We welcome the plan by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture to construct 10 earth dams in each of the nation’s 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, with effect from next year.
Agriculture Minister, Chief Audu Ogbeh, announced the plan tagged “Project 10/37” in his goodwill message at the public presentation of the “Water Sector Roadmap” in Abuja on August 18. He disclosed that his ministry was collaborating with the Ministry of Water Resources to ensure sufficient water in urban and rural areas.
Agriculture is a sector in which adequate water supply is of great importance. Since it is one of the sectors through which Nigeria hopes to diversify its economy, we think the agriculture ministry is on the right path. Our only regret is that Nigeria did not invest massively in earth dams in the past.
It is sad that earlier national campaigns to improve agriculture such as Operation Feed the Nation (OFN), Green Revolution, and Directorate of Food, Roads and Rural Infrastructure (DFRRI) left little in the form of agriculture infrastructure. This is probably why they left no lasting legacies and ultimately fizzled out of the people’s consciousness.
We urge the Federal Government to view ‘Project 10/37’ as of vital national interest, and deserving of utmost priority, urgency and resources. This is one project that would give real teeth to the nation’s plan to truly diversify its economy. We believe that if we are able to have enough water for irrigation, we will lift our agriculture from being a seasonal occupation to an all-year-round enterprise. We feel sure also that with enough water resources, we are bound to get more acreage under utilisation and achieve food security. We will also have adequate water for animal husbandry, either in ranches or along the pastoral grazing trails.
It will also mean the availability of water to sustain and expand fish farming, which is important to our ever rising population.
Our agriculture will no longer depend on the rains. The dams would encourage every Nigerian so inclined, to purchase a plot of land to plant a tree or vegetables, fruit trees or even a garden of flowers. They would encourage Nigerians to appreciate the need to reserve and economize water, and to learn how to harvest and utilise flood water. We hope the cooperation between the two ministries will go beyond the ministers’ level and seep down to the grassroots as well as the various benefitting communities. The communities must be made the most vital part of the implementation of the project to ensure not only its continuity but its expansion and sustenance.
We suspect that the ministry’s proposal of an equal number of dams for all states was politically determined. Much as we cherish the equality of states on many issues, we suggest that ‘need’ and ‘potentials’ be the real determinants of the allocation of the earth dams. The resources to build 370 earth dams are going to put pressure on the country’s purse, but the dams should be considered a vital contribution to our national infrastructural development, which is crucial to national survival, prosperity and, above all, self-reliance. We also believe that organisations such as the World Bank, the Africa Development Bank (ADB) and other multilateral development institutions should help with this project. This project should enjoy the support of all Nigerians.