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The Need to Adopt Efficient Water Application Methods in Nigeria’s Irrigation Development and Management


Water, the lifeblood of farming has been a source of conflict between users and uses coupled with the fact that its demands are increasing due to a rapidly growing world population and increasing agricultural/industrial use of the resource.

Worldwide trend of Water application methods

In the world over, the trend of water application methods are classified into: Surface systems and Pressurised systems. However, the surface systems still remain the most dominant as it accounts for over 80% of irrigation systems in Africa, Asia, North and South America leaving out Europe where it accounts for less than 12%.

Nigeria trends of Water application methods

In Nigeria, the surface system accompanied with its attendant inefficiency and wastefulness is the basis on which a larger proportion of our major irrigation projects are done. For instance, the Middle Rima Valley Irrigation Project in Goronyo, Sokoto state, the Kano River Irrigation project and the Hadejia Valley Irrigation project in Hadejia, Jigawa state were carried out using the system application methods. The only notable exceptions and of course much talked about projects are the Bakolori Irrigation Project and the enviable Center pivot system in Azare-Jere sector of Gurara project. It is without doubt that Nigeria’s future water needs or demands would not be able to accommodate this surface water application method as it would not be sustainable not only because of high water losses in transmission, distribution and field application but also because of serious environmental problems of water logging and decreased land productivity.


Because of the decreasing water availability owing to groundwater depletion and increased surface water contaminations there is need for Nigeria to commence the process of the adoption of an efficient water application method in the form of Pressurized systems such as the center pivot system, hose reel system and linear move system etcetera. Sooner or later, insufficient water supply for irrigation will be the norm rather than the exception and irrigation management would most likely have to shift from emphasizing production per unit of water consumed. The present situation in the Chad Basin where there is serious ground water depletion and a stark reality of potential conflict between upstream riparian states and users (Yobe and Borno) underscores the need for Nigeria to commence in earnest, the process of adoption of efficient water application methods in its irrigation development and management so as to minimize water stress and conflict.

As such, the  National Council on Water Resources (NCWR) should note that:

–         Groundwater levels are dropping and surface waters are becoming contaminated, consequently decreasing availability.

–         Climatic changes also have negative effect on water availability.

–         Surface or Gravity Irrigation systems, though the most dominant system in the world still remains an inefficient water application method resulting in wastefulness and serious environmental degradation.

–         There would soon be insufficient water for irrigation development management in some parts of Nigeria giving the present situation of seriously depleted groundwater in the Chad Basin and potential conflict between upstream and downstream users along the Hadejia-Jama’are Komadugu- Yobe River system.

The NCWR is therefore invited to approve the commencement of the adoption of the efficient and more environmentally friendly Pressurised method of water application in development and management of irrigation infrastructures from 2012 when the challenges of power sector would have been properly addressed so as to prevent future water scarcity.

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