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Powering irrigation for bumper harvest in agriculture

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That the decision, by the federal government, to diversify the economy through agriculture has begun to yield gains is no longer news.

But the demonstration of commitment to and confidence in the the diversification process is what public analysts have described as needed impetus that will continue to stimulate bumper harvest.

And to sustain the recent gains in the agricultural sector, government, as a matter of urgency, has been urged to map out strategies to confront, especially, consistent climate change.

Also significant is the issue of how to ensure crop production all year round even as seasonal rainfall becomes more and more unpredictable.

A lot has to be done if the country must sustain the present tempo and ensure there is crop production all year round. A few of the important steps and actions are already being taken.

For instance, the Nigerian Central Bank has established an Anchor Borrowers’ Program to “create economic linkage between smallholder farmers and reputable large-scale processors with a view to increasing agricultural output and significantly improving capacity utilization of processors.”

Governments at all levels are also supporting different actors in the agricultural sector with extension services and improved access to inputs.

There are however several other areas where urgent intervention can deepen the contributions of the sector to the GDP and guarantee food security. One of such areas is water resources management for dry season farming.

Dry season farming is crucial to Nigeria’s crop production because the country has a rainy season which could be as limited as four months in a year.

Without dry season farming, crop production will be restricted to only one or two quarters of the year and this is one of the reasons why Nigeria has consistently failed to realize its huge potentials in the sector.

But this is changing as the World Bank commences a 4-year collaboration with the federal government through the Ministry of Water Resources to improve access to irrigation services across Northern Nigeria.

Speaking on the intervention in a recent interview, the National Project Coordinator and Head of the Project Management Unit, Engineer Peter Yakubu Manjuk disclosed that the main objective of the project is to, “improve access to irrigation and drainage services and to strengthen institutional arrangements for integrated water resources management and agriculture service delivery in selected large-scale public schemes in Northern Nigeria.”

He explained that through the project known as Transforming Irrigation Management in Nigeria (TRIMING), selected public irrigation schemes will be rehabilitated to increase agricultural productivity of irrigated lands in the selected areas.

“The rehabilitations will be complemented with improvements in dams and reservoirs to guarantee integrated water management and improve safety for people downstream.

This will help to increase agricultural productivity of the irrigated lands. Then, TRIMING will support the processing and marketing side of the increased output”, he explained.

He also explained that the intervention consists of four components. These components, he said, are interlinked in such a way that they will, individually and collectively, lead to enhanced irrigation capacity and increased agricultural output through the value chain development strategy.

The TRIMING Project four components are linked with each other. While the main thrust of the project is rehabilitating public irrigation schemes, it needs to be complemented with the component which seeks improvements in dams/reservoirs to assure integrated water management and to improve safety for people downstream.

The objective of the third component is to help increase agricultural productivity of the irrigated lands as well as with the processing and marketing side of the increased output. The fourth component is essential for capacity building and managing the three other components.

Engineer Manjuk noted that four of the major public irrigation schemes with a combined irrigation area of about 50,000 hectares currently serving about 70,000 farmers will be transformed through the intervention.

He said the transformation of the four and other schemes will increase the irrigation area, thereby increasing the number of served farmers.

One of the four schemes is the Bakolori Irrigation Scheme (BIS) in Zamfara state. Established in 1983, the scheme is managed under the Sokoto-Rima River Basin and Rural Development Authority (SRRBDA).

He said, “The BIS has a total irrigation area of 23,000 hectares. Out of the 23,000 hectares, 15,000 hectares are under sprinkler/overhead irrigation while the remaining and 8,000 hectares are on surface irrigation.

Under the TRIMING project, support will be provided to rehabilitate and re-convert the former sprinkler-equipped area to achieve a maximum improved irrigated area of 21,000 hectares. Feasibility studies for the scheme have already been completed and it is considered as the first of the five schemes to be ready for implementation.”

“Like the BIS, the Middle Rima Irrigation Scheme (MRIS) in Sokoto state is also managed by the SRRBDA and has an area of approximately 2,000 hectares equipped for irrigation with very low agricultural intensification as a first sector was completed in 2006, second one in 2010 and the third completed in 2014.

Furthermore, the experience of the farmers in this scheme in irrigated agriculture is very short when compared with the other schemes. There is an existing contract for finalizing the works for a total of 5,000 hectares.

In this scheme, the project will focus on the hardware for the dam safety requirements and on the software for the irrigation scheme. During the first years of project, this would result in improved irrigated area of 2,500 hectares and could be further expanded to a total of about 5,000 hectares once the remaining infrastructure is completed.”

The National Project Coordinator also explained that while the Kano River Irrigation Project (KRIP)’s equipped irrigation area is 15,000 hectares, only 12,000 hectares are being irrigated.

He said the Project will focus, in the first instance, on rehabilitating the equipped irrigation area so that it can become fully operational.

The same action will be taken in the case of the Hadejia Valley Irrigation Scheme (HVIS) in Jigawa state. “The equipped irrigation area in the HVIS is 6,000 hectares though only 5,000 hectares are being irrigated. As it is in the case of the KRIP, TRIMING will focus in the first instance on the rehabilitation of the equipped irrigation area so that it becomes fully operational”, he explained.

He further explained that in order to ensure proper implementation and achievement of project objectives, roles and responsibilities have been assigned to specific implementation partners.

He said for instance, ACDI/VOCA, an economic development organization based in Washington DC is saddled with the responsibility of supporting the implementation of Component 3 of the project which is “enhancing agricultural productivity and support to value chains development of the TRIMING project.”

“The aim of this component is to provide resources to enhance farmers’ productivity in the rehabilitated schemes and improve their participation in the value chains developed. ACDI/VOCA’s capacity is in catalyzing investment, climate smart agriculture, empowerment, resilience, institutional strengthening, and market systems.”

One of the additional strategies for enhancing farmers’ productivity will be the establishment of Farm Management and Service Delivery Centers (FMCs) in each irrigation scheme.

The envisaged FMCs will be one stop shops that will provide technical assistance to farmers and eligible beneficiaries in the areas of accounting and financial management (e.g. establishing accounting software, book keeping), business planning and establishing out-grower schemes to facilitate commercialization of farmers products.

The centers will also facilitate access to technologies such as mechanization and agro-processing support, inputs and finance, as well as technical support through extension services (provided directly or through third parties such as the state owned Agriculture and Rural Development Authorities responsible for extension services), including training, and Research and Development in partnership with relevant R&D institutions.

Engineer Manjuk disclosed that, “It is expected that by project closing farmers will pay 100 percent of the costs of the FMCs.”

The intervention is already generating excitement amongst value chain actors in the targeted public irrigation schemes. Malam Auwalu Gambo is a tomato and rice farmer in Yadakwari, one of the farming communities irrigated by KRIP in Garun Malam Local Government Area of Kano State.

He said the project will make dry season farming profitable again. “I see happy times ahead with this intervention. Our public water scheme has become so unreliable over the years that we carry out dry season farming with a lot of trepidation. But with the planned rehabilitation, we can have reliable water supply for irrigation and even expand to areas we had abandoned due to inadequate supply”, he enthused.

“One other thing that really excites me about the intervention is the fact that we will also have access to technologies, financial management, inputs, training and extension services through the FMC which will be established in our scheme.

The combination of better irrigation from the scheme and support from the FMC can only make me and other farmers some of the happiest people in Nigeria.”

For Malam Auwalu and his ilk, there are many reasons to be upbeat about the intervention as they would benefit directly. But they are not alone.

Every Nigerian will have cause to rejoice once the intervention takes off as it will improve dry season farming, thereby further increasing the agricultural sector’s contribution to the GDP and ultimately bringing stability to economic development as the country is weaned off its dependence on crude oil.



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