By: Ibrahima Yakubu, Mayen Etim, Mike Odeholonta
KADUNA, North-West, Nigeria -Agriculture is the mainstay of people mostly within the rural setting in Nigeria and this has made farming very lucrative in the country.
In dry region like the northern part of Nigeria, during these periods of less than average rainfall, irrigation as well as drainage, becomes the main form of land melioration as it plays a vital role in increasing crop yields and stabilizing production.
Irrigation is a process of water supply to fields lacking moisture. It increases water content in the root layer of soil in order to increase soil fertility, reduce temperature of the surface and increases its humidity. However it is necessary to bear in mind the fact that some plants prefer dry soil and some need moisture.
Experts advised that before farmers apply irrigation farming system, there is a need for them to study the peculiarities of plants they are going to produce.
Speaking to African Climate Reporters on Tuesday, October 16, 2019 on effects of usage of waste water by farmers for irrigation and its attendant human health implications, Head of Training, National Water Resources Institute, Kaduna, Dr. Martin Obada Eduvie, caution local farmers on sources of water, as it is easy to be tempted to use drain and waste water for their crops without looking at the impact in terms of human health that is actually involved.
Dr. Eduvie said that farmers sometimes rely so much on water from drains, which sometimes are not very ideal for drinking and agriculture. He said water from the industries all moved into the river systems, and from there farmers used the water directly unknown to them that most water from drains, and enflames from the industries contain lots of mineral that are not very suitable for plants.
Musa Mohammed is a dry season farmer in Rigasa, Igabi Local Government Area of Kaduna state. He informed Journalists at his farm that 70 to 75 per cent of water used in his farms comes from the gutter.
According to him, the water contains all the nutrients needed by plants to grow faster and has no impact as long as he is concern.
Mohammed said majority of the local farmers in Northern Nigeria prefer wastewater because of its high nutrients content which help reduced the burden of buying fertilizers.
He said crops like rice, tomatoes, wheat, maize, lettuce, carrot, vegetables, okra, onion, cabbage among others are cultivated during dry season, and called on government to support dry season farmers with modern farming equipment to ensure more food and cash crops are produced for the nation.
“Farmers in the country depend on waste water which comes from human waste; feaces, urine or other body fluids, also known as blackwater, water from lavatories, septic tanks or soakaway, trash, garbage and washing water among others.
“We use small generators to supply the water from the gutter to the farms, while other farmers along the river banks make used of the clean water. Waste water is considered a low price fertilizer because of its high nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium.”
Mohammed said that last year due to climate change majority of wheat farmers recorded huge loss due to water scarcity across the northern states. “We have to depend on the waste water so that our crops will not die,” he said.
According to Dr. Eduvie of National Water Resources Institute, it is very important that farmers get educated on the need of the type of water they used for irrigation. He said getting a small borehole for irrigation is very cheap.
“If you take a very portable ground water, which could be found in the Fadama, drilling to as low as 10 – 15 meters, they will have a tube well and this is quite pure compared to the water from the drains.
“Farmers don’t have to buy a submersible pump, all they needed is to put the normal centrifugal pump and connect it to the farm and they’ll get clean water. So these are some of the areas farmers could tap in to access clean water for their farms,” he said.
In the same vein, the Head of Department, Animal Health, College of Agriculture and Animal Science, Ahmadu Bello University, Dr. Fatimah Bukar Hassan, explained that using waste water to grow plants and vegetables in farms actually serves as fertilizers and do not have harmful effects on humans, as far as the vegetables are properly washed with salt or vinegar it would be ready for consumption.
She however said the use of chemically contaminated water cultivate vegetables do have cumulative harmful effects on humans even if it is properly washed.
Speaking on the quick decay of vegetables, Dr. Hassan said most of the environmental problems being experience in the country could be attributable to human activities, adding that most preservation methods used today are responsible for the quick decay of vegetable.
“In those days, our parents used local methods to preserve vegetable and they were very effective in curbing decay. But today, the methods have changed, hence, the high rate of decay in the plants, she said.
Explaining further, the Head of Training, National Water Resources Institute, said if a fisherman uses gamalin 20 to catch fishes, and we know lots of water goes into fishes, people also take the gamalin 20 directly from these fishes. He added that it’s a movement that ends up in humans and it has lots of gasogenic effects and other things that are quite injurious to the body.
Dr. Eduve advised consumers to be very careful of the source of their vegetables, not just being fresh but how does it smell, as well as the type of constituents they are getting from these vegetables and the kind of water farmers are using to cultivate them.
Corroborating the HOD of Animal Health, College of Agriculture and Science, ABU, Dr. Eduvie said in terms of how long vegetables last sometimes might not be directly related to waste water, until a research is carried out especially from the agricultural section, but then the constituents of the water itself that is use for irrigation have quite an impact.
He said farmers could source for cheaper method of getting good water like the tube wells within the fadama zones. And there were lots of people who are ready to assist them to have tube wells that they could use both for agricultural purposes and drinking, and this will help to eliminate a number of diseases.
He said that the National Water Resources Institute train youth on various simple methods of drillings, even in hand dug well and the Institute could train local farmers on how to acquire such water system which they could use for their farms and other purposes if they have challenges.
“The Institute also offered free consultancy services when it comes to looking for work. For our host communities when there is a need for water we give them direct access in terms of drilling the borehole and hand it over to them. So farmers could avail themselves for capacity building or even direct interventions,” he added.
But the Assistant Director, African Climate Reporters, Dr Piman Hoffman, said that any water that has been affected in quality due to human activities can be regarded as wastewater and is very harmful.
He said that the use of wastewater containing toxic wastes coupled with lack of adequate finances for treatment is likely to cause an increase in incidence of water borne diseases as well as rapid environmental degradation.
Hoffman added that the most common health hazards associated with domestic wastewater includes; diseases caused by viruses, bacteria and protozoa that may get washed into drinking water supplies or receiving water bodies.
In other to reduce the problems, Hoffman recommended that proper treatment of dump sites. He said government could procure solid waste evacuating vehicles at a subsidize rates for residents to use and evacuate solid wastes.
While calling on ministries of environment and health to commence sensitization campaign on the dangers of dumping trash into gutters. He appealed to Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), Civil Society Organizations, (CSOs) with focus on environment, National Emergency Management Agency, (NEMA), States Emergency Management Agency, (SEMA), and National Orientation Agency, (NOA) among others to support the government in raising awareness on the importance of hygiene, so as to halt the spread of diseases.