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The Dawhenya Irrigation Project; A national asset under siege

BY: Timothy Ngnenbe

When I got to the site of the Dawhenya Irrigation Scheme (DIS), that mid-morning with some officers of the Ghana Irrigation Authority (GIDA), Mr Samuel Naarh was going about his daily routine. He has worked diligently, with 14 others on the 11 fish ponds operated by a private Chinese company since 2014. 

The Shan Quan Company Limited, in barely four seasons, has begun to record an enviable quantity of fish harvest for sale on local markets and to market women acting as middlemen.  Mr Naarh told us that ever since he started working on the fish farm, his life had not been the same. He no longer wondered where his next meal would come from.

The Dawhenya Irrigation Scheme

Located at Dawhenya in the Ningo-Prampram District in the Greater Accra Region, the irrigation scheme covers a total area of 7,121,5656 acres.

The state land, compulsorily acquired under Executive Instrument (E.I) E.I. 132 of 1977, is bounded in the North by the Akuapem mountains which extends northeast to southwest and in the South of the Accra-Aflao road. In the East, it shares boundaries with the Volta Basin and in the West with the Densu Basin, with the two catchments lying within the Accra plains.

History has it that the DIS was developed by the State Farms Corporation in 1959 with the sole aim of producing vegetables for the Accra-Tema metropolitan area.  Construction work on the project began and was completed during the period of Ignatius Kutu Acheampong’s “Operation Feed Yourself” programme spanning 1975 to 1978, with a total irrigable area of 450 hectares.  About 200 hectares of this irrigable land has so far been developed.

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At the heart of the project is an earth dam on River Dechidaw which feeds water into an electrical pumping station and subsequently delivered through canals by means of gravity to the fields.

Partnerships

The project appeared to have gone into a comma for more than a decade until an integrated rehabilitation work was carried out by the Korean International Development Agency (KOICA) between 2011 and 2013.

Rehabilitation work which was done through a $3.6 million Korean government grant to Ghana, helped to rejuvenate the Integrated Community Development Project.

The package consisted of the repair of leaking canals in the irrigation system, replacement of electrical pumps with five efficient ones, rehabilitation of fish ponds, and the installation of a rice mill.

The KOICA intervention has also brought about key development projects including the establishment of a training centre for farmers, construction of access roads from the main Ada-Accra road to the irrigation site, and the construction of classroom blocks and teachers’ bungalows for some schools in the Dawhenya area.

A visit to the Dawhenya Irrigation project

When I visited the site of the project to ascertain the state of affairs, it was observed that a lot of energy had been breathed into it by private investors.  Apart from the Yeoman’s job done by KOICA, other private companies were putting their shoulders to the wheel to rake in the pearls.

Ghana Flowers and Greens, a company, for The Netherlands with a local workforce of 150, was making giant strides in producing flowers for export.

The Export Manager of the company, Mr Ekow Fyn Annan, explained that the company, which had been in business at the site since 2006, produced flowers such as monstera, philodendrom, anthrium, and helisconia for export.

The Quan Company Limited, operators of the fish ponds where Mr Naarh and his friends work, is also undertaking the cultivation of high valued vegetables under the shield technology, a greenhouse project.

The Scheme Manager of DIS, Mr Benedictus Agbeko, explained that a total of 237 farmers from a registered Irrigation Farmers Association (IFA) have been allotted plots of land for the cultivation of local perfumed rice.

“As of now, we record an average of 1,206 metric tonnes of rice per season for the past four seasons. This has boosted the economic potential of the farmers and their dependents,” he indicated.  

It is crystal clear that the activities of the foreign investors at the site has created and continue to create more employment opportunities for the indigenes of the area. An estimated 500 indigenes are so far making a livelihood from the various projects being carried out at the DIS.

Encroachment

Despite the huge potential the project presents, encroachment upon the land by estate developers, individuals and some traditional authorities has been a setback to the smooth implementation of other development projects.

During the tour of the site, it was evident that encroachers had taken over almost half of the land. 

Companies were operating on portions of the land while private residents were also springing up with impunity, despite notices of “government land, keep off” warnings on some of the structures.

In 2012, a combined operation of GIDA officials, the Ningo-Prampram District Assembly, military personnel from the Southern Command in Teshie earmarked some unlawful structures for demolition after a rigorous re-demarcation of the land.

Even though the local authorities indicated their commitment to ensuring that steps were taken to have the illegal structures demolished, they appear helpless.

The way forward

It is said that the hen which lays the golden eggs must be guarded jealously by its keeper. The initiators of this project will keep turning in their graves if nothing is done to protect it.

In the face of growing need for food security, it is important for all who matter to be on their feet to protect the Dawhenya Irrigation Scheme.

 

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