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Irrigation can raise food production by 300% — Adamu

By Femi Ibirogba
28 June 2020   |   4:04 am
The potential for irrigation development is about 3.1 million hectares of irrigable land. Out of these, 130,000 hectares of formal irrigation schemes have been developed...


Engr. Suleiman Adamu, Minister, Federal Ministry of Water Resources, disclosed that Nigeria is currently grossly ill-equipped with farm irrigation facilities and that states, local governments should consider massive investments in farm infrastructure. In this exclusive with The Guardian’s FEMI IBIROGBA, Head, Agro-Economy online, Adamu claims that public water supply declined from 32 per cent in 1990 to less than seven per cent in 2015.

It has been disclosed that irrigation for food production in the country is less than five per cent, while rainfall patterns have been affected by climate change. What is the current irrigation capacity?
The potential for irrigation development is about 3.1 million hectares of irrigable land. Out of these, 130,000 hectares of formal irrigation schemes have been developed, representing about five per cent of the total irrigable land. However, the Federal Government’s long term irrigation development strategy for the period of 2016-2030 envisages implementation in three phases as follows: Phase I: 2016-2020, 100,000 hectares; Phase II: 2021-2025, 170,000 hectares; and Phase III: 2026-2030, 225,000 hectares; and total number of hectares are 500,000 by 2030.

As in 2019, the total hectares developed are about 130,000. Additional 1,000,000 hectares of irrigable land is expected to be developed by private sector and state governments within the same period.

And 6,185 hectares of irrigable land, 32 dams and 33 ponds have been made available for commercial farming across the 12 River Basin Development Authorities (RBDAs) since 2016.

Can this capacity significantly boost food production?
Yes! Today, out of total water consumed for human needs in the world, about 80 per cent is used for raising food crops. Irrigation has assumed prominence throughout the world, as the only way by which food production may be augmented for the ever-increasing population of the world. Based on experience, irrigation practice raises crop production by a minimum of 300 per cent.

Most of the multipurpose dams in Nigeria are either abandoned or grossly underutilised. Where are the functional and under functional irrigation facilities around the country?
It is true that some of the dams are underutilised because the downstream irrigation facilities are not yet fully developed. But effort is being made to resuscitate some of them. For example, the Gari Irrigation project, which has a capacity of 2,114 hectares when fully developed, and abandoned for 17 years, is currently being rehabilitated and completed. This is expected to increase food production significantly.

Some functional major irrigation projects include Kampe Irrigation Project 4,100 hectares; Kano River Irrigation Project, 14,000has; Bakolori Irrigation Project, 17,000has; Middle Rima Irrigation Project, 3,696has; Hadejia Valley Irrigation Project, 6,000has; Bagwai Irrigation Project, 273has; and Center Pivot System, 1,450has.

Some partially functional irrigation projects Jibiya Irrigation project, 1000has out of 3,000has; Gari Irrigation Project, 200has out of 2,114has; Hadejia Valley Irrigation Project, 2500has out of 4,200ha; Middle Ogun Irrigation, 680has out of 3000has and Lower Ogun Irrigation Project, 250has out of 3000has.

We also have plans for development of some projects that are currently being procured. These include Longkat Irrigation Project, 600has; Donga Suntai Irrigation Project, 6,000has and Nasarawa Irrigation Project, 6,000has.

Most of the irrigation facilities in the south are moribund. Is there any plan to revive them?
The present situation is that some dams have been developed, such as Owena, Oyan and Ikere Gorge dams in the South West, while some others are still ongoing. Some of the irrigation projects were commenced, but only a few sectors were completed. It is, however, important to understand that dams are not suitable in many parts of the South and, most often, not even necessary in view of abundance of rainfall is some places.

How best can Nigeria boost food production using irrigation facilities?
Strategic development and management of irrigation and drainage as well as effective and sustainable irrigation practices are the only viable intervention option that can ensure national food security. This option will also address the problems of thinning rural economy, as well as coping with domestic and regional demand for food and fibres.

Therefore, there is the need for governments at all levels — Federal, state and local councils — to invest heavily in irrigation. A total of about N1.5 trillion is required for completion of ongoing irrigation infrastructure; rehabilitation of existing irrigation infrastructure and new development of irrigation infrastructure.

Public pipe-borne water has almost disappeared from the public domain. Has the system completely failed?
Let me make the fact very clear; our ministry is not directly responsible for the provision of potable water that responsibility lies with the state and local governments. However, a survey carried out by my ministry in collaboration with the World Bank in 2015 revealed that access to public water supply declined from 32 per cent in 1990 to less than 7 per cent in 2015. There are so many reasons for this, but I will summarise them as follows:

The rate of state governments funding on the development of water supply infrastructure is far less than the growth rate in population, thus making water supply to be far below the demand.

There is weak capacity on the part of state water agencies that manifest in poor management practices in both operations and maintenance, as well as revenue generation. There is political interference by state governments that result in lack of autonomy for the water agencies on manpower issues, revenue generation and procurement decisions.

There is also lack of strategic plan as most states do not have a master plan for long term development. Most of the efforts are based on quick fixes that do not usually stand the test of time.

Conscious of these challenges, our ministry has been incentivising state governments for enhanced Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) services by instituting many initiatives for promotion of appropriate partnerships between the federal and state governments, as well as national and international development partners.

Some of the recent initiatives since I assumed office include mobilisation of the highest political support for the sector with the declaration of a ‘state of emergency’ on the WASH sector and launching of a National Action Plan by Mr. President on November 8, 2018; partnership for Expanded Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene (PEWASH) to mobilise funds from both public and private sectors as well as international development institutions for improved water supply, especially in the rural areas.

The programme has been implemented in Ogun and Kano states on pilot basis and we are now ready to scale it up to 10 more states in the coming weeks. The ministry also initiated and is supporting a reform programme that is aimed at strengthening the capacities of the water agencies, improve access to water supply, especially in the urban areas, as well as institutional reform for the needed political support for enhanced autonomy of the water agencies for efficient and effective service delivery.