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Exploring drip irrigation techs for youth engagement, food security

By Femi Ibirogba, Head, Agro-Economy
01 April 2021   |   3:02 am
The Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) has reiterated the important role water plays in food production, nutrition, and employment opportunities for youths

Mini drip irrigation system

FAO, others say food security impossible without water, agro-techs
• How farmers can irrigate one-hectare farmland with N1m’

The Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) has reiterated the important role water plays in food production, nutrition, and employment opportunities for youths when combined with agricultural technologies.

Rain-fed agriculture, FAO infers, has become inadequate in the efforts to feed the growing human and animal populations around the world as the negative effects of climate change bite harder on individuals, households, and communities, especially in resource-poor and developing countries.

Marking World Water Day, the United States (UN’s) organisation said: “Water is vital in agriculture and plays an important role in food and nutrition security. On World Water Day 2021, we’re talking about just how truly valuable water is, much more so than its price. Water has an enormous and complex role in our daily lives, food, culture, health, education, economics and the integrity of our natural environment.”

Emphasising the importance of technologies to maximising water utilisation for food production, FAO said drip irrigation, one of the farm irrigation technologies, should be explored in developing countries not only for intensive food production but also for employment opportunities and poverty alleviation.

“Drip irrigation system has been revolutionary. Drip irrigation is a controlled irrigation method that works by exposing plant roots to a direct supply of water, releasing drops in a slow and steady fashion,” FAO said in a report on Monday.

It said in close collaboration with the local government authorities in Kenya, FAO had been mobilising youths in the area and helped build capacity for improving agricultural production.

Shedding light on how water technologies could boost agriculture, Integrated Project Country Manager, Dizengoff Nigeria, Mr Oscar Walumbe, also advocated smart agriculture using mobile or small-scale irrigation kits. He said apart from greenhouses, open drip irrigation kits have poverty alleviation and wealth-creation potentialities, especially off rainy seasons.

Walumbe said 500 square metres to one hectare of land (approximately 16 plots of land) could be cultivated through a small-scale irrigation facility.

He explained that with N800,000 to N1.2 million, one hectare of land could be adequately irrigated if streams, well or borehole sources of water are made available.

Regional Representative of Africa Rice Centre in Nigeria, Dr Francis Nwilene, who has been an advocate of farm infrastructure development in the southern parts of the country, said rice, the most consumed staple food in the country, requires a lot of water.

He reiterated that it could be produced at least three times a year in irrigation facilities are made available in the southern parts of the country. He, again, called on state governments to desist from paying lip services to the sector and put mini irrigation schemes in place.

Nigerian structural and civil engineers, he advised, could be mobilized to construct mini waterworks that could provide potable and irrigation water in each of the 17 states in the southern zones. This would go a long way in helping food security and associated benefits.

Again, drought has been established as the single greatest culprit of agricultural production loss. Over 34 per cent of crop and livestock production loss is traced to drought, costing the sector $37 billion overall, FAO has said.

“Drought impacts agriculture almost exclusively; it sustains 82 per cent of all drought impact, compared to 18 per cent in all other sectors,” it said.

Floods too, it added, are the second gravest disaster for the sector, responsible for a total of about $21 billion of the crop and livestock production loss accrued between 2008-2018 least developed countries (LDCs) and low to middle-income countries (LMICs) – this amounts to 19 per cent of total loss.

MEANWHILE, Dr Olabisi Awoniyi, Assistant Director, Commercial Agriculture & Training, Lower Niger River Basin Authority, Ilorin, Kwara State, reiterated that there have been climatic changes all over the world and Nigeria is no exception.

“Climatic extreme is said to be climatic variability above or below a threshold, near the upper or lower ends of the observed value. The extremes we usually have in Nigeria related to agriculture include too many rainfalls and too long dry spells. Some parts of the country experience too many rainfalls, leading to flooding, while some other experience low rainfalls and prolonged August breaks, leading to crop failure.

“The bottom line in these two climatic extremes as it affects agriculture is water; too much water or too low water,” he explained.

Awoniyi said water is so much important to agriculture that it determines crop growth and development. When available in the required quantity, he added, it aids successful harvest, but when it is scarce, it leads to crop failure.

Explaining the way around the challenge, Awoniyi said: “It expected that we find ways to live our lives around these extremes as we may not be able to stop these natural/global changes.”

As Walumbe suggested, Awoniyi recommended water harvest as a possibility “where we have too precipitation stored securely and then use for irrigation during the dry spell for smallholder farmers as it is being practiced in India.”

He said flooded farmlands could also be cropped as the flood recedes, and rice seedlings could be transplanted as the water recedes and then supplemented with irrigation.

He added that “Earth drains could be constructed in flooded farmlands to drain the excess water away from the farm to allow for the roots of the plant to respire. Farmers in areas that are prone to floods should learn to plant on ridges and not on plain lands to allow the plants to be raised above excess water that may lightly gather in the furrows.”

He suggested that the government should also work more on the construction of dams and weirs and other irrigation infrastructures and put to proper use existing ones.

“Drought and flood-resistant varieties of crops could also be introduced to farmers to prevent total failure. All these put together will take us to the highly desired food security in Nigeria,” he added.