By Depo Adenle
In a news release by the News Agency of Nigeria on Monday, September 27, 2011, it was reported that the Minister of Water Resources, Mrs. Sarah Ochekpe solicited the cooperation of the Israeli Government to boost water supply in Nigeria. She spoke in Abuja during a courtesy call by the Israeli Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. Moshe Ram.
The minister commended the Israeli Government for its leading role in agriculture and water technology and also its willingness to share the knowledge with Nigeria.
Ochekpe said the ministry needs to know more on how to manage water because “we have long period of rainfall in most parts of Nigeria this year while some other parts have no rainfall.
“The ability to manage water resources has its major challenges, we have recognized the fact that we need to take responsibility for every natural resource God endowed us with,” she said.
According to her, the present administration is determined to transform the agricultural sector. She added that “Nigeria is blessed with a lot of arable land and water resources to produce food, yet we spend a lot of money on importation of food. We need to improve on our agricultural produce to reduce the rate of food importation,’’ she said.
The invitation extended to the Israelis by the Minister comes not a moment too soon in view of the continued poor accessibility to potable water and because proper water resources management is essential to guaranteeing adequate supply for all uses in every part of the country. Supply can be boosted if available resources are properly managed.
Nigeria can benefit from the experience of Israel in two areas of water resources management: desert research and transboundary water resources management.
Israel has been in the forefront of countries that have managed the little water they get efficiently. It is ahead of most nations in drip irrigation. It recently held a conference on Dry lands, Deserts and Desertification: the Route to Restoration.
Just as the Minister mentioned, there are areas of water scarcity in the Sahel Savannah parts of Nigeria and there are areas of water surplus in the rainforest belt of the south.
The FGN and the State governments in the Sahel Savannah areas have been battling desert encroachment. The restoration of areas that are suffering from desertification should be done according to best practice approach as it is done in places like Israel. There is the need to build capacity in the areas of management of water resources in our dry lands in the north. Israel offers good capacity building in this area of expertise in the reputable Jacob Blaustein Institute for Desert Research.
Israel is also very strong in managing transboundary waters; it shares groundwater with Palestine. Management of traansboundary waters in Nigeria would benefit from a shot in the arm through collaborative efforts with Israel. Where else can our water resources technocrats learn about coping with complex transboundary water issues except Israel. The political situation in the Middle East requires careful, well thought-out ideas in transboundary water management. The management of transboundary surface waters as well as groundwater requires proper institutions and institutional frameworks which Israel can provide. In addition, Nigeria can leapfrog as far as setting up appropriate institutions and putting together necessary institutional framework in the areas of transboundary water resources management with the help of Israel.
The Komadugu-Yobe Basin transboundary water resources management issues would benefit from the experiences of Israel. Capacity building in this regard should be pursued by our government through training and research scientists exchange programs. We have our own Water Resources Institute which could be mentored by Israel.