Since 2012, Mali has been experiencing continuous water insecurity and conflicts. Initially spared from instability, the Inner Niger Delta – the largest floodplain in Africa situated in Central Mali – has become a hotspot of inter-communal violence and an operational base for armed groups and militias.

The Delta is home to more than 2 million people whose farming, fishing and cattle-raising livelihoods strongly depend on the Delta’s ecosystems. The use of shared resources for these people, such as access to floodplains, has primarily been managed through local governance and traditional structures. However, the ecosystems and people’s livelihoods are affected by the increasing variability in water availability due to climate change and upstream water allocation decisions.

Control over water resources in this context is straining relations between farmer, pastoralist and fishermen communities. Shared resources management is also challenged by shifting power dynamics in the region, as local governance is being captured by groups with various ethnic or religious agendas, which instrumentalize deeply seated grievances around access to resources.  

Catching fish in Teriya Bugu, Mali (© Nicolas Réméné / International Alert)

WPS involvement

In Mali, the Water, Peace & Security (WPS) partnership engages and equips local communities in the Delta to resolve water-related conflicts through dialogue and mediation. WPS has helped establish three dialogue platforms in the region, supported with evidence from information tools and trained in water cooperation and conflict mediation.

On a national-scale, WPS raises awareness and supports the development of conflict-sensitive water policies, operational instruments and investments focused on upstream-downstream relations in the Delta. Champions from various departments and governance levels are being trained to understand the complex dynamics of water-related conflicts and how policy decisions play a role. These trainings are informed by tools that show linkages between policy choices and water-based livelihood decisions versus water and natural resources access in the Delta.

The Inner Niger Delta in Mali. Source: Deltares

Next steps

Looking forward, WPS intends to link our local dialogue platforms with each other and support their advocacy efforts towards subnational and national authorities. Through participatory causal chain analysis, champions from various governance levels will identify more conflict-sensitive water and natural resources policies and ways to manage water and other shared resources across scales.

WPS seeks to operationalize and fund these ideas through presentations at high-profile political meetings in Bamako, throughout the Delta and among the international community and regional forums. We also intend to raise awareness on the link between Water, Peace and Security through a creative media campaign. Read more about our local work in Mali in our policy brief.

Frexus project in Mali, Chad and Niger

WPS is also active in Mali, as well as Chad and Niger, as part of the Frexus project with The Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ). The Frexus project aims to improve security and climate resilience in a fragile context through the Water-Energy-Food Security Nexus. Read more about the Frexus project.



Karounga Keita
Regional Director – The Sahel | Wetlands International
Charlie Avis
Senior Technical Officer, Rivers & Lakes | Wetlands International