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Special Report: Why Dams In Nigeria Fails To Support Irrigation Farming

By Ojugbele Omotunde

Most of our planet is covered in water. Life on earth would be impossible without water, especially water to irrigate our crops to harvest surplus farm produce in a situation where there is food crisis.

The largest component of all living things is water. Lakes, rivers, dams, wetlands and underground aquifers provide drinking water for humans and animals, and allow irrigation farmers to irrigate their crops.
According to the World Meteorological Organisation, ”only 0.5% of water on Earth is usable and available freshwater.”

Although this relatively small amount of fresh water should be enough for life on earth, much of it is either becoming polluted, inaccessible as a result of increased demand and climate change.

Experts has made it clear that earth has natural processes that prevent water supply from disappearing.

However, in Nigeria, a country with sizeable agricultural economy, there has been difficulties in getting regular water for irrigation farming particularly in the dryland part of the country. For years, irrigation farmers in the Northern part of the country continue to face hurdles in their attempts to get abundant water for irrigation farming despite the nation’s abundance of dams.

Nigeria is home to a significant number of dams, with a totl number of 264 dams spread cross the country. These dams have a combined storage capacity of 33 billion cubic metres of water for multipurpose use. Findings revealed that among these dams, 210 are owned by the states, and 20 are owned by private organisations.

Despite this high number of dams in Nigeria, many farmers in the country still struggle to access water for irrigation. Whereas construction of majority of the dams in the country were intended to boost food production and reduce the country’s dependence of food imports.

NatureNews can report authoritatively that majority of the dams in the country are not functioning optimally, and irrigation farming suffers for this shortcoming for years. For instance, Shiroro Dam which was situated on the Kaduna River in Niger State serves as vital source of hydroelectric power and water supply. Like many other dams scattered across the country, it lacks proper maintenance and with time, faces the challenge of siltation.

Kanji Dam which was also located in Niger State is not only one of the largest dam in Nigeria but a crucial source of hydroelectric power. But, owing to lack of adequate maintenance of facilities that belongs to nobody in particular which was the thinking of most government official saddled with the responsibilities of taking care of such national properties, sediments brought to Kanji Dam by River Niger often accumulate gradually in the dam’s reservoir.

This sediments usually affects the dam’s storage capacity causing high volume of silt which affects its capacity to generate expected electric power and supply sufficient water for irrigation farming and other purposes. Hence it is impossible to use water from Kanji and Shiroro dams for irrigation farming because siltation itself is water pollution, so said water experts.

Our findings revealed that apart from lack of proper maintenance of dams in Nigeria, permanent silt such as clay-based particles from soil erosion, used plastic debris, concentration of suspended sediments as well as increased build-up of sediments where sediments should not stay whether permanently or temporarily on the bottom of the dams makes the water from many among dams in Nigeria not fit for irrigation farming.

In addition, efficient use of dams in Nigeria for farming particularly irrigation farming has been disrupted time- without- number through man-made challenges such as embezzlement, corruption and poor management in the nation’s agricultural sector. The chunk of annual budgetary provisions commits for development on water resources especially for proper upkeep are usually not adequate.

However, the little made available are most time not put into developmental use it was released for.

Absence of well-maintained and modern irrigation infrastructure are another shortcomings of dams’ failure to provide adequate water for irrigation farming in the country. Various irrigation system and equipment still in use are antiquated and begging for replacement. Water leaks, ineffective distribution, and uneven irrigation across fields may arise from this experts noted.

Failure of Nigerian dams to supply sufficient water for irrigation farming in the dryland part of the northern part of the country now compelled many farmers to embarked on borehole irrigation system.

However, many small scale irrigation farmers find the borehole system to be too expensive due to the high cost of diesel and petrol used in running their power generators. Borehole irrigation system require proper and regular maintenance of the system u such as prompt repairs, cleaning and monitoring.

The challenges faced by farmers in the northern part of the country in accessing water for irrigation as highlighted above calls for government urgent intervention.

The limited functionality of Nigerian dams, obsolete nature of the infrastructure put in place, inefficient utilization of the existing infrastructure and nonchalant attitude of workers to proper maintenance of these dams pose significant barriers to agriculture productivity an food security.


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