Kano state in Northern Nigeria has about 23 dams which are largely underutilized. One of them is Watari dam and irrigation scheme, the third largest in the state, which was constructed about 42 years ago.
Left to deteriorate despite a total storage capacity of 104.55Mm2 and a huge potential for cultivation of vast hectares of rice, several irrigated crops and vegetables, thereby creating thousands of direct and indirect jobs, the Kano State Agro-Pastoral Development Project, KSADP decided to renovate it as part of its mandate to ensure food security and poverty alleviation.
According to Ibrahim Garba Muhammad, the State Project Coordinator, Kano State Agro-Pastoral Development Project, KSADP, “The main purpose of renovating the Watari Irrigation Scheme is to help in improving the livelihoods of our peasant farmers through providing easily accessible irrigation infrastructure, improving incomes, minimizing rural-urban drift and ensuring climate-smart management of the ecosystem”.
“With irrigation, you can reduce the economic weakness of smallholder farmers, but when you support this with good agronomic practices and planting of high-value crops, the farmers will be able to make more money that can help them live above the poverty threshold”.
“That is why we are working with Sasakawa Africa and KNARDA, across selected value chains, to impact on at least 550, 500 farmers, providing them with training, starter packs, inputs, warehousing and marketing services”, he emphasized.
Today, the project which was awarded at the cost of N314. 45 million a few months ago has been completed and lush green has returned to Bagwai and surrounding communities once again.
Yusuf Jadda, 45, from Bauje community in Bagwai local government area has been a farmer all his life. He has a wife, aged parents and eight kids to cater for. He owns five hectares of irrigable land but hitherto planted crops on only 1.5 hectares of land in the Watari area due to the dilapidation of the irrigation infrastructure, making it hard for him to use all his farms.
“For almost three years, the canals were clogged. We mobilized some farmers to dredge them but in three weeks, we could only do not more than one and half kilometer because we use physical labor. Alhamdulillah, we are happy that this renovation by KSADP has been done successfully. We contributed by helping the contractor because the work is very dear to us”.
“With this development, it is now very expensive to lease a farm in this area. Everybody has returned to his abandoned farm. Unlike before, I have now planted on all the five hectares and gotten results. I used to get about 30 bags of rice from my 1.5 hectares but with the seeds and other inputs given to us through the KSADP/Sasakawa cooperation, I have been able to reap 88 – 90 bags per hectare and this is wonderful”.
“On behalf of all the farmers in this area, I express thanks to KSADP, the LLF, the Islamic Development Bank and our long time friends KNARDA for their support. The government of Kano state should know that whatever the KSADP brings has reached the ordinary farmer directly. This is a high point in agricultural practice in Kano”.
Yusuf’s case is one of several examples. Besides smallholder farmers, the renovation of Watari has become a source of happiness and wellbeing to several individuals and families.
Yusuf Jadda in his rice farm at Watari
For instance, farm input dealers in the domain are also making profit and growing in numbers. Lawan Ibrahim, an inputs dealer in his 60s with about 25 dependants, attests to this. “Prior to this irrigation renovation work, I owned just one shop and only about 20 of us were into this type of business in Bagwai town. I used to have 15-20 farmers coming to buy my goods in a day. Now, sales have increased rapidly. I have six shops managed by my sons and more people in this town have now become agro input dealers since the market is there. Sometimes, more than 100 patronize my six shops daily. Alhamdulillah, we are making money, thanks to the intervention by KSADP, IsDB, LLF and KNARDA. I am confident that by next year, many of us here, in this business, would have saved enough to perform Hajj in shaa Allah”.
Lawan Ibrahim in his Agro chemicals shop at Tashar Bagwai
Another indirect beneficiary of the project, Tela Danjuma, a commercial motorcyclist who operates along the Bagwai –Watari axis is also happy that the renovation of the dam infrastructure has brought him and those engaged in same business more fortunes because they make more money owing to the movement of farmers and produce buyers in the area.
“I can tell you that averagely, we used to get something like N1, 000 – 1, 500 daily before now. With the revival of the irrigation work, a commercial rider here makes up to N2, 500 daily nowadays, and that is not bad at all, since many farmers and produce buyers are moving up and down the place. The irrigation work is definitely a stimulant for our business”.
Owing to the increased movement of farmers, extension agents and produce buyers, among others, around the Watari project vicinity, the place is witnessing a growing number of food vendors – from those selling rice and beans, those selling millet gruel, plastic containers with soybean cakes and Fulani milk maids selling Fura da Nono etc, all making good money to cater for their families. Other small scale businesses including recharge card sellers, second hand clothes sellers.
Food hawkers servicing farmers at a community near Watari
Remarkably, some pastoralists have chosen to settle within communities in the Watari – Bagwai locality owing to increase in availability of crop residue. They, in turn, are providing their hosts with fresh and fermented milk as well as organic fertilizer for farms.
But beyond the issue of renovating the Irrigation Project is the critical issue of its sustainability. Obviously, the state government cannot shoulder the responsibility of maintaining the project alone because of dwindling resources and competing public demands. That is why the project beneficiaries have agreed to support the government, to enable the project stand on its feet, for the benefit of posterity.
Rabi’u Na Sama’ila Mai Rake, the chairman of the Watari Water Users Cooperative Society believes that going by what they have started generating, they can support the state government in managing the project and conducting regular repairs of the irrigation infrastructure.
“The Islamic Development Bank and the LLF have brought us good omen. We thank Governor Ganduje too for the KSADP. Many people left their farms because there was no water to irrigate. But look at our faces now: we are excited, there is water, plenty water for year-round use! The import of this is that there is job everyday unless one is lazy. Therefore, since we are making money now, we have a duty to give revenue to the government to facilitate regular maintenance, so that the work will last long. We must save for community self-help work”.
As exciting as the Watari Irrigation infrastructure renovation is, it is only a tip of the iceberg! This is because arrangement is in top gear by the KSADP to extend the 962 hectare project by developing an additional 1, 000 hectares in the downstream of Watari dam. This massive intervention will give rise to an estimated 4, 000 new farmers of rice, maize and vegetables, translating into a big leap in terms of food security in Kano state.
Ameen K. Yassar
Project Communication Specialist, KSADP
1st November, 2021