Small-scale irrigation systems (shallow tube wells and gasoline pumps) triggered a widespread intensification of valley-bottom (fadama) cultivation in northern Nigeria (Reij and Steeds 2003; World Bank 1995). Adoption of the technology grew to 70% by 1994 from a baseline of 5% a decade earlier.
These World Bank Agricultural Development Projects (ADPs) in Kano and Sokoto States initially focused on increasing the production of basic food staple crops like sorghum and millet. However these markets were quickly glutted because demand outside the rural areas was low. The ADPs became much more successful when they turned to cash crops in demand by nearby and distant urban markets.
The ADPs subsidized the purchase of gasoline pumps by farmers, and drilled tubewells for them. About 65,000 pumps were sold, and 10,000 tubewells dug. This greatly increased the quantity and availability of water for irrigation in these shallow valleys. By the end of the project in 1994, nearly 100,000 hectares were being irrigated in these States.
The irrigated cultivation of high-value vegetables such as onions, peppers, garlic and tomatoes in the dry season was very profitable. These gardens became the major source of income for one-third of the farmers. This reflects a major shift from subsistence crops towards market-oriented production.
In Sokoto Sate, community leaders interviewed said almost all households were better off as a result of the wells and pumps. In Kano, due to higher population density the benefits were less widespread because many did not have access to fadama land.
With the widespread deployment of pumps and wells, a local service industry emerged to maintain them. After the initial purchase subsidy, farmers had to pay full costs for maintenance, yet this was not a constraint to the sustainability of the new system.
Key factors for success included affordable fuel and spare parts; roads for access to major markets in the south of Nigeria; effectiveness of the technology in preventing crop failures; and the appropriateness of the technology itself, especially for individual farmers rather than for group collectives, which are more complicated for farmers to successfully manage.
A similar project in the Koumadougou Valley in eastern Niger was also highly successful (IFAD 1999).
Return to "Dryland success stories"
IFAD 1999. Evaluation du Programme Spécial du FIDA pour les pays d'Afrique subsaharienne touchés par la sécheresse et la désertification. Rapport de synthèse. Rapport no. 924. Rome: International Fund for Agricultural Development.
Reij, C. and Steeds, D. 2003. Success stories in Africa's drylands: supporting advocates and answering skeptics. Rome: Global Mechanism of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification.
World Bank 1995. Nigeria impact Evaluation Report Kano Agricultural Development Project (Loan 1982-UNI), Sokoto Agricultural Development Project (Loan 2185-UNI). Washington: The World Bank Operations Evaluation Department.