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Farmers lament as Climate Change dries up Goronyo dam

Fishermen earn N50,000 daily, down from N1m  100 billion cubic metres of water down to 100 million  Tributary in Kebbi, drying      Many Rivers…

  • Fishermen earn N50,000 daily, down from N1m 
  • 100 billion cubic metres of water down to 100 million 
  • Tributary in Kebbi, drying     
  • Many Rivers in north silted up


If the water level at Goronyo dam drops beneath its present point as recently  seen by Daily Trust, it will be a record and the event will overwhelm life in the area.But the shrinking waters are already impacting upon food security, and the first poor harvests, dry wells and outward migrations have occurred, inspiring gloom and despair in the countryside.


Dead trees

Before us are dead trees unveiled by the declining waters of Goronyo dam. A normally green part of Goronyo village itself has become a site for groups to drive to and excavate sand to  support ongoing construction work. Others sit on mats beneath the trees, for it is a very hot day. The landscape has taken on a new form and  character, and sandy brown has replaced rich, friendly green. Close to the dam which was completed in 1984 and commissioned in 1992, a huge body of land lies exposed. 

Here are different shades of brown – some almost black, others turning deep brown, some in between all of these colours. My guide adds that at a certain time all the revealed land lay under water. In Sokoto, a tributary which connects with Goronyo dam is already showing signs that the dam itself which lies further on is drying up,and there is now a problem accessing water in Sokoto where water is being rationed, authorities say. River Matan Fada in Kebbi State, another tributary  of  Goronyo is desiccating, threatening the popular Argungu fishing festival which usually  attracts thousands of fishermen, some from across the border, when it holds. One can see how an absence of water  starves culture of  oxygen, the very force which gives meaning to the festival.The felling of trees, desert encroachment ,and the poor rains of 2017 combine to worsen a very bad situation within the environment of the dam. The sum  of all this is an environment which is being severely degraded on a daily basis. Not too long ago, the Goronyo dam had sufficient water  “Some said we should transfer water from Goronyo to lake Kalmalo in Sokoto  state  so that it will be rejuvenated, but now with what is happening at Goronyo, we can see that it will not be feasible,” explains Dr. D.B. Adie, a professor at  the department of Water Resources and Environmental Engineering, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. He had earlier drawn attention to the fact that Lake Kalmalo had dried up, and he was suggesting practical ways by which its waters could be restored. On the other hand the shrinking  Lake Chad has had huge impact on communities around the lake, and the drying up of Goronyo,a much smaller body of water which supplies water to a  population of  4 million in  Kebbi and Sokoto states, is already  altering the quality of life in the area, and forcing the villagers to rethink many things. 

Epic collapse 

The drying up of  Goronyo dam in which waters dropped from 100 billion cubic metres, to 100 million cubic metres,  is an epic type of collapse and  threatens food security downstream. “Little water means less food,” one scholar murmurs, upset at the sudden turn of events at Goronyo and contiguous communities.There was more water in the dam in December 2017, Daily Trust is informed, but  four months on  the site  has quickly dried up,and this has slowed down the quality of life and reversed much that used to flourish in the locality, including many aspects of farming and fishing. Once, only two trees were visible  when on a good day the dam fills with water.But today so many trees can be seen, and the  leafless branches of many trees point upwards as though in prayer.This is the resurrection of dead trees, a summoning of forms from the  watery depth in which they had lain. Climate change is on the march, altering lives and environments across the world, raising temperatures, triggering floods and imposing arid conditions in places that were once green. 

No water 

An informed source in Sokoto who prefers anonymity, says “On a scientific basis, if there is no water in the dam,it affects many things, because the main essence of the reservoir is to supply water for domestic and agricultural needs.Now, for both domestic and agricultural needs, we don’t have water. To a certain extent most of the wells have dried up.” He continues “The source of the water is from three rivers. Rivers Gagare  and  Busuru which are in Nigeria, and river Maradi in Niger republic. These are the sources and they flow into the dam.Once there is no water upstream,the dam would have a low volume of water, and water has to be released for domestic use in Kebbi and Sokoto states. Most of the water requirement  comes from that dam,and the two states also depend on it solely for dry season farming. If there’s no water to irrigate, then the  situation  becomes  a threat to food security.”  

Water transfer 

Dr. Sani Usman (not real name) commenting on the way forward, admits “The water level in the dam can be restored to its original level if there is succession of average rainfall for a period of two to three years, depending on the design capacity of the reservoir. Some dams fill in one season while others take two to three years to fill. This is the natural inflow. If however, there is need for human intervention, water could be transferred from another catchment area to the dam or they may pump groundwater into the dam.” Dr. Babatunde Adeogun of the Faculty of  Engineering, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria speaks in the same vein “We need to control the micro climate, to reduce the rate of evaporation. To do this we need to plant trees around that will reduce the rate at which the water will evaporate. There should be effective management of the watershed as a whole, so that people will not be carrying out farming activities indiscriminately, because it is the forming of ridges  that releases sediments which go back to the river.” 

Climate change 

During a recent visit to the Goronyo dam, Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto  State revealed “Our farmers are also suffering because output from this year’s dry season farming will invariably be affected.” According to the Managing Director of the Sokoto Rima River Basin Development Authority, Engineer Buhari Bature, “depletion was the worst seen in the dam in over 25 years. He also attributed the problem to shortage of rainfall in 2017, climate change and lack of desilting of the dam.” Suleiman Adamu, Minister of Water Resources, in an interview with a news medium, laments “To come and see this desolate place in less than two years, I think it is mind boggling.Obviously, we can see the effect of climate change right at our doorsteps, for those that were sceptical about it, this is real.”  

‘It didn’t happen overnight’

Dr. Usman reflects on the reasons behind the dramatic loss of water at Goronyo dam “Although the water level had suddenly dropped, this did not happen in one season. There had been gradual decrease in the capacity of the reservoir over the years which might not have been noticed due to gradual sedimentation. Right now, there are some islands created in the reservoir which attest to sediment accumulation.”He opines “Other factors which could have led to decline in the volume of water in the reservoir, include large water releases due to flood inflows, high evaporation resulting from increase in temperatures, and low precipitation due to frequent droughts.”


To be concluded

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