A GNA feature by Fatima Anafu -Astanga
Bolgatanga, March 22, GNA - The growing need for water as a scare resource has become a concern for every nation in view of population expansion.
The uses of water and its importance to agriculture are critical in addressing food needs of the population.
It is estimated that the world’s population by 2050 would require a 60 per cent increase in food production to feed and water would be heavily depended on.
According to reports, 40 per cent of the world’s food is produced through irrigation. However, the water bodies that sustain the earth and through which irrigation is carried out are faced with all forms of abuse leading to threat to the natural ecosystem.
Irrigation is one source by which farmers use water from rivers or ground water to extend their cultivation through simple techniques during the lean seasons during which time the rains would have stopped.
The role of irrigation in supplementing the growing food needs of the population is crucial. The Sustainable Development goal (SDG) 2: End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture can pass the test if these resources are protected.
Mr Samuel Manu, Upper East Regional Manager of Irrigation Development Authority (IDA) in an interview said the availability of dams in communities contribute greatly to food needs of the people.
According to him the presence of dams and dug outs closer to the communities enable farmers to cultivate vegetables to augment food needs and their income.
He noted that communities in the Upper East Region, where water sources such as rivers, and dams were located, poultry especially guinea fowls lay their eggs earlier than usual and the growth rate very good.
He added that income from cultivation of vegetables have also helped to reduce rural and urban migration and improve on nutritional needs of communities.
Currently there are more than 22 irrigation projects in Ghana constructed by the IDA spanning more than 6,505 hectares.
In the Region most prominent of the existing irrigation schemes include the Tono Irrigation Project in the Kassena-Nankana District with an irrigable area of up to 2,500 ha and a total annual water requirement of 40 million m3; the Vea irrigation scheme in the Bongo District that has an irrigable area of up to 1,000 ha, and a total annual requirement of eight million m3.
Mr Manu said there were more than 200 dams and dug outs in the Region to support farmers in their off season.
These irrigation sites also contribute greatly to the water consumed in most homes. However increasingly, water resources have been threatened by growing scarcity of freshwater, oceans, forests and biodiversity and soils are being rapidly degraded.
Changing weather patterns are also putting even more pressure on the resources depended on, increasing risks associated with disasters such as droughts and floods, culminating from the impact of changing climate and the exploitation of water resources and rate of loss as envisioned account for a larger segment of the resource mobilised.
Meanwhile, fears of rising temperatures as indicated would continue to have implications on these resources and that would continue to reduce the length of crop cycles and increase water stress due to higher water evaporation rate.
Though these resource over the years offer farmers the space to undertake their farming activities, it has been subjected to pollution to water due to chemicals used by farmers and their attendant side effects that render harm to crops, livestock, and also leading to salination of the soils rendering the pollution load higher with serious impact on drinking water quality hence its implications on public health.
The effect is not only on food production but livestock and fishing are also affected because of lack of forage for animals to graze while the rate of evaporation also impact on fish stocks due to changes in water sources.
If agriculture, forestry and fisheries can thrive in Ghana, to provide the needed food requirements for all then the water resource through which these can be achieved to nourish the expected two billion people by 2050 should be treated with care.
Mr Manu, said a lot of wastage of water occur at watering points of dams, and other irrigation sites due to leakage and breakage of canals and drains.
According to him farmers also waste water when they open multiple valves and sprinklers at the same time and find it difficult to close them, rendering water to overflow the crops leading to waste.
In management of the water systems, he indicated that though farmers are trained to take up maintenance of the water system, the task is not properly followed because they continue to move on to other communities and do not pass on the skills.
President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo- Addo, was heralded by Ghanaians for his policy on one district one dam as a leap to improving lives to all.
According to Mr Manu, inventory of all existing dams is underway and that would enable his outfit present information to submit potential districts for the intervention.
Some recommendations for improved irrigation
The Ministry of Food Agriculture (MOFA) must increase education on use of agro-
chemicals since farmers with little knowledge and effect of the product tend to apply it wrongly, and worst of all around irrigation sites, which pollute water resources.
There is the need for improved techniques for irrigation to facilitate the use of less water.
Planting of trees around water bodies to reduce evaporation is also very important as well as education of people to use domestic and industrial waste water for gardening at household and institutional levels.
The involvement of stakeholders in ensuring efficiency in the use of these resources is crucial especially in promoting local water management, effective maintenance at the communities to ensure effective use of water.