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Lake Chad Basin

No water, no food, no life, says Lake Chad farmer

7 March 2022
Reading time: 4 minutes

Lake Chad used to be one of the largest water bodies in the world but the lake has shrunk by 90% in the past decade mainly because of climate change but also due to unsustainable water management and human pressure on water resources in the basin.

This has severely affected fishermen, herders and farmers in the area, which borders Cameroon, Niger, Nigeria and Chad.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations has described the shrinkage as an ecological catastrophe but says it is fast becoming a very human disaster as well.

Small-scale farmers have been most affected because they rely on rain-fed cultivation and do not have access to adequate water sources for dry-season production, leading to local shortages of important crops and high market prices in the dry season, which often results in desperate food insecurity.

The decline in fish production has reduced considerably and there has been degradation of pasturelands, leading to a shortage of dry matter, reduced livestock breeding, as well as causing a major threat to the area’s biodiversity.

Idris Mala Gujja, a farmer for more than 20 years in Shokari in Maiduguri, told RNI reporter Aisha Jamal that there was water only in the rainy season. In the dry season, water was scarce and each year it was getting worse, especially if the farmers did not get water from Alau Dam, the largest water provider in the state.

“The water that comes from Alau Dam is good, but when it is closed, sometimes for four or five months, we get a little water until it stops completely. Then we have to use water from city drainages or buy water for ₦3,000 for the farms. Sometimes when the water system is flushed out of Alau, we get a lot of water too. But, if we are not lucky, the water stops and we have to stop farming because we do not get any water,” Gujja said.

“We get sufficient water during rainy season and that is our best season for planting vegetables, such as carrots, cabbages, legumes, onions and okro. The water is essential, we cannot eat if we do not have water.”

He said when the water stopped, the plants died and the food supplies were lost. They had nothing to with which to trade and they lost money.

Gujj said a group of farmers from the area had approached the traditional head, the shehu, about the lack of water asking him to intervene, but nothing had come from it.

“So we just pray and manage. Many have abandoned the area in Shokari because of the lack of water. They have moved to Dusman in the Jere Local Government Area of Borno where they dig boreholes so that they can continue to farm all year round,” he said.

“But for those of us who cannot afford to leave. We cannot quit. All we want is water in the rainy and the dry seasons. We want enough water so that we can farm well. We don’t want money, we want agricultural inputs so that we can farm well, benefit and make profit.”

Muhammad Kachalla, also a farmer in Shokari, said in the past 10 to 15 years there was sufficient water, but in recent years the amount of water at their disposal had drastically changed.

“I’m educated but farming is my business and the lack of water is seriously affecting us. I used to make ₦300,000 profit but now that has dropped to ₦150,000. When the water stops, we just have to sit and wait for the lake to fill up again. It’s very hard because we have families who depend on us to provide a living.

“I know many farmers who have quit the job because of the scarcity of water, the sand that builds up, the lack of capital plus equipment, such as pipes, machines, fuel and other inputs that are desperately needed.

“But water is our main concern. Without water we are nothing. Water gives us life.”


About the author

Elvis Mugisha