Sitting On A Goldmine: Irrigation, a glorious future for Katsina State, by Prof. M. K. Othman
Deep Thoughts with Othman
Nostalgically, my hope of a better tomorrow for Katsina State was kindled in 2008 when I joined experts from ABU Zaria who were commissioned to make a project proposal for revamping agriculture in the state. On that note, I subconsciously dreamt of Katsina State gloriously galloping ahead of its peers at the envy of Kano and Kaduna states. The revamping project took us to all nooks and crannies of the state and dug out the actual and potential of agricultural resources littered across the state. I led the Irrigation team that appraised 25 selected irrigation schemes/projects under State and Federal Governments. The state has 36,200 ha of potentially irrigable land in the Fadama and over 10,000 ha of land that can be developed for irrigation under the irrigation projects of the Federal government for the Zobe, Jibia, and Sabke dams. Irrigation provides meaningful employment during the dry season, intensifies land use, and provides food during periods of scarcity. It is also a source of foreign exchange when food crops are exported outside the country. Additionally, irrigation prevents rural-urban migration with its consequent social ills and sure way of reducing poverty.
The Zobe Irrigation Scheme was constructed in the early 1980s. Zobe Dam was completed with a capacity for irrigation water supply to 5,000 hectares and domestic water supply to surrounding communities. When the dam was constructed, four decades ago, 100 hectares were prepared for irrigation as a pilot. Thereafter, irrigation facilities and canal networks were not installed downstream for irrigation farming. However, the state government made an effort upstream of the dam by creating three irrigation schemes –Yartsaku Irrigation Scheme, Makere (old) Irrigation Scheme, and Garhi Irrigation Scheme, Dutsinma LGA. Construction of irrigation schemes upstream was not part of the design as it requires pumping to supply water to the farms, however, this innovation was done to use a fraction of the huge volume of water ponded in the dam more than 20 years ago. Such mammoth water bodies with little or no usage over the years could be a high risk to the communities downstream but miraculously, no issue was ever reported. However, it is time for something to be done in the Zobe irrigation project.
Jibia Dam Irrigation scheme, a Federal government-owned project is located at Jibia town. The project has a fully developed 3,450 ha with a suspended parabolic concrete canal network equipped with water control and measurement structures. Unfortunately, less than 10 % of the scheme has been under cultivation despite the land, water, and infrastructure. There are two water conveyance systems; gravity and pumpage, the gravity covers only 170 ha (4.9% of the total hectarage) which has been operational while the pumpage covers over 3,000 ha, which requires fuel to generate electricity for the pumps to operate. The high cost of fuel has been a major burden to the managing Agency that made the operation of the pumps difficult. This is a case of massive government investment which does not yield much dividend. For this project to function, there must be a strategy of either fuel cost sharing with farmers or an alternative source of energy has to be developed. Again, part of the irrigation area is surrounded by the Jibia township, which made the area vulnerable to encroachment.
Another Federal Government irrigation project is the Sabke Dam Irrigation scheme, located at Maiadua LGA. The project was aimed at supplying irrigation water to 3,000 hectares of farmland. As of 2008, the Dam was fully completed, and the project had 80 % of the Suspended pre-cast parabolic concrete canal network put with all the control structures put in place. The scheme was yet to be operational as the network of canals and other irrigation facilities was not put in place. At one time the work was stopped for more than ten years. The concrete canals were stockpiled and abandoned for many years. However, it is gratifying to note that the project is recently completed after more than 20 years when it was launched. Despite the project’s completion, it is yet to be operational for the benefit of the surrounding communities.
Dallaji Irrigation project, located in Bindawa LGA is another Federal Government irrigation outfit meant to provide respite to Katsina people. The Dallaji project started in the 2000s but suffered a series of abonnements and work resumptions over the last two decades. The project is yet to see the light of day as neither the dam nor other irrigation infrastructure was 10% completed.
In addition to these supposedly giant irrigation projects belonging to the Federal Government, there are several small-scale irrigation schemes constructed with their dams. Katsina state government inherited six irrigation schemes when the state was created out of the then Kaduna state. As of 2008, fourteen additional dams were locally constructed with or without their irrigation schemes. Some of the dams without irrigation facilities were the Gwaigwaye Dam (Funtua LGA), Maigatari Dam (Kankara LGA), Mani Dam (Mani LGA), Karkaku Dam (Sandamu LGA), Kusa Dam (Jibia). Some of the dams with irrigation facilities were the Kadisau dam in Faskari LGA for irrigating 3 out of 10 hectares, and the Machika Irrigation Scheme in Sabuwa LGA for irrigating 10 of our targeted 25 hectares. Unguwar Yidi dam in Dandume LGA and Mairua Irrigation scheme in Funtua LGA were additional schemes owned by the state government among others. This year, 2023, Katsina State has 35 of such irrigation schemes spread across the state. However, over 25% of these schemes have failed as they are no longer operational and the functional ones are underperforming.
In addition to these irrigation schemes, there is also a huge irrigation potential under Fadama irrigation. Katsina is located on the watershed of three major basins in northern Nigeria (Upper Niger Basin, Hadejia-Jamare Basin, and Sokoto-Rima Basin). As a result, it contains only headwater valleys to these basins. However, the Shallow Aquifer study conducted by KTARDA in 1990 revealed 26 separate floodplain areas called “Fadama” spread across the state. The total acreage identified as Fadama land for irrigation was 36,200 hectares loss of yield and quantity of crops.
It is common knowledge that Katsina State is semiarid and recently rainfall is becoming unreliable for agricultural productivity. A few years ago, the rains ceased suddenly resulting in colossal losses to farmers. Global climate change is affecting the state adversely with loss in biodiversity, desertification, low and uneven distribution of rainfall, the disappearance of streams, flash floods that destroy crops, and menace of locusts, quell birds, and other pests. Irrigation is the best complementary option for sustainable crop production in Katsina for this generation and future generations.
As Katsina State inches toward a new dawn by May, 29th 2023, and a PhD holder in Agricultural Extension, Dr Dikko Radda will be at the helm of affairs, we expect nothing less than a kind of agricultural revolution to earnestly revamp agriculture. In this regard, Irrigation will be a low-hanging fruit for Dr Radda to pluck, can he make it? What is the Strategy for Revamping Irrigated Agriculture in Katsina State? To be concluded next week.
Professor Othman is the Executive Director of National Agricultural Extension and Research Liaison Services (NAERLS), ABU Zaria.