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River Niger Valley: Kebbi’s rice farmers’ haven

The River Niger valley in Kebbi State is estimated to be about 12,600 kilometres square. The upland and lowland consist of about 120,000 hectares of…

The River Niger valley in Kebbi State is estimated to be about 12,600 kilometres square. The upland and lowland consist of about 120,000 hectares of irrigable land along the flood plain and it stretches from Gendene, Kwalla, Yuna areas of Bagudo, Yelwa, Kamba, the border town between Nigeria and Niger Republic and Ngaski area of the state.
Because of the agricultural potentials of the valley, a cluster of rice farms have emerged along its flood plain. About 250 farmers under the Water Users’ Associations are currently cultivating large scale rice farms in the area due to the reliable water source from River Niger.
It was reasoned that with the current agricultural initiative of the state government tagged rice revolution under the Anchor Borrowers programme that was launched by President Muhammadu Buhari early this year and financed by the Central Bank of Nigeria in partnership with Kebbi State Government, the Niger valley would be of immense economic advantage to the farmers and government in the effort to realize mass production of rice in Kebbi State.
In recognition of the agricultural potentials of the River Niger valley, the Federal Government few years ago initiated a project to construct flood protection dyke that would prevent water from taking over the flood plain area. An Italian consultant, Nuovocastrol, was consulted by the government to carry out a detailed design of the project but nothing was heard about it many years after.
Malam Nasiru Mudi is the manager of the Sokoto Rima Basin Authority in charge of the River Niger Valley Irrigation Project from Kamba to Yelwa. He told Daily Trust on Sunday that the flood plain of the valley is a blessing to farmers because of its reliable water source, particularly now that the state government is making efforts to encourage irrigation farming. “This is River Niger; just three kilometres away from the bridge is a village called Yuna where the river and River Rima meet. It stretches from Yelwa to Kamba, the border between Nigeria and Niger Republic then to Ngaski, another area of Kebbi State. Kebbi State has over 500,000 hectares of FADAMA land. River Niger is our reliable water source here. It is a very large area, I am sure it is enough to feed the whole nation. It is from it that Labana Farms cultivated 2000 hectares and plans to put another 2000 into use soon. The Anchor Borrowers has assisted many of the farmers to carry out their activities around this valley successfully”.
He continued that, “we are under the Ministry of Water Resources and irrigation is one of our concerns that is why we are involved in rice irrigation farming around the River Niger Valley flood plain. We have water at the River Niger and we have pumps there to lift the water from the river to the farms. There are medium water pumps here; they lift water from River Niger into the chambers then to the secondary canals before the water will flow into the farms at the valley. A medium pump delivers 400 metres cup per hour. Presently, four of the pumps are being put to use at the valley by Labana farms. Over 10,000 hectares along the valley was irrigated this year. By next year, we will do over 20,000 hectares.  The bridge over the river was constructed in 1985 to give access to Kaoje and other places up to Benin Republic”.
Also speaking on the fertility and advantage of the valley to their farming activities, Alhaji Umar Dodo Aliero, the Project Coordinator of Labana Farms, said the valley is the best water source needed to fully realize their objectives in rice production in the area.
“Without it, this area cannot be irrigable considering the volume of water that we need to grow our rice. I am a water engineer by profession.
Each machine here pumps over 580 litres of water per seconds. If you multiply it by one hour you will realize it is a lot of water. He added that the bridge over the river was constructed in 1985 during General Ibrahim Babangida’s regime. “You know this area is very close to the border between Nigeria and Benin Republic. The Nigerian government at that time discovered that our neighbours around this area were encroaching into Nigeria’s territory because of the fertility of the Niger valley area and others things that we have here so they decided to protect it by building this bridge.
With this bridge this area of land was clearly demarcated. This River Niger is from Futa-Toro in Senegal. It runs through Burkina-Faso, Mali, Niger Republic and from there to Nigeria where it meets with River Benue at Lokoja before it falls into the Atlantic Ocean at the Delta side. “With its water source at the valley, if every other thing goes well as expected we will get nothing less than 198,600 bags of rice during the harvest period this year.
If everything is okay I think we can transplant about 50 hectares in a day.  We have developed our own variety of rice. Instead of Faro 44 that takes about 120 days from transplanting to harvesting. We now have two types of rice seeds that we are now planting in this valley. We have Goria, it takes about 90 days and the other one is Jemila; it is a long -grain rice and it is ready for harvesting in 90 days compared to others that take 120 days”.
A farmer under the Water Users’ Association along the Niger valley, Alhaji Kabiru Bagudo told Daily Trust on Sunday that the Niger valley is a blessing to farmers in the state.
“As you can see, the river is a blessing to those of us farming in this area. It is the only reliable water source and it has gone a long way to make irrigation farming and fishing possible for many people in this area. We have over 250 farmers currently benefitting from the Niger valley irrigation project under the water users association. Many of us are rice farmers. We converged here because of the importance of the flood plain of river Niger. I think the presence of Labana Farms has also helped us to achieve more in our farming activity. It opens the way for many of us in terms of how to tap many of the advantages of the valley into bumper harvest”.
Abdullahi Zuru, Manager, Labana rice, said “you remember the president was in Kebbi sometime ago to launch the Anchor Borrowers Programme on rice and wheat cultivation. The idea is to make Nigeria self-sufficient in food production, particularly rice. According to records, the country needs 6.5 million tons of rice to feed it citizens.
This is very high and they realize it might not be achieved immediately with the way things were going then. With the potentials of the Niger valley, the objective of the Anchor Borrowers scheme will be achieved soon. We have farmers that are willing, committed and determined to produce rice.
All they need is support and assistance which they are getting now. The number of farmers that are into irrigation farming here have tripled because of the farming revolution that is going on at the Niger Valley and aided by the agricultural programme introduced by the federal government.  What is going on at the moment at this valley will provide enough paddy rice for ingenious Nigerian millers.
He said Labana farms was established about five months ago and it currently has 5,500 farmers under its out-growers scheme. “We assist them with water pumps, seeds, fertilizers and at the end of the day they will produce and directly bring to our company to sell. Under the anchor borrowers programme we also have about 5,000 farmers allocated to us by the Central Bank of Nigeria to produce rice and sell to us. On our own we have 2,250 farmers that we are assisting apart from the out-growers”.
Malam Auwalu Garba Abubakar, a surveyor who did the perimeter survey of the farm area said about 186,000 hectares of the flood plain of the Niger valley has been utilized by farmers. “We plan to create roads in between the canals that supplies water to the farm for easy conveyance of fertilizers and movement of machines like the trans-planters and combine-harvesters in the farms during planting and harvesting periods. The survey will also enable us to know the low and high areas in the farms so that when we release water it can flow to every area of the farms”. 

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