Failure and success factors of irrigation system developments: A case study from the Ouémé and Zou Valleys in Benin

Justin Fagnombo Djagba, Jonne Rodenburg*, Sander J. Zwart, Cossi J. Houndagba, Paul Kiepe

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

29 Citations (Scopus)


In the period 1960-1980, Chinese and Taiwanese cooperations developed irrigated rice schemes throughout West Africa with variable success. In Benin for instance, schemes in Zonmon and Bamè (Ouémé Valley) were abandoned upon withdrawal of the project developers and have been sub-optimally used ever since, while the neighbouring scheme of Koussin-Lélé (Zou Valley) is still functional (double rice cropping) and well operated and maintained by the farmers. The factors for success and failure were investigated by comparing the two abandoned schemes with the successful one, using field observations and stakeholder surveys. We observed that (i) operation and maintenance costs associated with irrigation were presumably lower in the successful scheme--where irrigation was driven by gravity--compared to the failed ones--where part of the schemes were designed for motor-pump driven irrigation. Moreover, contrary to the situation in the unsuccessful schemes, farmers in the successful scheme of Koussin-Lélé benefit from (ii) external technical support, (iii) a favourable land tenure policy, entailing seasonal redistribution of plots favouring active and motivated producers, (iv) reliable access to credit, and (v) an effective farmer organization. These observations underscore the importance of addressing the longer-term technical and financial needs of the beneficiaries for the successful development of irrigation schemes advancing smallholder farmers in sub-Saharan Africa.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)328-339
Number of pages12
JournalIrrigation and drainage
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Irrigated system rehabilitation
  • Irrigation development
  • Local communities
  • Rice production
  • Sub-Saharan Africa


Dive into the research topics of 'Failure and success factors of irrigation system developments: A case study from the Ouémé and Zou Valleys in Benin'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this