Irrigation specialists from Australia, Cameroon, Ghana, and Nigeria gathered for a symposium at IITA headquarters on 28 March, as part of the Australia Awards Africa short course on Irrigation and Water Resources Management for Agriculture (IWRM). The Australia Awards, funded by the Australian government and managed by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, offers awardees the opportunity to study and participate in research and professional development activities.
In his opening address, Kenton Dashiell, IITA Deputy Director General for Partnerships for Delivery, welcomed the group and said that IITA’s research is channelled towards making agriculture a profitable venture and a means of moving farmers from lower to the middle or upper class. He also expressed the need for IITA to start a project on irrigation.
Gunnar Kirchhof, Soil Scientist and IWRM Course Leader at the University of Queensland, Australia, explained the important role irrigation plays in the world. By providing water for agricultural activities throughout the year, irrigation helps to increase agricultural productivity, and as a result, improve food security and livelihoods.
He noted, however, that drylands likely experience higher temperatures, greater frequency of droughts, and increased water scarcity.
According to Kirchhoff, “the similarity between the Australian and many African agroecological environments, places Australia in an excellent position to work with African irrigation professionals to achieve food security through efficient and sustainable irrigation systems.”
In his keynote address, Vice Chancellor Joshua Ogunwole of Bowen University in Osun State, Nigeria, appreciated the efforts of IITA in championing African agriculture. He also encouraged the participants to start creating solutions to African agricultural problems, because “we are the ones who know our background, land, and resources”.
Participating IWRM experts, academics, researchers, and policymakers made key recommendations for irrigation in the drylands, including:
- Sensitization for end-users through capacity development.
- Promotion of the watershed approach to land, water, and biomass management.
- Inculcating a maintenance culture in end-users.
They also noted that private investors, research institutions, government, and farmers must consider it a responsibility to partner and work together to make irrigation a constant practice in the drylands.