Professor Emem Nwa, the first Nigerian to hold a Bachelor of Science degree in Agricultural Engineering has made a sustained contribution to the field since 1965, concentrating on irrigation, field drainage and soil and water conservation. In Kano River Irrigation, project (KRIP), he studied the relationship between the land slope, the stream size and the water flow rate in border and furrow Irrigations to obtain optimum wheat, maize and tomato crop yields. His studies showed that continuous irrigation caused the water table to keep rising in KRIP; he took his time to show that the bamboo (Bambusa vulgaris) can be used effectively for sub-surface drainage. This is particularly important among small farmers who cannot afford the more expensive and imported sub-surface drainage pipes.

Despite the advent of the River Basin Development Authority projects, most of the farmers still depended on their own devices to grow crops. In northern Nigeria this means that many farmers still depended on the shaduf (a simple device for lifting water using the principle of the lever) to irrigate their crops. Because that system is tedious the author showed that the shaduf could be replaced by a small pump to irrigate small plots economically. Within a short time the small pump system spread throughout Nigeria.

This professor received his undergraduate engineering training from California State Polytechnic University in San Luis Obispo; California, his master’s degree from Michigan State University, East Lamsing and his doctor of philosophy degree from the Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, all in the U.S.A. This gave him the opportunity to visit most parts of the U.S from the East Coast to the West Coast.

His working experiences have also been wide and varied. After one year as a research engineer in Ohio State University he moved to the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) Ibadan, Nigeria as a Soil and Water Engineer. Before this, he had worked as a Drainage Engineer in Trumpington, Cambridge, England. It was after this that he continued his research and teaching work at IITA, Ibadan; Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria; University of Ilorin, Ilorin; and University of Uyo, Uyo. He spent his Sabbatical years at the National Centre for Agricultural Mechanization, Ilorin Kwara State and at the University of Perugia in Italy.

 Professor E. U. Nwa has trained many students at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, University of Ilorin and University of Uyo. He has been a Professor for 31 years, Head of Department for nine years, and Dean of Engineering for six years. The Professor has been a consultant to FAO, UNDP and the Federal Ministry of Water Resources for many years. This Fellow of the Nigerian Society of Engineers, and former Vice-President of the International Commission on Irrigation and Drainage (ICID), was honoured with a special plaque in Casablanca, Morocco in 1987 by ICID “for his esteemed contributions to the world-wide advancement of the Science of Irrigation and Drainage”.

  • Irrigation and Drainage