Micro-Dam in Tigray, Ethiopia © JP Venot

Circumstances of Corruption in the Planning of Small Reservoirs

Experiences from Sub-Saharan Africa (Brief)

Small reservoirs are known to have great benefits for the communities surrounding and managing them. They are particularly useful for soil and water conservation, drought-proofing,community-based irrigation, livestock rearing, …  Small reservoirs can enhance rural incomes and contribute to food security,helping to limit migration from rural areas.  However, they are often criticized for their high costs, too region-specific design, poor-quality construction and low performance.

IWMI researchers examined specific examples of small reservoirs in Ghana and concluded from their analysis that “many of the shortcomings relating to high costs and mismanagement could have been prevented if closer attention had been paid to the varying motivations, interests and dynamics of all the actors involved.”

Based on this assessment, the brief explores key integrity, corruption and mismanagement risks faced by the planners of small reservoirs in rural Sub-Saharan Africa. All in all, it is believe that water integrity is an overlooked element of small reservoir planning that could reduce risks and improve overall reservoir performance.

The brief closes with a series of recommendations to improve the planning process with more integrity, including

  • Acknowledging the complexity of the planning and construction process.
  • Creating an environment in which it is possible to learn and talk about corruption, as a first step towards preventing it.
  • Allocating more time for the planning and negotiation phases, in order to build trust among all project participants. Organisational processes must ensure user participation in the design, decision-making,inspection and monitoring of small reservoir construction, to ensure accountability.
  • Using innovative, small-scale, context-specific approaches to plan small reservoir construction.
  • Encouraging more research on the daily lives and working conditions of actors involved in the planning and implementation of small reservoirs.


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