Will water-wheel irrigation reposition agriculture?

A motorised pivots irrigation system in one of the FG’s irrigation projects in the country

Irrigation farmers in Kebbi and Zamfara states are pondering the poser: How will planned central pivot system of irrigation, tackle water use and other concerns in agriculture.

The Federal Government recently announced the procurement of the central pivot irrigation system, a technique of aerial irrigation noted to ensure a more effective and efficient irrigation practice. It is also known as water -wheel irrigation.

Director Irrigation and Drainage, Federal Ministry of Water Resources,

Elijah Aderibegbe says the introduction of the system, is part of efforts to reposition irrigation practice in the country.

It is also to deliver agricultural transformation and promote food security in the country, he adds.

Motorised pivot irrigating a farmland

Six of the systems are to be delivered to Kebbi and three to Zamfara, in a bid to enhance agricultural practices in the arid north-western states of Nigeria noted for their agricultural production.

The Water Resources Ministry is to handover the nine systems to the Sokoto Rima River Basin Development Authority.  SRRDA coordinates various projects under the Sokoto Rima and Middle Rima River valley.

It is expected that the central pivot system will ensure increased irrigation efficiency in these states where water-intensive surface run-off irrigation, is generally practiced.

There has been a global momentum towards efficient water- use in agriculture, especially given its lion share of this essential commodity utilization.

World Bank Group statistics show that on an average, agriculture accounts for 70 percent of all water withdrawals globally.

Also underscoring the significant role of irrigated agriculture in food production, WBG adds, “worldwide, over 330 million hectares are equipped for irrigation. Irrigated agriculture represents 20 percent of the total cultivates land but contributes 40 percent of the total food produced worldwide.”

In Kebbi state, one of the states to get the system, many farmers are involved in irrigation farming.

However, they complain of the high cost of energy for pumping irrigation water and the lack of a dam.

Alhaji Kabir, a large scale farmer who owns farms of 60 hectares, says he uses 52 generator sets to water his crops.

According to him, the generators gulp N70,000 daily. He laments: “Most of the profit we are supposed to enjoy goes to fuel, labour and fertilizer.”

According to him, “it is the fuelling aspect of rice farming, which makes the commodity to be costly in the market.”

He notes that from the planting rice to the harvesting season, and he commits no less than N3 million to N3.5 million. “During a shortage of rain, we have to undergo two rounds of watering to make us get a good harvest, and in that condition, you spend about N4m or N4.5m realizing 1000-1,500 sacks.”

Kabir urges: “The Federal government should construct a dam for us.”

He adds that this is considering that “our Fadama land which runs from Bunza to Bagudo is almost 200km and most of us large scale farmers are on generators.”

He views the central system as a welcome development “only if the Federal government has done enough homework to make it efficient to farmers.”

“Survey needs to be carried out to determine the viability of the programme,” he points out.

Alhaji  farmer also says:“Since it is going to be mobile, there is a need to level our lands which have been made rough and full of holes and ridges from our local system of farming.”

He, however, lauds the federal government for the initiative which he hopes would assist farmers in the state.

Secretary AFAN, Kebbi state, Alhaji Mohammed Idris Birni Kebbi notes watering land as the major problem to farmers in Kebbi state.

“The new programme could assist the Kebbi state in feeding the nation.”

He advises the government to take the programme to all 20 local government areas of the state.

“There should be adequate consultation with traditional leaders and genuine farmers for it to succeed,” he suggests.

The farmers urge the federal government to make sure that the programme benefits both large and small scale farmers in the state.

International attention is shifting towards achieving more food production using less water. But more water is required for a growing world population as Food, and Agriculture Organization FAO of the United Nations UN indicates.

“Agriculture faces complex challenges between now and 2050 to satisfy an estimated population of nine billion. More water will be needed to produce the estimated 60 percent of extra food required,” it states.

FAO notes that due to population growth, urbanization, industrialization, and climate change, there is a need to boost water use efficiency.

“Improved water use efficiency will need to be matched by reallocation of as much as 25 to 40 percent in the water-stressed region from lower to higher productivity and employment activities.”

In most cases, the food organization points out, “this reallocation is expected to come from agriculture, due to its high share of water use.”

It emphasizes a more efficient, equitable, and environmentally-friendly use of water in agriculture.

An expert in the field Ali Ibrahim says there are potentials for enhanced irrigation efficiency with a pivot system adding that “it ensures water use efficiency and better-quality crop yields.”

Besides, he observes: “The technology is suitable for flat terrain and facilitates savings in water cost, and can also be used for the application of inputs such as fertilizer and pesticides.”

For Aderibegbe, Nigeria cannot rely solely on rain-fed agriculture if it is to meet its policy thrust of economic development. He describes irrigation practice as the mainstay of agriculture development in the country.

The Irrigation Director is optimistic that the Pivot system “will significantly help our beneficiaries to use them for food production and food security in the country.


This story was published in the Daily Trust newspaper with the headline ‘Stakeholders react as FG plans 9 new irrigation facilities for Kebbi, Zamfara’ 

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