Sitting On A Goldmine: Irrigation, a glorious future for Katsina State II, by Prof. M. K. Othman
Deep Thoughts with Othman
Confessionally, Katsina state is among the luckiest states to have acquired five multi-billion Naira irrigation projects littered across the state. Conservatively, these projects – Zobe, Jare, Dallaji, Sabke, and Jibia dam projects have gulped over 150 billion Naira from the Federal government in the last three decades. For instance, Zobe water supply project Phase I and II alone was appropriated N3.227 billion in the 2017 Appropriation under a budget line, FMOWR64053426. This is in addition to the “little chip in” by the Katsina state government, “now and then”. For example, in August 2003, the then-governor Umaru Yar’adua’s government allocated a princely sum of N317 million for funding a 16-kilometre supply of water from Zobe Dam to Dutsinma town. One can only appreciate the staggering huge resources allocated to these projects after going through their financial audits. These projects, like all other civil engineering projects, have lifespan whether utilized or unutilized, and it will be a colossal loss of public resources, and a disservice to the nation if they attain their lifespan without reaping the expected benefits. Katsina state government must do everything possible to derive the maximum benefits from these projects. So, the major concern is how to make these underperforming, almost abandoned projects perform excellently for the benefit of Katsina state and the nation at large.
As stated last week, Irrigation is the best complementary option for sustainable crop production in Katsina for this and future generations. The new dawn for the state is at the corner, May, 29th 2023, when a Ph.D. holder in Agricultural Extension, Dr. Dikko Radda will be the new leader to pilot the state out of the current predicament. Katsinawas expect nothing less than a kind of agricultural revolution to earnestly revamp agriculture, create wealth, and eradicate poverty. In this regard, Irrigation will be a low-hanging fruit for Dr. Radda to pluck, can he pluck it? Why not? What is the strategy for revamping agriculture in Katsina State?
READ ALSO: Sitting On A Goldmine: Irrigation, a glorious future for Katsina State, by Prof. M. K. Othman
A strategy for revamping irrigated agriculture in Katsina state should focus on the complete adoption of the value chain concept for the introduction and promotion of carefully selected agricultural commodities. The value chain concept consists of production, processing, marketing, and utilization. Side-by-side with the adoption of a value chain approach, an integrated farming system must also be included for the complete revamping of agriculture in the state. Production is the fundamental and primary source of agricultural development. The current agricultural production has to be meticulously assessed and production constraints must be identified using a baseline survey. A production target has to be set for quadrupling production over four years. Production can be quadruped by land expansion and cropping intensity through the increase of irrigable land. Similarly, production per unit area can be increased through the use of improved technologies, skill development, and knowledge transfer. An increase in irrigation areas can expand the area of production and increase the production period from four months during the wet season to ten months in a year. This underscores the need to complete the five Federal Government owned irrigation projects in the state. Katsina state government can synergize with the Federal Government on working together to complete the projects in stages. The state government has to invest in these projects systematically for a refund, provide tangible support or even take over these projects. In either case, the Katsina state government will be the winner because the Katsina communities will be major beneficiaries of these projects.
Additionally, the government can conduct a Technical Audit of all the Schemes, engage the relevant stakeholders, and massively increase the state government investment in irrigation. There has to be continuous capacity building of farmers and project managers, as well as recruitment of relevant manpower to manage the schemes. Introduce various irrigation management models such as participatory Irrigation Management (PIM), Farmer-Managed Irrigation Model, Public-Private Partnership (PPP), facilitation, and Coordination.
Still, on the production, commodities should be selected with comparative advantage based on environmental and climate variabilities. For example, maize and rice production should be promoted in Funtua, Sabua, and Faskari zone. Sugarcane in Danja, Dabai, and Bakori zone, cotton in Malumfashi, and Kankara zone while groundnut, sesame, millet, and sorghum in Katsina and Daura zone. The production should be market-driven and value-addition with appropriate standards for high value. This can be done with improved technology and intensive capacity building through effective extension services. A relevant extension model like a community-based advisor can be very handy and result-oriented through external facilitation and coordination.
The next is the establishment of processing hubs and zones in the different irrigation production clusters across the state. This amounts to the establishment of cottage industries for value addition of the selected commodities in line with the market demands. In this regard, a comprehensive marketing strategy should be adopted and synchronized with processing zones. Part of the marketing strategy is the identification of both local and international market potentials, and supply and demand curves over the period for the commodities. The strategy should also include the establishment and strengthening of new local and international markets, product standardization, and quality assurance.
As the government focuses on the crops segment of agriculture, livestock should similarly be given the desired attention. This is where the promotion of an integrated farming system becomes necessary to make irrigation a glorious future for Katsina state. The people of Katsina state are majorly agrarian, the crop farmers practice livestock farming and vice versa. The need to address the challenges against livestock farming in the state cannot be overemphasized due to the prevalent insecurity associated with cattle herders. Recent studies indicate the gross negligence of livestock farming is significantly responsible for the catastrophic insecurity challenge of banditry and abduction for ransom in rural areas. So, the adoption of an integrated farming system can address some of the causes of banditry and boost agricultural productivity in the state. How can this strategy be implemented?
No doubt implementation of this strategy requires careful planning, resource mobilization, and huge investment in financial resources. The state government may be discouraged due to paucity of funds especially as the state is said to be highly indebted locally and internationally. However, the government can consider the involvement of the private sector in resource investment. There are several models for PPP and a suitable model can be selected for implementation. One certainty in agriculture is the overwhelming profit, value for money and win-win scenario for a well-managed investment devoid of nepotism and corruption. The ball is in the court of Dr. Dikko, may he kick it in the right direction for a glorious score, amen.
Professor Othman is the Executive Director of National Agricultural Extension and Research Liaison Services (NAERLS), ABU Zaria.