Bakolori Dam in Sokoto and Kiri Dam in Adamawa States are two dams with a history that is now going 30 years, with stories of how these dams have fast changed from farmers' cry of land deprivation to that of tears of joy, as the dams have brought wealth creation to the areas.
Though located in Goronyo, a rural community in Sokoto State, this dam was named after the contraction company that did the feasibility study - the Dam Bakolori Construction Company, according to 72-year-old Mallam Ado, who added that the Dam has created a lot of wealth for the local government, state, and neighbouring countries of Niger and Benin Republic.
Efforts by the Federal Government to make alternative use of the abundant water resources in the country and its potentials for increasing agricultural production led to the establishment of the River Basin Development Authority (RBDA). And this development gave birth to the Bakolori Irrigation Project, which was commissioned in 1975.
Located about 60 kilometres from the state metropolis, the Dam Bakolori is one of the largest in West Africa. The dam has about 450 million cubic metres of water storage capacity, with its reservoir covering 8,000 hectares and extending some 119km upstream from the dam.
The 15km supply canal carries water from the dam down streams of irrigation area where the water is distributed through several hundreds of kilometres through secondary and tertiary canals. According to Mallam Ado, the presence of the dam has not only made the adjourning villagers who use the waters from the dam to become contented, but equally proud of the Federal Government's initiative.
Narrating the all-round impact of the dam, Goronyo Local Government Chairman, Alhaji Faruk Ahmed, said that farming is undoubtedly the major occupation of his people, adding that cereal and vegetable are the dominant crops in the area. However, others are engaged in trading, public service and livestock rearing, he noted. He, however, agreed that the dam has improved the living standard of the people in the area through agricultural output.
Scrutinising the effort of the state government towards ameliorating and boosting the agrarian community, Ahmed said that aside being totally engaged in mix farming, the 11 council wards of the local government receive adequate support from the state government.
"People of Goronyo LGA are 100 per cent farmers. Yes, they are not just farmers, but very good and industrious ones, including our women. They farm different varieties of crops, as well as rear livestock. In view of that, the state government provides tractors to improve our agricultural potentials, and it equally gives the farmers fertilisers at a highly subsidised rate, and timely too," he said.
Explaining further, he said: "For instance, when prices of fertilisers were N5,500 per bag in the market, the state government would bring them for us at a highly subsidised rate of N1,900 or N1,700.
"And as for us, we assisted in the areas of shouldering the cost of conveying these fertilizers from the local government headquarters to the farmers in the 11 council wards. We equally give assistance in the state government initiated mechanized farming training programmes, and give the farmers insecticides, herbicides, fungicides and all that can help to improve their yield."
While appealing for more Federal Government's intervention, the LGA chairman said: "In Sokoto State, we are among the best locals that produce tomatoes, onions, garlic, all varieties of peppers, carrot, rice, cucumber, watermelon, and both local fish from the dam and hybrid fish from the numerous fish ponds in the local government."
At the bank of the dam, Mallam Ibrahim Garba and Usman Sani, while dragging their net from the water told LEADERSHIP SUNDAY that, they inherited the trade from their parents, some years ago.
Counting his blessings from the trade, Garba, who has five children, said he got married from the income he got from the trade, and that he has two cars, even as a fisherman.
On probable sales per day, he said: "Sometimes, when we are lucky to catch Giwan Ruwa, Rumbushi and Zowai (species of fish), we get as much as N50,000 to N70,000 per day. Our customers come to buy from us here and take them to the town."
The beehive of activities at the bank of the river, according to Garba, is evident in all the catchment villages where the river passes through down to Niger Republic and Benin Republic.
At the catchment villages, testimonies of the usefulness of the dam could be seen, written on the faces of the villagers, while some villagers spoken to want the Federal Government to build dam in all the 19 states in the North to guarantee food security in the country.
For 13-year Muhammadu Sahabi and his 11-year-old brother, Muhammadu Musa, both Fulanis, the dam provides enough water for their cows.
Having gone through the desiccated land in most of these villages, one might instantly conclude that the area could as well be prone to erosion, because of absence of trees. However, Mohammed Yari Goronyo, the desk officer at the Fadama Tree Project assured that they were engaged actively in reducing desertification in the area.
Towards achieving afforestation, he said: "The local government procured enough seedlings, and we distribute them to the farmers; and then, the Fadama Tree Project provides the technical knowhow. We go en-masse to campaign for the tree planting, while the local government provides protective basket after the trees is planted."
On how the dam project has had positive impact on their lives, one of the dam security guard, Mallam Adamu Husseni, said: "Apart from doing my irrigational farm work at the convenient of the dam, I also catch fish with which I sell to buyers. I have so far harvested over 20 bags of dry season rice farming." Revealing that foreign assistance oftentimes boosts farmers' morale, Agricultural Officer at the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) Sanusi Alhaji Madawaki, said that aside being a community-based development programme, IFAD has six components, which are perfectly designed to assist the rural farmers.
These components, according to him, are agricultural, community infrastructural, enterprises, health, education, gender and vulnerable group component.
Enumerating the benefits derived from such components, Madawaki said, since the inception of the programme to date, the agricultural component has helped in training most of the rural dwellers in modern agriculture, with production, processing, rearing, fishery, and poultry as the key focus.
"Having seem the proportional advantage in the modern rearing, which we taught them, majority of them aside having large farm of their own now have fish ponds which we give them between 500 to 1000 fingerling per fish pond. These fish farmers will record just little mortality; hence they are trained and given all necessary medications on how best to cater for these fish.
Good number of the villagers who also hitherto depended on their local poultry, now have very large poultry with hybrid fowls such as cockress, layer, broiler and the host of others," Madawaki said, adding that "the Community Infrastructure Programme has helped in ensuring that adequately purified water is supplied."
Speaking on how some of these initiatives are being funded, Head, Rural Enterprise and Financial Linkage Services, Bawa Alhaji Isa, said, 50 per cent of the fund comes from the state government, while other financial institutions such as the Nigerian Agricultural Cooperative Bank, Sokoto State, gave N250,000 loan to each of the beneficiary for the agricultural ventures.
While noting that the dam provides water for food production in conjunction with the food security policy of the Federal Government, Project Manager, Middle Rima Valley Irrigation Project, Ibrahim Arizika Moriki, said the dam was designed to develop about 5,000 hectares within the immediate areas, which at the end, no fewer than 20,000 farmers would be involved in irrigation activities.
Continuing, Moriki said by this design, the area would not just have enough food, but can also export excess to neighbouring countries. He added that, aside creating more jobs for the immediate communities and catchment areas, the dam helps in reducing rural urban migration, while the Chairman, All Nigerian Farmers Association (ANFA), Alhaji Ibrahim Maimai, noted that agriculture has the potentials of lifting the nation to a higher height.
While Kiri Dam, located in Guyuk LGA of Adamawa State, was commissioned by the civilian government of Alhaji Shehu Shagari in 1982, mainly to provide irrigation for the Savannah Sugar Company (SSC), a large-scale sugarcane plantation and processing company, set up as a joint venture between the Federal Government and the Commonwealth Development Corporation (CDC) of London.
CDC was a managing agent of the project while the construction contract was awarded to NECC, a company largely-owned by the Nigerian government. The dam is 1.2 kilometres long with a 20 metres high zoned embankment internal clay blanket that has the capacity of containing 615 million cubic metres of water.
Apart from serving the SSC, the dam has equally played a significant role at improving the economic fortunes of residents of the area in terms of irrigation, farming, fishing, water provision for domestic consumption, and other recreational activities that have improved the livelihood of the residents of the area in terms of boosting their economy and substantially alleviating poverty.
Another key role the dam plays is in the area of flood reduction, because over the years, it has served as a buffer that has checked flooding in coastal areas of River Gongola on which it was constructed. Investigation has also shown that in the pre-dam era, many residents living along the River Gongola had experienced worsening flood situations, which subsided after the construction of the dam.
Investigation by LEADERSHIP SUNDAY also showed that flooding had reduced by 11.5 per cent, from 1,400 cubic metres to 1,256 per second. Conversely, while flood peaks have dropped, the water flow during the dry season has increased from 5.7 cubic metres to 21 per second, making the flow from the river to be sustained throughout the year, regardless of the volume of rainfall. This has also sustained irrigation farming, water transportation and other viable economic activities of the residents.
Apart from the indirect job opportunities the dam has created, it has equally provided more direct jobs through the SSC. The SSC was later acquired by Dangote Industries as a result of which its output was boosted to about 50,000 tonnes of sugar annually. A 2004 assessment of the dam has rated its condition as good. In October 2008, the United States Trade and Development Agency issued a request for proposals on constructing a 35 megawatts hydroelectric power plant at the dam.
That set the tone for the bilateral agreement that was recently entered into between the Federal Government under the supervision of Adamawa State Government and an American firm for a "Build Operate and Transfer" (BOT). The Adamawa State Government is seeking to utilise the potentials of the dam to produce 20MW of electricity to the state and its neighbours.
The state government has attracted the attention of the National Economic Council, under the coordinating role of the National Planning Commission, which commended the effort of the government in utilising the dam's potential to provide succour to its people.
Although Adamawa is one of the largest states in the country and occupies about 36,917 square kilometres, with an estimated population of 3.7 million people, the state lags behind in the area of power generation capacity for its domestic uses. Currently, Adamawa relies on one transmission line from the national grid for its main source of power. This configuration makes for a fragile delivery system that leaves power recipients vulnerable to outages.
Consequently, the project is considered one of the highest priorities for Adamawa State. The Kiri Power Plant Project, when completed, would serve a critical power need in Adamawa State.