Blue Lifelines – Safeguarding Wetlands in the Sahel

The relevance of wetlands for food security and nutrition is underestimated worldwide and in the Sahel in particular. Experiences from the project sites in Mali and Ethiopia and from previous efforts have the potential to change Sahelian and global approaches and to be scaled-up through attracting investments by international financing institutions. The project is implemented by Wetlands International, Caritas Switzerland and a Swiss technology company hydrosolutions Ltd.

Country/region Topic Period Budget
Agriculture & food security
Agricultural development
Agricultural water resources
Agricultural services & market
Water sector policy
Water resources conservation
01.04.2018 - 30.06.2023
CHF  6’250’000
Background Water insecurity in food systems in the Sahel (from West- to East Africa) is chronic and negatively affecting food security and nutrition. Wetlands comprising the rivers, floodplains, inland deltas and lakes, cover more than 10% of the Sahel region. They are essential for farmers, fisher communities and pastoralists, especially in times of water insecurity, but their role and existence is under constant and increasing threat.
Objectives Food security and nutrition in the Sahel is improved by safeguarding wetlands
Target groups
  • Smallholders - women, men and youth and communities in and around wetlands
  • Service providers and non-governmental organizations
  • Local and national governments
  • International financing institutions
Medium-term outcomes
  • Outcome 1: Lac Wegnia, Sourou Basin (both Mali) and Ziway-Shalla Basin (Ethiopia) eco-systems services are supporting food production while ecologically sustainable agricultural water management (ESAWM) supports the ecosystem’s functioning.
  • Outcome 2: Smallholder food production in wetland landscapes is ecologically sound, economically viable and provides improved prospects for vulnerable social groups.
  • Outcome 3: Landscape-level approaches towards more ecologically sustainable, market-oriented, inclusive smallholder food production (ESAWM guidelines) are mainstreamed and scaled-up in Malian, Ethiopian, wider Sahelian wetland areas and brought to global policy fora and international financing institutions.

Expected results:  

  • In Lac Wegnia the total number of direct beneficiaries is 10’000, in the Sourou Basin 7’500 and in Ziway-Shalla 7’900.
  • In Lac Wegnia 10‘000 smallholders use new/improved inputs or services that allow ecologically sustainable food production and increase their income by 15%.
  • In Ziway-Shalla gender and youth sensitive ecological sustainable water management practices and technologies in irrigated (50 ha) and rain-fed agriculture (100 ha) are tested on their potential to be scaled-up.
  • In the Sourou Basin at least 2 new policy instruments are put in place contributing to socially inclusive market access and livelihood development.
  • National governments, regional and global fora acknowledge the need of a more environmentally sustainable approach towards food security and nutrition.
  • Knowledge and guidelines on inclusive financing mechanisms for landscape-scale ESAWM derived from the project is made available to investors.

Results from previous phases:  

Water surface change in the Ziway-Shalla Basin (Ethiopia), the Lake Abijata area decreased by 40% over the last 18 years and in the Lac Wegnia Basin (Mali), the area of Lac Wegnia decreased about 20% since 2000. In the Sourou Basin (Mali) the natural resources are over-exploited due to the increasing population pressure.

The project builds on previous and complementary activities and experiences at field level and in advocacy and policy influencing at local and national level in both countries by Wetlands International and the consortium partners.

Directorate/federal office responsible SDC
Credit area Development cooperation
Project partners Contract partner
International or foreign NGO

Other partners
Wetlands International (NL), leader of the consortium
Coordination with other projects and actors

Consortium partners: Caritas Switzerland,       hydrosolution Ltd. and International Water Management Institute (IWMI)

South Asia: WAPRO – Water Productivity in Rice and Cotton; Horn of Africa: Strengthening Drought Resilience in the Somali Region; Mali: Appui aux économies locales des collectivités de Youwarou et de Niafunké (PACY) Programme de Soutien aux Economies Locales du Delta intérieur du Niger (PSEL-DELTA)

Budget Current phase Swiss budget CHF    6’250’000 Swiss disbursement to date CHF    5’100’000
Project phases Phase 99 01.07.2023 - 31.03.2027   (Active) Phase 1 01.04.2018 - 30.06.2023   (Current phase)