Make sustainable use of wetlands and improve food security

The Sahel Zone is particularly hard affected by climatic changes. This leads to water shortages and threatens the food security of people working in agriculture, who form the majority of the population. With this project, Caritas is protecting the available water resources. We are creating incentives for small farmers to use water more efficiently, thus enabling them to increase crop yields and cover their food needs.


Background information

In both the Sahel Zone and the Horn of Africa, ensuring food security is a key challenge for poverty reduction and development throughout the region. The peoples in the Sahel Zone and the Horn of Africa are particularly hard affected by changing climatic conditions. The climate fluctuations, together with intensive and inefficient agricultural water usage, are leading to water shortages and endangering food security in the entire region. According to the UNHCR (2015), the nutritional situation for more than 20 million people is insecure.

According to the Human Development Index of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), in 2018 Mali ranked 182 out of 189, meaning that it is one of the poorest countries in the world. An estimated 50% of the population live below the poverty line. More than 60% of the workforce work in the primary sector are therefore directly affected by changing climatic conditions. Access to appropriate agricultural advice is restricted, making it difficult to adapt water usage and cultivation methods to changing conditions.

Numerous projects in recent years have focused on industrial irrigation systems to increase productivity for arable portions of land in arid areas. However, such systems are based on the premise of intact lake- and wetlands, but these have now become unreliable due to population growth and the unregulated use of existing resources.

The selected project regions were, two wetlands in Mali which were classified in accordance with the international Ramsar standard, and one area in Ethiopia (for more information refer to subproject in Ethiopia). The project regions are comparable in terms of water availability, agricultural intensity, risk to ecosystems and the market situation, and display similar social dynamics. The livelihood of the local population is severely affected, both by the high pressure to use ever more natural resources, and the massive use of agrochemicals. Although the areas surrounding the lakes and wetlands do have potential for economic development, they are experiencing falling water levels and face the danger of drying up in the near future if they remain subjected to inappropriately managed, unsustainable usage.


What are we doing?

Through this project, Caritas Switzerland is promoting sustainable water usage and crop cultivation systems that are designed to increase agricultural productivity and enable long-term protection of an endangered ecosystem. The switchover to appropriately adopted cultivation methods will bring stability for local markets and strengthen the resilience of small farmers.

The project focuses on stabilizing and protecting the available water resources. It creates incentives for small farmers, private sector organizations and government agencies to adapt to more sustainable water usage for agriculture. Caritas Switzerland is promoting methods to make irrigation systems more efficient. These measures are intended to raise awareness that the livelihood of the local population can be maintained only with sustainably effective systems. These aim at ensuring that consumers of larger quantities of water, such as companies from the local agricultural industry, as well as the processing industry, shift to sustainable water usage techniques.

In order to maintain production potential and soil fertility, water-efficient, agro-ecological measures are supported; for example, planting drought-resistant crop varieties. The farmers are assisted in their task of organizing themselves in cooperatives, which help them to obtain better market conditions. In addition to making more efficient use of the precious water, local farmers can use this same approach to increase their crop yields and better meet their food needs. New techniques for the production, storage and preservation of their products will improve energy efficiency, reducing the pressure on the natural resource wood and thus the ecosystem. Another important aspect of the project is the technical support in the creation and implementation of the respective local development and water usage plan, which Caritas Switzerland  provides jointly with various local partners.

in Mali’s Sourou Basin, the water shortage is already chronic. Both the nomadic and fixed abode communities are being deeply involved in the implementation of the new water usage and irrigation systems. Agro-ecological cultivation methods are being promoted to preserve the fragile ecosystem, the amount and the quality of water. The introduction of innovative microfinance systems is designed to improve market access for women and form the basis for investments in agriculture, fishing and animal husbandry.

At institutional level, modalities for water usage are developed. In cooperation with the local government authorities, plans for water management are then drawn up for the regulation of the water quantities drawn by the respective user groups. Based on this water usage metering data, the various users are then charged fixed tariffs per m3. The income thus derived can be used not only to finance the local authority activities but also to enforce long-term compliance with the developed rules and standards.


Your donation


Country / Region / Place

Target group
6 000 direct and  32 000 indirect beneficiaries

Funding requirement
2'721'592 Swiss Francs

Project duration
01.07.2019 to 31.08.2023

Project number

Project objective
Food security is improved by promoting sustainable water usage and cultivation systems in lake- and wetlands.

Project manager
Joëlle Affolter, Tel: 041 419 23 54; jaffolternot shown@caritasto make life hard for spam


Caritas’ Climate Projects

People and their living conditions are at the centre of our climate projects. Our projects help the poorest people to cope with the consequences of climate change and the resulting weather extremes such as droughts and cyclones. We help smallholder families to achieve a high-yield harvest and develop new income sources despite the greatly changed conditions. Together with the population, we protect, preserve and rehabilitate natural resources such as lakes, forests and soils. In addition, we promote the sustainable and efficient use of energy, which enables families and entire communities to escape poverty.


This project is supported by:

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Caritas Switzerland
Adligenswilerstrasse 15
P.O. Box
CH-6002 Lucerne


IBAN CH69 0900 0000 6000 7000 4
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