Dry-season farming

A great opportunity to transform the economy of northern Ghana.

A great opportunity to transform the economy of northern Ghana

Intensifying sustainable agricultural production through improved smallholder irrigation, flood-recession farming, and enhanced rainfed production systems and related ecosystem services is a key priority in the work being carried out by the CGIAR Research Program on Water, Land and Ecosystems (WLE) in the Volta River Basin. In a recent engagement with the Savannah Accelerated Development Authority (SADA) on the theme ‘Enhancing research into policy and practice’ held in Tamale, Ghana, on February 16-17, 2016, participants were of the view that addressing the water challenge was key to transforming livelihoods through increased production in the SADA zone.

Water valve - ghana
Photo: Joe Ronzio


In his opening remarks, Mr. Charles Abugre, Chief Executive Officer, SADA, noted that “to improve livelihoods and transform the economy of northern Ghana, the water in the Volta along with its associated values and ecologies must be harnessed in a sustainable manner that will not endanger the communities along the White and Black Volta.”

Honorable Dr. Donald Adabre, a former Ambassador and the current Upper East Region Commissioner of the National Development Planning Commission (NDPC), called for the incorporation of the research conducted in the SADA zone into policy and planning. He noted that research findings which propose solutions to the challenges in the SADA zone will enhance people’s livelihoods and bring an end to the prevalent poverty in the region.

The unpredictability of rainfall patterns and amount in northern Ghana implies the need for farmers to engage in dry-season farming to boost their incomes. Government-managed irrigation schemes in northern Ghana (Tono, Vea and Botanga) are operating below full capacity. Many farmers who engage in private irrigation practices use either pumps or buckets to draw water from shallow wells, dug-outs, rivers or small reservoirs for vegetable production. Despite the relatively small land area, often less than half a hectare per person, men and women who cultivate during the dry season have found farming to be lucrative.

Discussions between stakeholders present at the meeting indicated that, in the face of climate change and drought, dry-season farming was not just an option but a necessity if the fortunes of northern Ghana were to change. Hence, the call to improve on agricultural water management that will enable dry-season farming in the zone, and thus support a second cropping beyond the single cropping per year that is currently being practiced. Important interventions should include expansion of irrigation schemes to make them more accessible to a larger number of people, and strengthening other smallholder irrigation practices that are individually or communally driven.


SADA to benefit from IWMI’s agricultural water management solutions for dry-season farming

As part of its strategy in reducing poverty, SADA is considering to promote dry-season irrigation in the zone. This will draw lessons from the research conducted by the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) and WLE on the potential for dry-season farming in Ghana.

Research shows that Ghana has vast, untapped groundwater resources which can be used during the dry season. IWMI’s research has provided various agricultural water management solutions that could be adopted for irrigation in northern Ghana. Some of these solutions include rainwater harvesting technologies, underground storage techniques such as the Bhungroo irrigation technology, and several other solutions. The Bhungroo irrigation technology, which stores floodwater underground for dry-season irrigation, is currently being tested in Ghana by WLE partners and was one of the most striking projects presented at the meeting that left a profound impression on participants.

Another interesting highlight was the need to continue to conduct more research on the potential for flood-recession agriculture (FRA), since flooding is a persistent problem in northern Ghana. While opportunistic and low-productivity flood-recession agriculture is already commonly practiced in flood-prone areas of northern Ghana, IWMI’s research has established flooding patterns and the spatial extent of flood-prone areas in the region, showing that not all inundated land area are being utilized for FRA.  Participants suggested that the potential of FRA should be explored not just in relation to present flooding events, but should also take into consideration changes in the flow regime due to the planning, design and management of more dams along the White and Black Volta. Already, construction of the Akosombo Dam in the 1960s made an area of 52,000 ha unsuitable for FRA due to the absence of seasonal flooding. The compensatory measures and trade-offs involved in such scenarios should be explored to inform SADA in engaging with decision makers on dam development and management.

Participants at the knowledge fair recognized that IWMI’s research-for-development (R4D) bridges the gap between the work of development partners and research conducted by universities to address real problems faced by local stakeholders in the SADA zone. Thus, to move the agenda of translating the research into action, it was recommended that SADA should support the dissemination of these novel methods and technologies for dry-season farming.

For the complete proceedings of the workshop, visit http://sadagh.org/Documentation/49893-Proceedings%20of%20the%20WLE-SADA%20Knowledge%20Fair_%20Final.pdf

Funders & Partners:

Related Articles