A Research Scientist and an Expert in irrigation, Dr. Winston Ekow Andah has bemoaned the level of seriousness that is being attached to irrigation as a sub-sector of agriculture in the country, as less than one percent of food is produced by irrigation.
In an interview with Goldstreet Business, Dr. Andah said the country would eventually have to pay attention to irrigation, stating that, “the population is increasing, and moreover people are not going into agriculture so much and if we should miss the rains or there is a bad rainfall, we are in for trouble.”
Ghana’s growing and urbanizing populations together with changing dietary preferences calls for a more diverse range of food and industrial crops that could be grown under irrigated conditions to obtain higher quantity and quality.
However, presently, much of this demand has translated into commercial food imports.
It is estimated that Ghana’s agricultural land area is about 56.94 percent, that is 13. 600,000 hectares. Of this, 46.63 percent of the land area is under cultivation, representing 6,341,930.
However, only 3.61 percent, 228,792 hectares, of the total area is under irrigation.
He noted that the overreliance on rainfall patterns in certain parts of the country has resulted in a lack of seriousness and total neglect of the sub-sector.
“For instance, the northern regions have rainfall for five months every year, which is good for any crop grown in Ghana,” said Dr. Andah, adding that, “most of the regions can grow crops depending on rainfall, without having to think of irrigation. This is why we are not taking irrigation very serious,” he added.
Dr. Andah emphasised that, as a country, if we want to have enough to eat and export, then irrigation is the only way forward.
He claims the many irrigation units including dug-outs, small scale irrigation dams, among others in the northern region, are deteriorating while some are getting filled silted, due to lack of maintenance.
The acreage under irrigation keeps coming down, even with the few units that are doing well, such as the Tono irrigation, Vea irrigation, Dr. Andah suggested.
Informal irrigation sector
Currently, informal irrigators that do not depend on public infrastructure for their water supplies dominate the bulk of irrigated output in Ghana.
In most cases, manual fetching of water with watering cans and buckets is dominant, while motorized pumps and hoses are also used along the streams and reservoirs. This subsector has been neglected in the past although it is larger than the formal one.
The lack of recognition resulted in constraints, such as limited access to credit and tenure insecurity. As a consequence, there is hesitation to invest in infrastructure.
Although there is little data on the overall extent of informal irrigation in the country, it was established that around Kumasi alone, there are at least 12,700 smallholders irrigating more than 11,900 hectares in the dry season, which is more than the area currently functioning under formal irrigation in the whole of the country.
By Joshua W. Amlanu