Shallow wells, the untapped resource with a potential to improve agriculture and food security in southern Mali

Birhanu, Z B and Tabo, R (2016) Shallow wells, the untapped resource with a potential to improve agriculture and food security in southern Mali. Agriculture and Food Security, 05 (05). 01-13. ISSN 2048-7010

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Background Excessive rainwater during the rainy season and lack of water in the dry season have been challenging the agricultural productivity and food security for rural communities in southern Mali. Various soil and water conservation practices were implemented in the past to improve crop yields and income, and reverse the effect of land degradation. However, none of these efforts looked into the potential use of shallow wells at a spatial scale to improve the agricultural productivity and hence the food security in the region. Results In total 484 shallow wells were geo-referenced, mapped and studied in two districts, Bougouni and Koutiala, in southern Mali to understand the dynamics of groundwater recharge and relationship with rainfall in different seasons. The study found out that shallow wells were mainly utilized for household and livestock water consumption and not for agricultural water use. Well construction history followed the trend of the severe drought that hit the Sahel in the years of the 1970s and 1980s. Majority of wells (87 % in Bougouni and 84 % in Koutiala) were constructed after the drought period with significant variation of construction in the two districts (p value 0.032). Well depths ranged from 1 to 150 m, with the majority of wells (64 %) within the depth range of 6.5–14.5 m (p value 0.043). During the dry season water was available in the majority of wells (73 %) at a depth range from 5.5 to 15.5 m (p value 0.996). In the rainy season on average 84 % of wells in Bougouni and 94 % of wells in Koutiala experience water level rise within the range of 0.5–10.5 m (p value 0.423/Bougouni and 0.991/Koutiala). In few of the studied villages shallow wells were found to be fast recharging, thus enabling farmers to buffer the negative effects of drought conditions. Conclusion Shallow wells are important sources of water in rural Mali. The wells have adequate recharging capacity during the rainy season and insignificant water level variation during the dry season. Though accessing water from shallow wells was labour-intensive and mostly done by women and the youth, water is available within an average depth ranging from 5.5 to 15.5 m from most studied wells. The issue of water scarcity in different seasons was thus attributed to accessibility due to the lack of appropriate water lifting mechanisms. Groundwater was an untapped resource in Mali, and we suggest groundwater management needs to be given consideration along with other management practices in the changing climate condition to improve the agricultural productivity and food security.

Item Type: Article
Divisions: Research Program : West & Central Africa
CRP: CGIAR Research Program on Water, Land and Ecosystems (WLE)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Agriculture and food security, Bougouni district, Geo-referencing and mapping, Groundwater, Koutiala district, Monitoring shallow wells, Southern Mali, Water level variation
Subjects: Others > Water Resources
Depositing User: Mr Ramesh K
Date Deposited: 03 May 2016 07:56
Last Modified: 13 Feb 2017 03:55
Official URL:
Acknowledgement: This study was supported by Africa RISING program in West Africa. Authors are very grateful to the financial support provided by USAID through IITA, which is the leader of the program in West Africa. We would like to thank Dr. Anthony Whitbread, ICRISAT Research Program Director for reviewing the first draft of the manuscript and for suggesting areas of improvement. We are also grateful to the two anonymous reviewers who reviewed the manuscript and provided useful suggestions to improve the contents. We appreciate the effort made by Mr. Cedrick Guedessou, Mr. Dicko Mahamodaou, Mr. Karamoko Traore, Mr. Sidi Toure, Mr. Marc Traore and members of the ten farming communities in southern Mali in availing data for the study. We are thankful to Dr. Carlos Azzari (from IFPRI) who provided the GIS map of the ten farming communities in southern Mali.
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