A decade after, farmers are lamenting the collapse of the Lugu dam and the irrigation scheme in the Wurno Local Government Area of Sokoto State.
“Wurno, a significant producer of garlic, rice, and onions, is no longer in the same reckoning, as production is at the lowest ebb. Farming is no longer profitable and enjoyable like before, we now invest a lot and harvest less,” the Chairman Fadama Farmers Association Wurno LGA, Alhaji Garba Gidan Modi lamented.
Alhaji Garba stated that the area where the dam was functioning could produce two million sacks of onion and rice monthly. “But since the dam collapsed, we hardly cultivate even a quarter of the usual harvest as you can see our depot is empty.”
“In 2017, many had high hopes over the rehabilitation of the dam and resuscitation of the scheme when the state governor Aminu Tambuwal, led officials on an inspection visit to the area.
“We are working with the World Bank under the Nigeria Erosion and Watershed Management Project NEWMAP to fix the collapsed part of the dam at Gidan Modi Lugu and in general revive the Wurno Irrigation Scheme,” he had said.
But three years now, the situation has remained the same as confirmed by the villagers when Daily Trust visited the area.
It was a tortous journey from Wurno town through Lugu to Gidan Modi. The effect of that journey left a throbbing feeling but not as lingering as the situation of the farmers who are groaning under multiple problems occasioned by the lengthened breakdown of Lugu dam and the irrigation scheme.
The ancient town of Wurno, which served as headquarters of the great Sokoto caliphate, was notable for its agricultural production enriched by the Lugu dam.
People visited Wurno not only to see the tomb of the first Sultan of Sokoto, Muhammadu Bello; they equally went there to purchase the famous Wurno Rice for consumption or commercial purposes.
Today, the story is quite different since the collapse of Lugu dam in 2010, following a torrential rainfall that forced its discontinuity.
60-year-old Noma Jikan Garba, with over 40 years in farming, deplored the poor harvest caused by the collapse of the dam.
“The six million sacks that were produced annually have shrunk to 3000 bags of onion. People no longer come to Wurno for our famous rice. For 10 years, we have been hoping for something to be done on the dam, yet no relief is in sight.
“We once faced a similar situation 20 years ago but not as much as the present situation. That time when the dam burst, we used communal efforts to mend it, and it functioned again,” the farmer recalled.
A 70- year old farmer, Alhaji Shugaba Bello Mai Kanfi, who used to harvest 350 sacks of onion, said he now had to contend with 80 bags that is and after spending a lot much money on fuel, lubricant, pesticide and fertiliser.
“Before, the rice we produced sustained our families for another year after we have sold some, but now even the one to feed our families is difficult,” he revealed.
“We need the government to hasten the renovation of the dam so that we can return to our normal life. We are devastated considering the importance of the dam to our community and the magnitude of the loss,” he added.
Alhaji Garba explained that the more the water, the less the consumption of fuel, less application of pesticide and fertiliser.
“Even the government is losing a lot since people no longer come to Wurno from Ghana and other places to purchase garlic and onion,” he said.He showed our correspondent the empty structures called ‘consumers’ where onion was stored for customers to buy and transport to faraway places.
“When the dam was functioning, this place was always full. Many of our people have migrated for greener pastures since the dam stop functioning,” he added.
Alhaji Shehu Liman Gidan Modi said as farmers’ Association members, they derived a lot of benefits from the scheme concerning rice and onion production.
“The collapse of the dam has brought everything to a standstill. Both the scheme and the canals have dried out.
“We need the government to come and commence the maintenance project. I recall the night of the collapse, which was followed by a bizarre and loud noise that one could hear from a distance. Please convey our message to the government on the need to revamp the dam and the scheme,” Shehu said.
Daily Trust reports that farmers are working across the expanse of land, which was part of the dam where water used to accumulate, against warning by the authorities to refrain from farming in the dam site.
“The effect of the dam collapse forced many of us to plant crops within the perimeter of the dam where the authority had said we should avoid for fear of losing our investment when the dam comes alive,” one of them admitted.
“But we rather risk the entire plantation than remain idle and wait for the commencement of the dam renovation which is yet to happen 10 years after. We can’t live like that,” he added.
Under the arrangement, World Bank would finance the physical rehabilitation of the dam while the state government will fund the compensations.
The Sole Administrator, Wurno Local Government Council, Alhaji Ladan Mohammad Wurno, said there is the issue of compensation to some communities that relocated to areas where the dam exists after it dried up, adding that there was also the issue bordering on experts’ consultation before the commencement of the exercise.
Project Coordinator for Nigeria Erosion and Watershed Management Project NEWMAP in Sokoto, Ibrahim Umar told Daily Trust that the work delay has to do with, ‘’making sure that whatever we do on that dam would stand the test of time.”
“As you know, dam is not a small project, that’s why nobody wants to take chances. The World Bank does not like to be associated with anything that would fail. So, there has to be a rigorous review of whatever aspect of the design undertaken. It has to be in line with the best practices.”
He, however, said the design for the rehabilitation exercise had reached advanced stage.
‘’As I speak, our NEWMAP consultants, tasked with the responsibility of designing the rehabilitation of that dam, have assured us that before the end of February, they would complete the design and submit it to us.”
He assured that as soon as the consultants submit the design, they would forward it to World Bank for their review and subsequent approval.