Worried by near abandonment of the Sourth Chad Irrigation Project (SCIP) in Borno State, farmers in the state have appealed to the federal government to revive the water canals in order to boost farming activities in the site.
The farmers who made the call in a chat with our correspondent said that the project covering about 67,000 hectares of land is lying waste due to lack of irrigation water.
Some of the farmers hold our correspondent that they could only cultivate crops instead of wheat, maize and rice as planned by the federal government at the inception of the project in early 70s.
Malam Modu Isa, said he used to harvest at least 300 bags of rice and wheat on the farm every year when there was irrigation water.
According to him, with the recording of water inflow from the Lake Chad and inability of the Chad Basin Development Authority (CBDA) to pump water into the farm, he has shifted to vegetable production.
“The small water supply that we are currently using is being pumped by the CBDA. We hope that they will continue to improve on the supply,” Isa said.
In his reaction, the CBDA Acting Managing Director, Alhaji Mustapha Shameh, told our correspondent in Maiduguri that the authority had made efforts to ensure that the project was actualised.
“The SCIP is the largest irrigation scheme of the authority. The project was planned to irrigate about 67,000 hectares of land.
“It was supposed to be in three phases the first phase having 22,000 hectares in Kirenowa, the second involving 27,000 hectares in Ngala and the third having 18, 000 hectares in Baga,” Shameh said.
He explained that the project was located along the Lake Chad basin for easy access to water from the basin.
Shameh said that the project was targeted at producing large quantities of rice, maize and wheat with the use of the water from the Lake through a three-km in-take canal.
He said that the canal was connected to a pumping station at Kirenowa near Marte, headquarters of Marte Local Government Council.
“The farmlands were expected to get water through electrically-driven pumps under the project, which made CBDA to contract a power house with a combined output of 30 megawatts of electricity to source for power,” he explained.
Shameh, however, lamented that the high cost of fueling the power house located at New Marte, had forced the authority to abandon the facility.
“The plant in the house has a daily consumption of about 15,000 to 20,000 litres of gas when fully operational; additionally the engines require special blend of lubricants of about 150 drums per day,” he said.
Shameh said that the inability of the CBDA to get the project connected to the national grid had equally made it difficult for the project to function optimally.
According to him, the big time farmers targeted by the Federal Government had also failed to embrace the project, leading to the setback.
“We have been trying to run skeletal services at the project site but the failure of big time farmers who are the main targets of the project have been one of our setbacks.
“In the meantime, we have been encouraging the peasant farmers to form cooperatives, to enable them to secure bank loans to be able to fit into the project,” Shameh said.
Our correspondent reports that the federal government decided to develop large-scale irrigation agriculture to avoid dependence on rain-fed agriculture, due to the drought and famine that occurred in the northern part of the country in 1972/73.
This development, led to the establishment of Decree No. 32 and 33 of 1972, which created the Chad Basin Development Authority and Sokoto-Rima River Basin Development Authority as pioneers.