It is no longer news that early in January 2021, the Kano State Agro Pastoral Development Project (KSADP) awarded the contract for the repair and rehabilitation of the Watari Irrigation Scheme to Messrs. Hajaig Nigeria Limited, for the sum of NGN 315 million and is expected to be completed within six months. The award of the contract was celebrated by thousands of farmers from Bagwai, Bichi, Tofa and surrounding Local Government Areas in Kano State.
The irrigation scheme, which is situated downstream of the Watari dam, in Bagwai Local Government Area of Kano State, has potential to irrigate 2, 600 ha when completed. The irrigation scheme is used for both wet and dry season farming of major high value crops such as rice, wheat, onions, maize, tomatoes, lettuce, cabbage, pepper and garlic etc.
It is pertinent to mention that before the coming of the KSADP, which is funded by the Islamic Development Bank under the Lives and Livelihoods Fund, the Watari Dam and the its downstream infrastructure which was constructed over 40 years ago had not undergone any major repairs for more than twenty years. As such large, areas of the downstream infrastructure especially the canals, embankment and reservoirs have become silted and, in most cases, broken down. The inability of the government to repair these infrastructure had resulted in more than 2, 314 farmers losing their means of livelihoods as only about 52 percent can cultivate their crops twice a year, while the rest of the farmers can only cultivate their crops during the wet season as a result. It is instructive however, to note that out of the existing 962 hectares of farmland covered by the irrigation scheme, about 45 percent of the land is not in use due to the dilapidation of the irrigation infrastructure. This has continued to translate into huge economic loss for thousands of farmers.
It is worth mentioning that before the commencement of the project execution, officials of the Kano Ministry of Agriculture, Kano State Agricultural and Rural Development Authority (KNARDA) and PMU held several meetings with representatives of farmers associations to intimate them about the objective of the IsDB funded project and the plan to repair the broken-down sections of the irrigation scheme. The plan also includes the stoppage of the release of water from the dam so that the repair works can be carried out without any hindrance. This was a huge decision on the part of the government as the stoppage of the release of the water will have huge implication for those farmers that carry out their dry season farming activities within the scheme. Any delays in the commencement of the repair works could have huge implications for the farmers and their means of livelihoods.
The repair works commenced in earnest in January 2021 and started with the repair of gully erosion on the dam’s embankment, repair and desilting of main canal and drainages as well as desilting and repair of the night storage reservoir.
As at March 2021, the first phase of the work which comprises repair of the dam’s main canal and desilting of its night reservoir was completed. This development led to the release of water for irrigation purposes while other aspects of the repair works on the dam continued. The release of the water was done in the presence of the Managing Director of Kano Agricultural and Rural Development Agency, KNARDA, Dr. Junaid Yakubu Muhammad, KSADP officials and representatives of many farmers associations in the area.
“Expressing his gratitude on behalf of farmers, the Chairman of the Watari Farmers Association, Malam Ibrahim Sani described the KSADP intervention as “a new lease of life for the farming communities in the domain”. He stated that “Our lives and the lives of our families depend on this dam. We do not know anything other than farming throughout the year.
Look at the smiling faces all around you – the children, the adults and the youths. For us it is farming, farming and joy”.“For many years, we and people from other places who come to work on the fields have yearned for this intervention. Now it has been made possible by the Government of Kano State with financing from the Islamic Development Bank. We thank Allah for his mercies. We are eager to see this work completed and as you can see, our people are directly involved in the work by providing labour for the contractor”. Apart from offering labour, we also made meaningful suggestions to the contractor and he accepted our contributions to make the work result oriented”.
Malam Sani further added that with the release of water from the dam, the farmers are energized to return to their farms after several weeks of holiday and income loss due to the work. He therefore, praised KSADP, IsDB and LLF for their support.
Impressed by the enthusiasm with which the farmers around Watari dam embraced the renovation of the facility, the Managing Director of KNARDA, Dr. Junaid Yakubu Muhammad, announced a donation of farm inputs including fifty bags of fertilizer, 150 kg of leguminous crops seeds, 100 sprayers and other items to 100 selected farmers in the domain.
This gesture will motivate the farmers to strengthen their resolve in agriculture and importantly, to maintain support to the contractor handling the renovation of the dam, for speedy completion of the work.
It is noteworthy to mention that apart from renovation of the dam, KSADP intends to develop an additional 1,000 hectares of irrigation land in the area for irrigation farming. This is in addition to the existing 962 hectares that is presently under utilized. The development of the additional 1,000 ha will enable thousands of farmers in the area to engage in both wet and dry season farming activities which will enhance their income, standards of living and increased food production for the benefit of the people of Kano State.