Developing Small Dams and Social Capital in Yemen: Local Responses to External Assistance

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"This paper examines six cases of small dam development along small seasonal rivers (wadi) in the rugged mountainous province of Al-Mahweet in north central Yemen. Development of small dams is a current priority of the Government of Yemen and various foreign donors. The government's objectives for small dam development are to recharge groundwater aquifers, create new irrigated area and provide sources of water for domestic uses. "The paper examines how external assistance effects local social responses of whether to invest, as groups, in further dam development, to construct water delivery systems and create rules for management. Most external assistance strategies are designed and managed in ways which discourage development of local 'social capital' for dam development--even in cases where local people desire to develop small dams. Social capital tends to develop in cases where assistance is modest, dependent on matching local investment, or is unavailable. "The cases show that where the share of farmer investment in a dam project is dominant (such as in Al-Mamar and Saheb) the cost per ha and even cost per m3 of water storage created is significantly lower compared with projects dominated by government assistance. The cases suggest that external assistance produces high-cost projects and discourage local investment. The cases with high proportions of external assistance also have poorly developed rules for investment, water rights and O&M. "The author recommends that assistance strategies be reoriented to place highest priority on facilitating development of local institutions and social capital. External technical assistance should be designed to facilitate local initiatives and financial assistance should be provided to stimulate, not supplant, local investment capacity."
IASC, common pool resources, dams, irrigation, social capital, rural development, investment, institutional analysis