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Taking Water To Wetlands: An Experiment With Small Irrigation For Resource Poor Farmers

Congress: 2015
Author(s): Gabriel Umoh

+2 3 4 (0)803 3 5 6 48 1 7
University of Uyo

Keyword(s): Sub-theme 10: Management of water resources,
Article: Oral:


In Africa, except for Madagscar, South Africa and a few countries in northern Africa, the potential for irrigation has not been effectively tapped (Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation, CTA, 2004). In Nigeria, agriculture remains a critical component of the economy. Over 70% of the population is engaged in agricultural activities. The country has one of the best agro-ecology to grow variety of crops (Oriola, 2009). It is endowed with an environment characterized by fair to good soils. In spite of these endowments, only 50% of the country's estimated 71.2 million hectares land is put to use due to water constraint (Aremu and Ogunwale, 1994). Most farmers practice rainfed agriculture which depend water supply from rainfall. However, output per hectare has been reducing due to erratic rainfall distribution, among other factors. Thus, irrigation is an important requirement for increasing agricultural production and productivity in the country. Nigerian agriculture is practiced on both upland and wetlands. Wetlands are areas of marsh fern, peatlands or water, whether natural or artificial, permanent or temporary, with water that is static or flowing, fresh, brackish or flowing, maritime water, the depth of which at low tide does not exceed six meters (Ramser Convention on the Conservation of Wetlands of International Importance, 1971). It is classified broadly into three groups- inland valleys, river floodplains and mangrove swamps (International Institute for Tropical Agriculture, IITA, 1990). A total of 2,988,000 hectares of Nigerian land is wetland. This comprises 858,000hectares of mangrove swamp and 2,130,000 hectares of fresh water swamps. A lot of rice, sugarcane and vegetables and recently, wheat and other high value crops are cultivated in the wetland. Wetland farmers operate under extreme environmental conditions, particularly in the current climate variability and long term change. They experience droughts at certain years and flooding. In the northern part of the country, long periods of drought are common while the 3-4 months dry period in the south. Government realized the need for irrigation for wetland agriculture and attempted to provide this through a national wetland agriculture development projects- River Basin Development Authority (1973) and National Fadama Development Project I (1992-1995). These efforts have not been sustained due to skepticism about taking water to wetland, particularly in the southern region which is expected toreceive rainfall in most parts of the year. The belief is that being a transition bwteen dryland and water bodies, the wetland does not need irrigation. The focus of each of these projects has been changed from irrigation supply to flood control and poverty alleviation respectively.


The study which culminated in this paper was conducted in two phases. The first was the intervention phase which consisted of provision of small irrigation facilities and other farm inputs including training to farmers in 6 locations (states) in the Niger Delta region under the European Union funded Micro-projects Programme in Six States of the Niger Delta (MPP6) in 2007.The intervention was designed to encourage resource poor farmers to improve small irrigation and to lay a credible and reliable foundation for exploiting the dry five months of idle time of small farmers to grow vegetables on the banks of ponds, rivers and small lakes that abound in the Niger Delta. The second phase consisted of the selection of two of the six project communities/locations for detailed study of the impacts of the intervention on farmers' crop output, income, productivity and welfare. The study was conducted in 2013 (5 years after) using Akai Effiwat community in Cross River State and Ata Obio Akpa community in Akwa Ibom State, all in Nigeria. The data obtained from the second phase of the study were analyzed using simple descriptive statistics and ordinary least square methods of regression analysis. The welfare indicator used was monthly household food expenditure. The performance of project participant-farmers was compared with those of non-participants.

Results and Discussion:

The result of the study show increase income to wetland farmers who irrigated their farms. Farmers earned up to 150% of income from sales of dry season vegetable produced from their irrigated fields. Productivity parameters indicate higher productivity of planting materials, fertilizer and labour among irrigators. They were found to be important determinants of crop outputs whereas only labour and fertilizer were determinants of crop production among non-participants. Average per caput monthly food expenditure was higher among participants/irrigators than non-participants.


The study shows that outputs from wetland agriculture can be enhanced through irrigation. Improved outputs, income and welfare of farmers arising from irrigation justify the need to take water (irrigation) to wetland, particularly the resource poor wetland farmers. However, the timing of water supply needs to match the dry season when residual water is insufficient. In addition, irrigation technologies need to be improved and made appropriate to wetlands environment to ensure sustainability


1. Aremu, J. A. and Ogunwale, S. A. (1994) Comparative Analysis of Small and Large-scale Irrigation in Northern Nigeria. In: Sanda, A. O and Ayo, S. B(eds), Impact of Irrigation on NigeriaÂís Environment, Fact Finders International. Pp: 165-185.

2. Oriola, E. O. (2009) Irrigation Agriculture: An Option for Achieving the Millennium Development Goals in Nigeria. Journal of Geography and Regional Planning 2(7):176-181

3. Ramser Convention on the Conservation of Wetlands of International Importance, 1971

4. Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation, (CTA, 2004) Small-scale Irrigation for Food Security in sub-Saharan Africa, CTA, The Netherlands. Pp: 49

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