Pirates or pioneers?: unplanned irrigation around small reservoirs in Burkina Faso

Small reservoirs in Burkina Faso are constructed for many purposes such as domestic water uses, livestock watering and irrigated rice production downstream of the dam. Increasingly farmers use individually owned motorized pumps to draw water directly from the reservoir and irrigate vegetables upstream of the dam. This practice, while tolerated, is unauthorized and referred to as 'irrigation pirate' in French. Upstream vegetable cultivation is successful because it is more profitable than downstream rice cultivation. Often, the 'unofficial' irrigated area around the reservoir is much larger than the official command area below the dam. However, in the absence of an overarching authority to manage the water source, this may lead to conflicts and resource degradation. We take the example of the Korsimoro reservoir in Burkina Faso to illustrate the positive and negative impacts of spontaneous individual irrigation around communally managed water bodies.