The Institute of Agricultural Research and Training, (IAR&T) Ibadan, Oyo State has advised Governors and farmers in the Southwest region to embrace irrigation farming system without further delay. 

Executive Director of the institute, Professor Veronica Obatolu disclosed this while declaring open a one-day consultation workshop on irrigation development with the theme “Farmer-led irrigation and agricultural water management in South West Nigeria: Panacea for climate change and food security.”

She noted that the need to embrace irrigation system in the region is necessary in view of shortage of rainfall and negative impact of drought on agricultural production in the region. 

Stakeholders present at the workshop included the immediate past Director of the institute, Prof. James Adediran, experts from Ogun/Osun River Basin Development Authority, state ADPs, Ministries of Agriculture, Farmers and farmers’ association and senior research scientists from IAR&T and REFILS.

Obatolu who lamented that drought which the region is currently experiencing has reduced crop yield by up to 40 per cent, however suggested that Southwest farmers have more to do to increase irrigation practices either supplemental or total irrigation, in order to avoid hunger and food scarcity in the region. 

She advised the Governors in the region to support farmers with irrigation system tools the way their counterparts in the northern region are doing. 

Obatolu who was represented by Deputy Director of the institute, Dr. Jelili Saka, maintained that the recent challenges of drought occasioned by weather variability is a wake-up call to increase the awareness and deployment of irrigation systems as an adaptation strategy in the region. 

She added that this would go a long way to avoid looming food scarcity, which may result to malnutrition, hunger and other social problems in the region. 

She said, “In recent time, the challenges we now face with climate change and weather variability have make this meeting very important. It is estimated that this drought may have reduced crop yield by up to 40 per cent of expected crop production this year. 

“The bi-modal rainfall pattern that gives two cropping season – April to July and August to November – are no longer guarantee.

Average rainfall in the Southwestern – from the Coastal and rainforest of Ogun/Lagos to the guinea savannah of Oyo North – is about 2000mm to 1200mm. However, the depth and distribution of rainfall is fast changing and the effect on the cropping systems is becoming clearly unbearable. I believe, the time has passed when we used to think, “we do not need irrigation in the south”.

“Although, the deployment of irrigation technology is not new to us in Nigeria. Perhaps, either because of the ‘abundance’ of rain in the past or the peculiarities of our farming systems, the south west have not been aggressive in the approach to taking advantage of irrigation technology to ensure all-year-round production either at the smallholder or commercial scale. 

Coordinator of the programme, Engr. Adebayo Oke, what the region is currently experiencing has shown that farmers cannot depend solely on rain for agricultural production. 

“The rationale behind this workshop is a strategic response to the situation we are currently experiencing as relates to weather variability occasioned by climate change. Last year, we experienced August break that is very long drought that affected crop production to the tune of 40 per cent. 

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