Enhancing productive use of alluvial aquifers

Arid African Alluvial Aquifers - A4Labs


A4Labs is an action research on Arid African Alluvial Aquifers. It will co-develop, test, share and compare with farmers and partners methodologies to create a reliable and sustainable source of water for agriculture in three semi-arid to arid regions of Sub-Sahara Africa, using water from dry river beds. A4Labs will also upscale these methodologies for use at river basin scale while maintaining sustainable abstraction limits and minimising negative social and ecological consequences.

We will do so by developing experimental sites (“living labs”) where smallholder farmers, practitioners, agricultural extension officers, water engineers, private sector players and students co-develop new (technological, agronomic, financial, market) approaches of accessing and using shallow groundwater for productive purposes, and evaluate the hydrological, social and economic effects and impacts. Co-learning will be institutionalised at the sites, as well as between the three sites, through conscious monitoring and evaluations by farmers and other players, assisted by local students.


The semi-arid to arid regions we have in mind comprise 30% of Africa’s land area. These lands are often considered marginal and lost to socio-economic development due to water scarcity. The project will study alternative ways in which water from alluvial aquifers can best be accessed and used for productive purposes and thus promote socio-economic development.


The action research will take place in 3 arid to semi-arid regions in Africa:     

What will change   

Farmer-tested ways of using shallow groundwater more effectively, efficiently and sustainably, will lead to farmers adopting new practices and improving their livelihoods. The tested “living labs” methodology will foster co-creation and innovation with and by farmers, and as this is embedded in local structures it will change existing development practices and lead to more effective approaches and cross-sectoral collaboration. Documented and critically evaluated experiences of action research will lead to South-South-North learning and improved methodologies for action-research.

This farmer- and practitioner-centred research will contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals, in particular SDG #1 (poverty), #2 (hunger), #6 (water) and #13 (climate adaptation).

The project has started in October 2016 for a period of initially 3 years. It is funded by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs (DUPC funding).