By Tosin Kolade
Abuja – The Minister of Agriculture, Chief Audu Ogbeh on Monday linked low irrigation practice as one of the setbacks to agricultural production in Nigeria, putting it at only two per cent.
Ogbeh, who said this on the sidelines of the 2nd National Borehole Masters Drillers’ Conference in Abuja, said the strategic role of water in agriculture cannot be over-emphasised, as it was the mainstay of food production.
‘‘One of the setbacks in Nigerian agriculture is that there is very little irrigation.
‘‘Irrigation covers just about 2 per cent of our production, and yet the yields on irrigated agriculture are much higher than those of rain-fed soils.
‘‘This is because you can control the amount of water that the plant needs.
‘‘You can do that when you are sure of the cropping, when you organise your cost, and avoid those risks which comes through flooding, and bad water that enters your farm.’’
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the Conference theme is, ‘Borehole Drilling: Its Social, Economic and Environmental Effect in our Fragile Environment’’.
Ogbeh, who commended efforts of the Federal Ministry of Water Resources in maintaining dams for water conservation, opined that flooding was being linked to inadequate river dredging and heavy rains.
The minister stated that with water preservation, irrigated agriculture in dry season would be encouraged.
‘‘The water flows and ends in the Atlantic Ocean, the ocean does not need more water, but we do, and that is why the ministry is so strategic in providing dams and others.’’
According to him, poor water use is the leading cause of illnesses such as cholera, typhoid, malaria, saying if eliminated, through access to quality potable water, 60 per cent of such illnesses would be eliminated.
He said the ministry was partnering with the Association of Water Well Drilling Rig Owners and Practitioners (AWDROP) to drill wells to increase access to water.
He expressed hope that this would help in minimising the continuous conflicts between farmers and herdsmen.
He said the conflicts between herdsmen and farmers were linked to lack of food and water, saying without water, the cattle would not be productive.
‘‘An average cow in Nigeria will need a minimum of 30 litres of water daily because the weather is hot, but a bull in Holland drinks 100 litres of water daily, when they weighed it, it was 1,000 kilogrammes.
‘‘And you know that cows don’t like to walk, but when they trek from Maiduguri to Lagos, they lose 40 per cent of their weight, and its actually cruelty to animals, but the quality of beef, milk and disease status are determined essentially by the quality of food and water we give them.’’
The minister said efforts were on to build grazing reserves to supply food, water and shelter for the optimum benefit of the animals and also halt continuous crises.
He disclosed that the five million hectares in 415 grazing reserves need water has been gazetted and ready for implementation.
He pledged to strengthen the partnerships with all stakeholders, saying this would help to promote food security and job creation for the unemployed youths in the country.
Ogbeh called on the private sector to take ownership to improve water situation in the country, saying the Federal Government cannot do it alone.
He also urged the association to regulate activities of its members to halt quackery.
Mr Peter Onoja, acting Executive Director, Nigeria Integrated Water Resources Management Commission (NIWRMC), explained that water was one of the national resources that needed proper management, through regulation for economic and sustainable development.
“The approval of water use and licence regulations 2016 and the National Water Resources Policy and Strategy 2016 set the framework for coordination of water governance within an appropriate coherent policy setting.’’
He urged the National Assembly to pass the bill establishing the commission into law, saying the passage of the bill would give the commission the legal backing to carry out its functions.
He said the commission was saddled with the responsibility of promoting the coordinated development and management of water, land and related resources to maximise the effects on the economic and social welfare of the citizenry. (NAN)