This research brief outlines the findings of an exploratory study of the Office du Niger (ON), (a large-scale riverine irrigation scheme)carried out in late 2005 as part of the first phase of research in Mali by the Research Consortium on Improving Institutions and Pro-Poor Growth (IPPG). The ON is an institution created by French colonialism, inherited by the independent Malian State in 1960. It is often said in Mali that the ON exerts a statelike control over the lives of its tenants. Within this great colonial and postcolonial venture it is possible to discern the interactions of economic institutions (the colonial charter, the laws governing access to land, marketing, input), social institutions (farmers' associations, unions, relations between staff and farmers) and cultural institutions (ethnic identities, social structures, indigenous people and migrants). We analyse the impact of these institutions on economic growth within the ON, in particular on pro-poor growth. Given that the policies followed by different regimes and in different contexts vary, we have concentrated on how these institutions have influenced the growth of the ON, the attempts to reform them \"from above\", and on how poor farmers have struggled since the 1940s, largely through the creation of their own organisations.
Mali Research Brief 2, IPPG Briefing Paper No. Fourteen, DFID, London, UK, 2 pp.