C4 – Joint Solutions for Water & Security Risks in Mali

Nearly two million people depend on the waters of the Upper Niger River and seasonal wetlands in Mali’s Inner Delta. The delta directly supports them with freshwater, fish, pasture and fertile land for rice paddies and other crop production. The Upper Niger River is heterogeneous society composed of several ethnic groups, who make their living from livestock keeping, agriculture and fishing, traditionally synchronizing their movements with the annual river flood. This has however, been changing.

Ongoing conflict dynamics in the north and centre of Mali has led to a flight of technical state services from these regions, with consequent impacts on water infrastructure being abandoned or destroyed. Water insecurity has contributed to increased migration, with people on the move to find water for their survival, impacting the demographics of the Upper Niger River.

Water availability of the River Niger has also changed. Upstream dams, and increased water extraction for irrigation in the context of decreased upstream rainfall has reduced the flow of water significantly. Climate impacts, namely longer and more frequent droughts, in combination with changing demographics is increasing the competition for already scarce water resources and has fuelled inter-communal conflicts. The Mali government has been unable to support communities in containing these conflicts; instead it has caused further grievances among communities, with plans to expand the irrigation in the Office du Niger and by not taking a clear position with regard to the building of the Fomi dam further upstream in Guinea. In this context, armed groups, some linked to jihadism, have managed to gain foothold in central Mali including along the banks of the Upper Niger River.

This workshop will spotlight the water and conflict risks in Mali, focusing particularly on the Inner Niger Delta. These risks will be discussed with water and security experts from Mali and with insights gained by Wetlands International and International Alert working in the region. With help of a scenario modelling exercise, the experts together with the workshop participants will explore possible policy and programmatic approaches to address water and security risks in Mali. The focus will primarily be on the opportunities to develop more effective and joined up responses of the water, security, development sectors. This will help set the agenda for a high-level stakeholder dialogue in Mali planned under an ongoing Water, Peace and Security initiative funded by the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Session Outline 

  • Introduction
  • The security situation in Central Mali in relation to water resources: interviews with leaders from the Inner Niger Delta in Mali
  • Decision support tool showing possible impacts of decreased natural resources on security and conflict: introduction by Deltares
  • The need for a decision support tool: panel discussion with development, diplomacy and defence actors at national and international levels  
  • The need for a decision support tool: plenary discussion
  • Conclusions

Workshop objectives

• Build understanding of the complex water and security risks in Mali and the entire


• Familiarise the PSI participants with scenario building and how it can be used to

encourage foresight collaboration and solution-seeking.


 Target audience

• Donor agencies and international organizations

• Investors in agriculture, renewable energy and other relevant business in Mali and the

Niger River Basin

• Water, security, natural resource and governance researchers and experts

• Water, peacebuilding, development, and climate change practitioners


Desired outcomes

Workshop participants will have an expanded and locally grounded view on the interactions

between water stress, climate change, governance and conflict in Mali, through an innovative

scenario modelling exercise. Ideas will be formulated on how scenario building around water, security and development can be improved to address water and security risks. International Alert and

Wetlands International will collect ideas generated through the workshop and feed them into an

ongoing initiative in Mali that aims to work with the water and security sectors in developing

joined integrated approaches to water and security risks.


The session will be bilingual English/French.

Picture Credit: UN Multimedia