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Title: Sustainable agricultural intensification at community-managed reservoirs in the Volta basin
Author: Jones, Sarah
Awarding Body: King's College London
Current Institution: King's College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2019
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Dry season food production has been promoted in the West African Volta basin since the 1960s through the construction of hundreds of dams on minor rivers to create small, community-managed reservoirs. The benefits of these reservoirs for smallholder crop farmers are disputed in academic literature. There is little concrete evidence regarding their effectiveness at increasing dry season crop production or improving human well-being (HWB) outcomes for local households. Construction of reservoirs remains a regional policy priority, with Burkina Faso increasing investments in dams under its 2016-2020 national development plan and Ghana committed to a ‘One village, One dam’ initiative for 2017-2024. Stronger evidence of the conditions under which community-managed reservoirs provide the intended benefits and how to make benefits sustainable could help ensure the success of existing and future investments. This thesis developed and tested low-cost, transferable methods for monitoring the distribution and water storage dynamics of reservoirs in the Volta basin and their impacts on dry season crop production across different socio-economic and environmental contexts. Qualitative research at four community-managed reservoirs in Burkina Faso and Ghana was used to assess farmer perceptions of the benefits and HWB outcomes of access to reservoir water in relation to other natural resources in reservoir landscapes. Results show that remotely sensed imagery can be reliably used to monitor reservoir water availability, but challenges remain over very small reservoirs. Across the Volta basin, there is high spatial and seasonal variability in reservoir water availability to farmers. Nearly half of small and medium reservoirs, i.e. those smaller than 10 Mm3, are actively used for irrigation during the dry season. Uptake of irrigation at these reservoirs is more likely where there is better water availability (larger volumes, higher runoff rates, fewer dry months), better local market access (proximity to towns), greater pressure on local water resources (higher population and cattle densities, poorer water quality), and where there are marginally fewer human resources available (slightly lower labour availability and literacy rates). Farmers at the four case study sites characterised their landscapes as multi-functional supplying a diversity of ecosystem services (ES) and disservices (ED). ES were highly valued by local farmers for their contribution to multiple dimensions of HWB, however the importance of specific services varied significantly with farmer socio-economic profile. Making the dry season benefits of reservoirs accessible to farmers is part reliant on the surrounding ecosystem providing adequate amounts of ES that support crop production, food storage and cooking, and help maintain farmer health, highlighting the importance of integrated landscape approaches to reservoir design and management. Potential trade-offs in HWB outcomes and between households needs to be carefully considered in ecosystem management decisions in reservoir contexts to secure sustainable food production and development outcomes.
Supervisor: Mulligan, Mark ; Mirumachi, Naho Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available