News about the sod cutting by President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo on November 29, 2019 to commence the construction of the Pwalugu Multipurpose Irrigation Dam Project (PMIDP) in the Upper East Region was more than welcomed.
The euphoria, fulfilment and hope that engulfed the people was overwhelmingly great and filled the lips of the sons and daughters of the Upper East, North East, Northern and the Savannah regions with praise.
The people of the Upper East Region have for a long time been at the mercy of the man-made annual ritual of deaths and destruction of property, including farmlands and animals as a result of the release of water from the Bagre dam in neighbouring Burkina Faso.
The victims have been from the Bawku municipality, Bawku West, Garu and its environs, Bolgatanga municipality and the Bolgatanga East district, the Nabdam and Talensi districts, the Navrongo area communities, the Builsa enclave, the Yagaba (overseas) area, Walewale, Gambaga and Nalerigu areas, as well as communities in the Northern and Savannah regions.
Reports by the Ghana Statistical Service from its Ghana Living Standard Survey document indicate that poverty has varied dimensions and is characterised by low income, malnutrition, ill-health, illiteracy and insecurity, among others.
The impact of different factors, it states, can combine to keep households, and sometimes whole communities, in abject poverty.
To address the perennial problem of uncertain weather conditions, reliable sources of sustainable food security are required to develop and implement policies that will have a sterling impact on the lives of the poor and vulnerable in the project area.
The Upper East Region for instance is noted for its wide knowledge base in the cultivation of vegetable crops. It was once the biggest market for tomatoes in the West Africa sub-region, supplying the vegetable to neighbouring Burkina Faso and Togo.
Many in the project area, therefore, see the Pwalugu Multipurpose Irrigation project as timely, God-sent and as an end to the poverty that is eating northern Ghana up.
The dam and irrigation project, one of the flagship projects of the current government, has three major components, which are power generation, irrigation and flood control.
Requiring an investment of $993 million, the engineering, procurement and construction contracts for the Pwalugu multipurpose dam have been awarded to Sinohydro to be executed in 50 months. The Chinese company will build a 165m-high dam on the White Volta River in the Talensi District of the Upper East Region.
The structure will have a 350 km² water-holding reservoir and a hydroelectric power station equipped with two turbines below the dam. The turbines will have a combined capacity of 60 MW and a solid continuous output of 16.5 MW.
Meanwhile, part of the water from the reservoir will be pumped to supply an irrigation system with a capacity of 25,000 hectares which will benefit 15,000 people who make a living from agriculture in northern Ghana.
The project will, thus, enable the development of local agriculture, which is highly dependent on climatic conditions. The Pwalugu hydropower plant will be backed by another renewable energy source - a photovoltaic solar power plant with a capacity of 50 MWp which will be built in Kurugu in the East Mamprusi municipality of the North East Region.
The Volta River Authority (VRA) is responsible for the power generation and flood control, while the Ministry for Food and Agriculture (MOFA), through the Ghana Irrigation Development Authority (GIDA), is responsible for the irrigation component called the Pwalugu Irrigation Project.
The irrigation component is expected to unlock the agricultural potential of the Savannah zone and to become the largest irrigation scheme in Ghana.
Studies along with the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment were funded by Agence Francaise de Development (AFD).
The GIDA is expected to play an essential role in the Pwalugu Irrigation project. Its role, as stated earlier, is to manage one of the core elementary roles in the project; the construction of the irrigation component, through its mother ministry, the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA).
The project has a broad importance to the people of northern Ghana as it is tailored to reduce the unregulated migration from northern Ghana to the south with its negative consequences and the annual ritual of recording fatalities from floods and overcoming the erratic rainfall regimes.
On January 19, 2021, six media houses drawn from the Upper East, North East and the Northern regions accompanied officials of MOFA, GIDA and West Mamprusi Municipal Assembly to undertake sensitisation fora in about 14 clustered communities that constitute the project area.
The purpose for the community engagements was to solicit community support and inform the communities about the project, its benefits and impacts, discuss and inform them on roles the various stakeholders in the community (chiefs, landlords, assemblymen/women and other community members) were expected to play, inform them about the upcoming cadastral survey to be carried out by the Lands Commission and the roles they were expected to play during the process, to update the communities on activities carried out so far and inform them on subsequent activities to be carried out.
Benefits of project
Addressing the chiefs and people in the communities, the Director of Planning, Monitoring and Coordination at GIDA, Mr Eric Samuel Adu-Dankwa, explained that the project benefits would include a boost in agricultural production and form the basis for setting up agro industries in line with the flagship programme of the government’s one-district, one-factory initiative, warehouse storage for national buffer stock, river transportation, ecotourism, as well as attract private sector participation along the agricultural value chain.
Besides, MOFA and GIDA, in collaboration with the Regional Coordinating Council and West Mamprusi Municipal Assembly in the North East Region, recently engaged each of the 14 beneficiary communities within the project area, comprising Kpaksenkpe, Dibisi, Jagse, Sariba, Duu, Kankadina, Mafanga, Wungu, Zangu, Yama, Mishuo, Zua, Bulbia and Sakuri.
The GNA was informed that after the President cut the sod in November 2019, the Engineering Procurement and Construction (EPC) contract was awarded to Power China International Group and became effective after parliamentary approval in the first quarter of 2020.
GIDA is also receiving support from AFD to draft a term of reference for the recruitment of a private Scheme Management Entity (SME) scope of works for the SME to manage the project after construction.
The government should also ensure that the project takes off fully to dispel speculations that it will discontinue the project because the people of the north failed to vote for the NPP in the 2020 general election, especially the Upper East Region.
The anxiety, readiness, expectations and the level of commitment and willingness in the people, who are mainly farmers, when the GIDA/MOFA team and the media visited them should whip up the government’s interest to go all out in search of funding to fully start the project.