far more costly than they anticipated, many of the displaced farmers were given new plots of land, however they were smaller than their original plots, and the irrigation mechanisms were far too expensive for them to afford.

As an alternative, dry land farming techniques primarily use winter wheat, corn, and beans[2]. All of these crops would prove to be useful in this region and would lessen the water use intensity for agriculture.[3] With more access to necessary resources, individuals may be less likely to turn to extreme religious organizations for resource security.


[1] “Crop Evapotranspiration – Guidelines for Computing Crop Water Requirements – FAO Irrigation and Drainage Paper 56.” FAO. N.p., n.d. Web.

[2] “A Case Study on the Manantali Dam Project (Mali, Mauritania, Senegal).” International Rivers. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Sept. 2016.

[3] Agroforestry in Dryland Africa by Rockeleau, D., Weber, F. and Field-Juma, A. 1988, ICRAF (International Centre for Research in Agroforestry, Nairobi, Kenya).

[4] Rep. Department of Agronomy and Horticulture, University of Nebraska. FAO, n.d. Web.


1 Comment

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One response to “Manatali Dam: the catalyst for development?

  1. amyquandt

    Do you know who funded the dam and if there were any social or environmental assessments done before it was built? It seems like that could have helped in this situation.


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