The government is restructuring and modernising the irrigation sub-sector to enable the Ghana Irrigation Development Authority (GIDA) to move away from direct involvement in the operation, maintenance and management of public irrigation schemes, the acting Chief Executive Officer of the GIDA, Ing. Wilson Darkwah, has disclosed.
He said after the exercise, GIDA would be made to play the role of regulator, advisor and supervisor.
According to Ing. Darkwah, “the operation, maintenance and management of irrigation schemes will be taken over by the private sector.”
He was speaking at the inauguration of a rehabilitated and expanded irrigation system for the all-year-round production of vegetables at Akumadan in the Offinso North District in the Ashanti Region.
The Akomadan Irrigation Scheme, one of the 56 public irrigation schemes in the country, was constructed in 1974 to assist farmers in the area to grow vegetables.
The system, which originally covered 65 hectares, has now been increased to 171 hectares out of the about 1,000 hectares of land under the scheme.
The expansion project was carried out through an agreement between the Korean Rural Community Corporation and the Ministry of Food and Agriculture under the Korean government’s budgetary support grant of US $3.5 million.
Other items provided under the grant included a solar-powered warehouse and office, a Hyundai truck, two Navara pick-up vehicles, four motorbikes and a KIA SUV vehicle.
Ing. Darkwah said the rehabilitated scheme would increase the production of vegetables, especially tomatoes, through crop intensity and reliable water supply.
“The irrigation project will not only lead to poverty reduction but also improve the socioeconomic development of the area,” he stated.
Ing Darkwah, however, said the sustainability of the project depended largely on how effective and efficient the system was put to use by ensuring periodic and regular maintenance of the facilities.
A Deputy Minister of Food and Agriculture in charge of Horticulture, who is also the Member of Parliament for New Edubiase, Mr George Oduro, said Ghana had an estimated area of about 1.9 million hectares that could be used for irrigation purposes.
Out of that, only 210,000 hectares had been developed for both public and private irrigation schemes, he said.
The minister appealed to traditional leaders in the area to help protect the scheme’s lands from any future encroachment, since that would jeopardise the sustainability of the scheme.
The Korean Ambassador to Ghana, Mr Kim Sungsoo, said the overall objective of the project was to ensure bumper harvest all-year round to enable the country to reduce its annual import of fresh vegetables such as tomatoes from neighbouring Burkina Faso.
Quoting figures from the Ghana National Tomato Traders and Transporters Association, he said Ghana lost US$99.5 million to Burkina Faso annually through the importation of fresh tomatoes.
In 2016, he said, the Korean government committed $6 million to support agriculture in the three regions of the north and $9 million in 2017 to develop the rice industry in the Central Region.
“We believe that these interventions will help generate income and alleviate poverty in Ghana,” the ambassador stated.
The Secretary of the Akomadan Tomato Cooperative Association, Mr Yaw Ofori, expressed appreciation to the government of Korea for its intervention, which he said would inure to the benefit of the people who were mostly farmers.