Dealing with erratic rain in Nigeria

News and Press Release
Originally published
June 13, 2005 -- The erratic rainfall of northern Nigeria creates problems for many -- with the country's dry season lasting for many months of the year.

But one only needs to drill more than five meters underground with a pump system to get water in the lands known as the fadama.

In the language of the Hausa in northern Nigeria, fadama is the name for irrigable land -- flood plains and low lying areas, underlined by shallow aquifers, found along Nigeria's river systems. These river valley areas, which are seasonally flooded, or have high water tables for a large part of the year, are an important dry season farmland.

The fadama land has been described as heaven to the rural population -- because of its rich forest, water and fertile land resources. Fishermen, hunters, farmers, pastoralists and others converge in these areas for their livelihoods -- especially in the dry season.

But with so many converging in the areas, there has been conflict between the people on the fadama land -- with the conflict sometimes leading to physical injury and destruction of property.

One of the successful initiatives of the World Bank's support to Nigeria has been the small-scale, low cost, farmer managed irrigation in the fadamas. The first National Fadama Development Project was approved by the Bank in 1992 and funded to the tune of US$67.5 million.

With the clear objective of making agricultural production less dependent on the erratic rainfall, the project was aimed at raising farmer's incomes and so help alleviate poverty.

It involved the construction of about 50,000 tube wells in the fadama lands for small scale irrigation, as well as simplifying the drilling technology for the tube wells.

The Second National Fadama Development Project, launched in October 2004, marks the first pioneering effort at practically demonstrating a bottom-up approach to planning and development in Nigeria.

The US$100 million dollar project has a community-driven development approach so all the various groups -- crop farmers, pastoralists, fisher folk, hunters, livestock rearers, women and other vulnerable groups -- are involved in the process. It's a strategy aimed at avoiding and managing conflicts over the competition for the scarce land and water resources.

The project finances small scale irrigation systems, feeder roads and other types of community infrastructure. With the community driven approach, farmers and other groups have produced their own plans for funding under the project...a move that'll help lay the foundation for greater sustainability of the community development schemes.