Small is beautiful in northern Togo

Helping Togo adapt to water shortage under a changing climate

“In a changing climate where crops are often washed away by floods, the practice of farming and market gardening in the dry season provides additional income to women's groups and youth. Rehabilitation of water reservoirs will help reduce rural poverty.”
Mr. El Hadj Mossyamba Ali Seydou, Senior Divisional Officer, Savanne District, Togo

The Problem

Togo is one of several countries with a northern region that borders the Sahara Desert, and the people of the north have for years used earth water reservoirs for their own use and to water their livestock in times of drought. But many of the dams in these poor, rural areas have fallen into disrepair and, with desert encroachment and accelerating climate change, are no longer adequate, threatening the health and development of the local population.

The Solution

Small is often beautiful in terms of adapting to climate change. In July 2009 the Climate Change and Development – Adapting by Reducing Vulnerability (CC DARE) programme responded to a request from Togo’s Department of Village Water Supply for financial and technical support to help the authorities and communities of Savanne District in northern Togo improve their understanding of climate change adaptation, undertake the rehabilitation of selected water reservoirs, and then use the information and expertise gained to develop a proposal for the rehabilitation of all water reservoirs in Togo.


With funding of $100,000, two dams were rehabilitated, involving excavation, enlargement, construction and reinforcement of dykes, pipe strengthening, and development of channels to feed fish ponds. Overall storage capacity was increased by more than 40 per cent, and the project yielded reliable economic data and concrete adaptation information that will guide future interventions. The joint UNEP and UNDP programme uses funding from the Government of Denmark to make big differences in developing countries that are on the climate front line. Working with the Togo Government local authorities, community leaders and the private sector, the project showed how small, flexible and targeted support can deliver significant change. This includes improving access to water for local communities, enhancing understanding of climate change and the planning and activities necessary to adapt to it, and providing valuable data for bigger interventions elsewhere in the country.

The Big Picture

As a result of this rehabilitation project, local communities have an increased understanding of the role of plants and forests in conserving water and soil, and have been encouraged to landscape water points with appropriate vegetation cover to reduce evaporation and encourage biodiversity renewal. Togo’s Ministry of Water Resources has gained a tool to help manage water policy under a changing climate, supported by more informed communities and local authorities that understand the importance of small dam rehabilitation, and can see the impact of such interventions on people and their livelihoods. The data on costs extracted from the project will not only enable such schemes to be put into practice on a small or large scale elsewhere in Togo and across Africa, but will also allow them to be implemented at a significantly reduced cost and with locally sourced materials.

Status Report

CCDARE in Sub - Saharan Africa