Using locally controlled funds to support communities affected by large dams

A new animation from the Global Water Initiative (GWI) West Africa highlights financial measures to help people affected by large dams.

News, 06 July 2017
Global Water Initiative – West Africa
The Global Water Initiative sought to improve global food security by enabling farmers to better access, manage and use water resources for sustainable agricultural production

The new video, one of a three-part series, explains how local development funds can provide long-term financing to communities who lose their livelihoods when the construction of dams forces them from their land. 

As the three-minute animation 'Sharing the revenue from large dams to support local development' explains, these funds work by channelling a portion of a dam's revenue stream to affected communities. 

Large dams are built primarily with the vision of delivering national development goals – for example by providing electricity or irrigation. But local communities whose lives are disrupted by the dam should also see their development supported on the ground in the long term. 

Money from the development fund can be invested in schools, health clinics, markets, reservoirs for fishing, better roads and water supplies, and watershed conservation activities.

Resettlement programmes go some way to compensating for lost homes and lands but last only four or five years and are rarely long enough to fully rebuild livelihoods. The past has shown how resettled communities may slip into poverty post-dam construction because they do not have access to good quality land, jobs or the services they need to re-establish their lives over the longer term.

Local development funds run throughout the lifetime of a dam and can support livelihood opportunities when the compensation money runs out. These funds work particularly well because they allow local people to decide how the money is spent. 

"The main goal of large dam building is to bring benefits on a national scale. But local communities, who have been displaced by the dam, are often left without sufficient means and rights to rebuild their lives," said Jamie Skinner, principal researcher in IIED's Natural Resources research group, and leader of the West Africa programme of the Global Water Initiative.

"We've created this short animation to inform decision makers and other stakeholders about the potential of local development funds as a simple way of making sure resettled communities directly receive their share in the dam's benefit. Local development funds are a win-win solution for governments, where large dam construction achieves a good balance between local and national development objectives. Furthermore, they are included in the ECOWAS Directive on Large Water Infrastructure."

The series of three animations is produced by the GWI action-research and advocacy project. They are available in English and in French (en français), with English/French subtitles. Choose one of the three versions above or on IIED's YouTube channel. There is also the facility to access further captions in French and English by clicking on the settings icon within each video.

GWI works with family farmers and governments to shape policies and practices that support livelihoods and food security in the context of large multi-purpose dams. It helps communities and governments learn from past experience to improve dam planning, benefit sharing and resettlement practices. GWI is funded by the Howard G. Buffett Foundation and implemented by IIED and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).