How Can We Expand Dry Season Farming To Eliminate Poverty In Northern Ghana?
The Sudan and the Guinea Savannah Zones of the three northern regions are characterized by a uni-modal rainfall regime lasting 5 to 6 months and a long dry period of 6 to 7 months each year. The economy is dominated by the agricultural sector which employs 80% of the labour force. However, the unfavourable climatic condition adversely affect the agricultural sector especially in the dry season forcing most settlers to migrate to the Southern zone of Ghana few months after the rains.
During the dry season, rivers, some dams and other water bodies dry up making it difficult to get water for livestock and crop production. The only fortunate communities are those that live near big dams. In some few communities in the Upper East Region, at least there is one dam which is for irrigational purpose and source of water for domestic and animal consumption.
The most popular areas which have made much impact in irrigation
farming are those living along the White Volta and Tono Dam in
Kassena Municipality. However, to the west of the region which
comprises of boarder towns to both neighbouring Burkina Faso and Togo, the farmers rely on the White Volta and its tributaries for
irrigation. Indigenes in all these areas are mostly peasant farmers so imagine the number of people who would be without jobs anytime the dry season sets in!
Food crops like onions,vegetables,tomatoes, pepper, cabbage and some cereals are adaptive to the weather in the Upper East region.
We have the Navrongo rice, Onions, cabbage, pepper, garden eggs and Tomatoes from Bawku which are mostly produced and sold in
commercial quantities. Agriculture plays a pivotal role in the livelihood of people living in the Upper East region and it is the sector that holds almost 80% of the populace in the region. Though the people are hardworking and willing to stay and work, the scarcity of water for farming is a major impediment hence, the reason for the Rural- Urban migration.
Governments have made several efforts by concentrating on the
construction of dams to serve as source of water for irrigation. But
just few communities are privileged to have them and even under
certain circumstances the dams dry up as a result of the pressure on
them. However, there is another irrigation method aside the construction of dams which has not been given much attention by government. One peculiar thing is that, in every community there is either a tributary or a river but they are not judiciously used during the dry season attributing it to the fact that most of them are dried.
But let me take you to a community called Gentiga in the Bawku
Central Municipality. It is a small farming community and it is
separated from Burkina by the White Volta river.
The picture above clearly shows how the river in the dry season is
filled with sand and anytime it rains severely in the raining season, the river banks get flooded. But do you know that there is water in the river which can help irrigate farms for farming but it cannot be used because it is being covered by sand?
According to the Upper East Regional Director of the EPA, Mr Asher Nkegbe the Agency initiated the establishment of the riparian buffer zone along the 5km stretch of the White Volta river at Gentiga under the Ghana Environment Management Project in 2012. According to him, this was meant to stabilise the river banks and prevent erosion, improve water quality by trapping sediments and chemicals from run-off as well as provide increased biodiversity among others.
Mr Nkegbe said the Agency promoted natural regeneration and
enrichment planting to establish the 90 meters stretch protective
buffer zone from the shoreline of the river.
To support farmers to farm all year round, a dug out was constructed and connected with generators which pumped water to farms beyond the buffer zone. The hose are connected to machines in the dug outs to water the farms.
This has really helped the people in the area because it has succeeded in engaging most of the youth in dry season farming.
A good number of the youth in the area now prefer continuous
farming at the river sites with this technique to travelling to the cities for jobs during the dry season.
The irrigated area covers over 50 ha of land with onions, cabbage
pepper and other food stuffs. The chief of Gentiga who has mobilised his community for the project indicated that his community has really benefited a lot from the GEMP and wished that much attention and efforts are put into it by the provision of adequate equipment for the farmers.
He stated that “my family does not buy food stuffs from the market
any longer since we have them here so it has really improved
household food security”
He added that “I harvest about 700kg of onions every three months from this field to sell and take care of my family”. The farmers here at Gentiga use only organic manure and it is
Source: Samuel Mbura | kapital971.com