GHANA’s food basket, the northern part of the country, risks low yields this year as a result of both man-made and natural activities.
If not addressed, the situation could have serious implication on food sufficiency and food security for the country.
The northern part of the country, which is predominantly smallholder farmers, is noted for the production of food items, including millet, maize, yam, rice, soya bean, watermelon, among others, beside the rearing of animals such as cattle, goats, sheep and poultry.
The area is also noted for the planting of tree crops such as shea trees, cashew and mango.
It is a fact that smallholder farmers contribute about 98 per cent of the domestic food production but unfortunately they are those who are always affected any time there is a disaster.
This year, the farming season began with the shortage of fertilizer throughout the country, which compelled some of the farmers to cut down their farm size.
The situation also affected the enrolment of new farmers onto the government’s flagship programme, Planting for Food and Jobs, while some others, who had already enrolled, withdrew because they could not get the subsidised fertilizer and seeds, a major incentive of the programme.
Thankfully, the issue of the fertilizer shortage is being resolved even though the farming season is not waiting.
Release of fund
The recent release of funds by the government to settle importers to enable them to secure letters of credit (LCs) from the financial institutions to import the fertilizer is indeed a welcome development.
At the beginning of the farming season, the farmers were faced with the shortage of fertilizer because the importers could not secure the LCs for the importation of the subsidy for the 2021 farming season because they were not paid for the fertilizer that was imported for the 2020 farming season.
With the government addressing that, the current major challenge facing the farmers is natural, ranging from flooding to storms, which either submerge farmlands with crops or destroy crops.
For some time now, the continuous rains in that part of the country has resulted in the flooding and submerging of farmlands, making it impossible for the farmers to do any farming activities.
On August 13, 2021 for instance, a torrential rainfall resulted in the total submerging of 722 farmlands in the Upper West Region.
This surely must be of great concern, knowing that the region is one of the major producers of maize, millet and groundnuts, among other crops.
The flooding did not only takeover farmlands, it also destroyed 155 houses and displaced about 336 individuals as well as destroyed both major and minor roads.
As if that is not enough, the perennial spillage of the Bagre Dam has begun with farmlands, houses and roads being submerged.
The spillage of the Bagre Dam, which has become an annual ritual, leaves in its trail a vast destruction of farmlands, houses, roads and critical installations in the affected areas.
Successive governments over the years have not been able to find solution to the spillage of the Bagre Dam, the situation which has been a major headache for farmers in the area.
A multipurpose dam at Pwalugu in the Talensi District in the Upper East Region, which has been on the drawing board since the 1960s, finally caught the attention of the government in 2019, when President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo cut the sod for the construction.
The dam, which when completed, is expected to control flooding, promote irrigation and hydropower generation, is unfortunately still at the mobilisation stage.
The Senior Public Relations Officer of the Volta River Authority (VRA) of the Pwalugu Multipurpose Dam project, Mr. David Prah, recently told Vincent Amenuveve in Bolgatanga that, “currently we are doing site clearing, hydrological studies at the dam site and general acquisition of land in the project area, hence there is the need to do effective engagement of the people”.
According to him, the project needed to acquire 10,000 hectares of land properly, explaining that “all these are at pre-construction stages,” to start officially in November.
Mr. Prah said the VRA was expected to engage the people of the Upper East Region at Zebilla in the Bawku West District on September 14, 2021 as part of the preparation towards the actual construction of the Dam.
"Officially we may not have much with this year's rain than to provide technical support and advice to the National Disaster Management Organisation (NADMO) in the event of the spillage," he said.
So, while we wait for the construction of the dam, it is the smallholder farmers who continue, to bear the brunt of this perennial flooding.
This annual devastation is having a negative impact on the livelihood of the people downstream, and it is difficult to understand why the country has not been able to contain the excess water from the perennial heavy downfall of rains and the spillage of Bagre Dam over the years to augment agricultural productivity.
It is in the light of this that the agency entrusted with the responsibility of executing the dam should up its game so that this annual ritual is permanently addressed.
However, for the meantime, the government needs to move quickly to ensure that temporarily the spillage does not unnecessarily affect the production of food crops and compromise food supply in that part of the country.