There were mixed feelings in the agriculture sector in Kano and Jigawa states as the federal government handed over 289 hectares of farmland to farmers under the Garri Irrigation Project.
While farmers are jubilant over the irrigation project, cattle herders said it has blocked their cattles routes.
The Minister of Water Resources, Suleiman Adamu, and Governor Muhammad Badaru of Jigawa State performed the handing over ceremony in Roni LGA of Jigawa State on Friday.
At the event, Mr Badaru said the future is bright for communities adjoining where the dams and irrigation projects are sited, adding that the project would boost agricultural activities and ensure year round farming.
He said the irrigation projects, which covers 2, 114 hectares of farmlands, will ensure availability of water supply throughout the year, adding that farmers would cultivate rice and other crops thrice, annually.
The governor said from the 8,000 hectares of irrigated farmlands, including that of Hadejia Emirate, the states will produce 150,000 tonnes of rice annually.
“Farmers don’t need water pumps and generators to wet their farmlands which, obviously, increase the cost of production. With this development, farmers can use the canal for watering their farms which will make the price of food affordable for all,” Mr Badaru said amidst cheers from hundreds of locals who turned out for the event.
On his part, the minister, Mr Adamu, said the irrigation project is in line with the commitment of President Muhammadu Buhari’s plan to diversifying the economy, ensuring food security and assuring the uplift of 100 million Nigerians out of poverty within 10 years.
The Gari Irrigation Project was reportedly conceived by President Buhari when he was head of the defunct Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF). The project was flagged off then but was abandoned by succeeding administrations.
The irrigation project is located about 70 kilometres north of Kano, between Kano and Jigawa states.
The project area covers five local government areas namely: Dambatta, Makoda and Kunchi in Kano State; Roni and Kazaure in Jigawa.
The project has a net irrigable area of approximately 2,114 hectares subdivided into eight sectors.
The contract works consist of Gari and Marke Dams rehabilitation, Cross Dam, Main and Distributary Canal, main and collector drains irrigation fields and associated structures.
Sector 1 and 2 of the irrigation project have been handed over to the farmers while sector 4 is completed, tested and ready for handover. Work in Sector 3 and 5 are ongoing.
Herders appeal for demarcation of cattle routes
But the Chairperson, Miyatti Allah, a Fulani sociocultural organisation, in Roni local government area of Jigawa, Ayuba Shu’iabu, told reporters that the project was commendable but lamented that it blocked cattle routes in the area.
“We are grateful to God for the work done in this area, we are all happy for the development but we are also hoping that the government will eventually look into this cattle routes blockage and mark out routes for the herders,” Mr Shu’aibu told reporters on the sidelines of the event.
Mr Shu’aibu said “As you can see it yourself, the celebration here is one-sided, the herders are not satisfied with the project because there was no provision for them.
“We are appealing to the governor (Mr Badaru) to provide for cattle routes and grazing areas for our livestock.
“Initially, there was a provision for that but the irrigation project has taken up all the areas in favour of the farmers,” the Miyatti Allah official said.
Also, Adamu Ibrahim, a herder from Kunchi local government area of Kano State, said “farmers have cultivated all the grazing routes in his area”.
Mr Ibrahim, however, said the irrigation project is yet to reach his location. He begged the authorities to ensure that the cattle routes are identified before and after the project.
Umar Ado, 86, another herder from one of the adjoining communities in Makoda LGA of Kano, said: “They have encroached all the cattle routes with the project. That means that we have to be stagnant without going out with our livestock for rearing.
“We are fully in support of the irrigation project because it empowers the residents but the problem is that we don’t have routes to move about in the event farmers crops have germinated. That is is the obstacle of the project for us.
“The government knows better than us. We are hoping that they will revisit and create the cattle routes because both the farmers and the herders are under the authority of the government,” the octogenarian said
Abubakar Maishanu, an octogenarian, collaborated the stance of his kinsmen. He said the irrigation project will create wealth for the residents of the area but appealed to the government to provide cattle routes.
When contacted, the Executive Secretary, Farmer and Herders Board, in Jigawa, Rabiu Miko, said “the government always demarcates cattle routes in any area allocated to farmers, and this project with not be an exceptional.
Farmers interviewed at the event said they considrred the project a shower of blessings and thanked President Buhari for initiating the project and ensuring its completion.
Usman Mu’azu, a farmer from Makoda LGA in Kano, said farmers have started harvesting tomatoes, onions, maize, rice and other consumables in the irrigation section already handed over to the farmers by the federal government.
“As I speak to you now, on Sunday we have planted rice in one area and that was after harvesting onion on the same farm,
“This irrigation project was long agitated for, we are happy that this administration came and actualised our dreams of many years and residents have started reaping the fruit of the project
“Initial, we used to migrate to Kura LGA area and some other parts of Katsina State to work on farm plantations to sustain our lives. But with this project, I won’t go anywhere again. Instead, I will remain here and work and earn money,” Mr Mu’azu said.
The farmer, however, acknowledged that, “the project is yet to reach our location but we are coming down here where the government handed over the irrigated areas and work for money, pending the completion of the work.
“We are are also appealing to the government to empower the farmers with fertiliser and other farming inputs,” Mr Mu’azu said.
Isyaku Abubakar, a farmer from Kunchi Local Government Area of Kano State, said for them, the irrigation project was a “continuation of the good works of President Buhari”. He said he was not surprised because the president initiated the project.
“I can recall vividly when he supervised the water dam when he was heading the PTF and promised to utilise the dam for the economic development of the area. However, after the PTF was disbanded, the project was abandoned,” Mr Abubakar said.
“We are are grateful to the governors of Kano, Jigawa, Abdullahi Ganduje and Muhammad Badaru, for their support in initialising the project.
“The irrigation project will surely empower our youth economically and reduce rural urban migration,” Mr Abubakar said.
Perennial clashes between herders and farmers over land, leading to loss of lives, has been one of the thorny security crises the federal government has battled with over the past few years.