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Memorandum on Emerging New Trends towards Sustainable Development and Management of Irrigation Projects

In a memorandum signed by the National Sub-committee on Irrigation and Drainage in November 2010 to the National Technical Committee on Water Resources (NTCWR), the committee voiced concern towards Nigeria achieving both the Millennium Development and Vision 20:20 goals of food security by relying solely on rainfed agriculture and the need to develop an effective irrigated agriculture in harnessing our resources in the face of existing and potential environmental constraints among other issues.



It is common knowledge that large public investments have been made in the construction of water resources infrastructure, notably dams and irrigation projects, in Nigeria in the past thirty years. However, the level of utilization of our abundant land and water resources in Nigeria is still very low and there is the dire need for further considerable investments towards the realization of our goals of increased food production, attainment of self sufficiency and sustained food security. The prevailing global climate change which is already manifesting in Nigeria is now introducing some new dimensions into irrigation and water resources, planning development and management which require immediate attention.

Background Information

Nigeria’s land area is estimated at 92.38 million hectares out of which about one-third is cultivable and with irrigation potential of over 3million hectares.

The increasing gap0 between food supplies from rain-fed agriculture and demands from a rapidly increasing population underscores the need for sustainable irrigation development. Furthermore, the Nation’s quest for diversification of her revenue base necessities that agro-industrial revolution is given desired urgent consideration as is known and accepted worldwide. This can only be achieved through a well planned and well coordinated irrigation development programme.

The rate of development of irrigated lands over the years has been quite slow and unsatisfactory as well as the performance of existing projects. Our expectations in the development of irrigation infrastructure have largely been unrealized, principally, due to various technical, socio-economic, institutional, environmental and managerial constraints in the system. Most of these constraints are well known but approach towards them has been slow mostly due to inadequate and unsustainable investments.

–         Inadequacies in the planning and design of irrigation projects resulting in difficulties in achieving effectiveness, efficiency and sustainability.

–         Under utilization of impounded water (for decades) by our numerous dams without irrigation components leading to high hazard potentials.

Key Recommendations on the Way Forward

–         There is urgent need to develop irrigation projects as downstream developments of existing dams and for new dams to ensure their optimum utilization, reduce their hazard potentials and enhance the derivable benefits from such huge investments.

–         There is a need to accelerate construction works on on-going irrigation components of existing dam projects such as Middle Rima Valley, Zobe, Kampe, Ikere-Koga and Oyan dams as matters of priority.

–         There is also the need for effective integration of irrigation projects in their planning, design and construction with the development of dams and other headworks to facilitate harmonious and sustainable operation of the projects.

–         We have to henceforth ensure that irrigation projects on flood plains or downstream of dams are well protected from incessant flooding by well-designed embankments integrated into the project design and construction.

–         Henceforth, aspects of present and potential impacts of climate change should be well-integrated into Environmental Impact Assessment (EIAs) of irrigation and dam projects, to guide project design, execution and subsequent operation.

*Most of the above recommendations are for medium and long term considerations; although there is the urgent need for critical appraisal through hydrological, meteorological catchment and basin-wide strategies, investigations and designs to lay the necessary foundations for near future development.

As such, the NCWR should direct that:

–         The Federal Ministry of Water Resources  (FMWR) and Department of Irrigation and Drainage (DID) to initiate appropriate short term remedial measures to ameliorate the adverse effects of flood experienced to date.

–         The FMWR and DID to as matter of urgency initiate a proposal for the development of downstream irrigation components of existing dams and accelerated completion of on-going ones.

–         The FMWR and DID to initiate necessary studies and designs for downstream development of existing dams through the provision of functional and sustainable irrigation projects to optimally utilize the water stored in these dams. New studies and designs should immediately be carried out where they do not exist, while old existing designs need to be up-dated appropriately.

–         Other stakeholders, such as State and Local Governments and the private sector etc, to also adopt the above recommendations with the guidance of FMWR as appropriate.

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