The Nigerian government has started the process of revitalising the River Basin Development Authorities to tackle the challenges of food insecurity and environmental degradation.
There are also hopes that reviving the River Basin Development Authorities would further add impetus to the economy of the oil-rich nation that is already in recession.
The process began with the flag off of a Graduate Farmers Employment Scheme (GFES) at the Anambra-Imo River Basin Development Authority in Agbala, Owerri North Local Government Area of Imo State.
Addressing the some trainees enrolled in the scheme, the Minister of Water Resources, Mr Suleiman Adamu, lamented that the River Basin Development Authorities had over the years abandoned its core mandate of supporting agricultural development.
He said that the flag-off of the GFES was another milestone in revitalising the River Basins.
Production Of Improved Varieties
According to him, 5,450 graduates across the 109 Senatorial zones of the country would be trained and empowered to set up their various agricultural ventures.
He said that the scheme would guarantee food production and provide opportunities for the graduates to be meaningfully engaged and become employers of labour.
“The scheme will be a continuous process and 50 graduates will be selected from each of the 109 Senatorial zones across the country and the beneficiaries would be empowered to set up their own agricultural ventures.
“The idea is to revitalise the River Basins and ensure that they would effectively perform the mandate for which they were established.
“The River Basin Development Authorities will no longer be involved in road building or construction of schools or markets but it will henceforth carry out its mandate,” he told the gathering.
In his address, the Managing Director of the Anambra Imo Basin Development Authority, Mr Patrick Okereafor, recalled that the Authority had in the past implemented similar programme when it commissioned about 42 Agricultural projects in the southeast.
He explained that the projects were used as seed multiplication centres for the production of improved varieties and forestry products for research institutes which were distributed to farmers in order to increase output.
Mr Okoreafor, however, noted that “the change in Government in 1985 and the enactment of Decree No 35 of 1987 saw the agricultural functions of the River Basin Development Authorities exorcised from the original functions and all the Agricultural farms were tagged non-water project”
The Managing Director commended the FG for taking measures to revitalise the River Basin Development Authorities.
According to the Act that established the River Basin Development Authorities, they are to undertake comprehensive development of both surface and underground water resources for multipurpose use with particular emphasis on the provision of irrigation infrastructure and the control of floods and erosion and for watershed management.
They are also established to construct, operate and maintain dams, dykes, polders, wells, boreholes, irrigation and drainage systems, and other works necessary for the achievement of the Authority’s functions and hand over all lands to be cultivated under the irrigation scheme to the farmers; supply water from the Authority’s completed storage schemes to all users for a fee to be determined by the Authority concerned, with the approval of the Minister and construct, operate and maintain infrastructural services such as roads and bridges linking project sites: provided that such infrastructural services are included and form an integral part of the list of approved projects.
Another function is to develop and keep up-to-date a comprehensive water resources master plan identifying all water resources requirements in the Authority’s area of operation, through adequate collection and collation of water resources, water use, socio-economic and environmental data of the River Basin.
Revitalising the agency is part of the government’s efforts to diversify the nation’s economy, with substantial engagement in agriculture which was the mainstay of the nation’s economy before the discovery of crude oil.