Failing dam threatens hundreds of rice farmers in Kwara

The Duku-Lade Dam in August, before it overflowed two months later. Photo by Caleb Ojewale
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The Duku-Lade irrigation scheme that serves farmlands cultivated by an estimated 2,000 smallholder farmers, in and around Lade community in Patigi Local Government Area of Kwara State is failing. The problem is not with flooded farms as may be expected, but the opposite.

The Dam collapsed on the opposite side of channels where water should flow out to the farms. In essence, the farmlands where water is required lost their supply of water in an area where it is direly needed. This lasted for over 40 days before a temporary fix was put in place, but even that cannot hold up much longer.

“Some farmers were supposed to harvest about 20 or 25 sacks (of paddy rice) but they realized only 5 or 4 because of this failure of the dam,” said Lehle Ibrahim, a local chief in Lade. Since the required water could not go to the farms, the volume of expected harvests was significantly affected; the impact varying from one farmer to the other.

The farmers in Lade are mainly into rice cultivation, and from accounts of different sources, at least 50 percent of farmers had their production affected this year. Rice is a crop that requires a lot of water for it to grow, much less, give optimum yields. The collapse of this dam for over 40 days, spanning midway through the production cycle, made it difficult for many crops to survive across the irrigation-dependent landscape.

Bala Ibrahim, one of the farmers in the area, told Agribusiness Insight, that the incident occurred on October 1, 2018 and it was not until about November 15 that a temporary fix could be deployed through individual contributions by members of the community. The temporary fix, which was seen during a visit to the Dam in December, according to community leaders and residents, will not hold up when the rainy season starts again. At this time, the devastating losses of last year may be repeated.

According to Ibrahim, “rice requires water until the very last day,” and the interruption for almost 45 days severely affected the productivity of farmers in the area.

Abubakar Haruna, the village head of Duku-Lade, said the dam’s failure is the most devastating experience the community has recorded in a long time. According to him, some years ago, the community experienced shortage of rainfall, which affected its rice production output. This year, the dam, which should be a buffer against nature’s occurrences that are often beyond man’s control, has also failed them.

“The water is being diverted to another side, where the dam should be blocked. Where water was supposed to go, it did not flow there this year,” Haruna complained.

The water did not flow through the main channel where farmlands would have been irrigated, as it destroyed the barriers on the opposite side and flowed there. Members of the largely agrarian community say the temporary fix they put in place needs to be properly done. They expressed fears that if nothing is done to properly fix the broken dam before the rainy season starts this year; farmers will not only suffer shortage of water on their farms, but the water will once again overflow to the other side where it is not needed, and potentially causing damage there.

CALEB OJEWALE

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