Ghana: Addressing The Issue Of Climate Change On Food Security

Fiifi-Kwetey-Minister-of-Agriculture-4There is no doubt that the upsurge of climate change is having a great impact on food production and a telling effect on food security in the Northern Ecological Zone of the Savannah Accelerated Development Authority (SADA).   In the 1980s the Upper East Region used to have rainfall in March and farmers could get busy on their farms by April.

Those days, farmers got abundant harvests that enabled them to feed their families throughout the dry season. But the situation got worse after the 1990s when the region started recording rains in May and June. As if this delay is not enough, the rainfall pattern has also become erratic thereby affecting food production adversely and causing food security problems. Farmers, particularly smallholder farmers, find it difficult if not impossible to feed their families throughout the lean season which stretches up to five months in the year, before the onset of the next farming season.

Presenting a report in Bolgatanga recently on the food situation in the Upper East Region this year during an interaction with heads of department, and media practitioners, the Regional Minister, Mr James Tiigah, the Regional Director of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA ), Alhaji Ahmed Misbahu, indicated that as a result of climate change , food production in the area would suffer a decline this year.

“There will be a total average acreage reduction of 20 per cent as a result of climate change“, Alhaji Misbahu stated. He explained that the rains used to set in in March for farmers in the region to go into cultivation but in recent years the cropping season starts very late, and cited for instance that this year some farmers planted as late as August, only for the rains to stop at the end of September.

He said the late arrival and the erratic pattern of rainfall this year, coupled with the withdrawal of government subsidy on fertilizer had affected food production negatively as most farmers could not afford to purchase fertilizers for their crops.

He gave the assurance, however, that notwithstanding the challenges, there would be no food crisis in the region since it could supplement its food stock from other regions, including neighbouring Upper West, Northern and Brong Ahafo Regions.

To help address the issue, he said, plans were underway to construct more dams, dugouts and rehabilitate and drain old dams, to harvest rain water that was usually wasted, for dry season farming.

The Upper East scenario cuts across all the ecological zones of SADA including the Northern, Upper West and Volta Regions, as well as some parts of Brong Ahafo Region. The signs of climate change in the zones are becoming so alarming that if measures are not taken now, it would worsen the food security situation in all the aforementioned areas.

But then, there is hope for the Upper East Region as stakeholders and experts on different platforms have made various proposals to help address the challenge. At the just-ended stakeholders meeting in Bolgatanga, convened by the SADA Stakeholder Co-ordinating Committee to review the activities of SADA during the year, and to solicit for more inputs to help make it deliver efficiently, the Upper East Regional Minister, who was one of the prominent personalities present, made a very fantastic proposal. He proposed to SADA to facilitate the construction of more dams and dugouts in the northern ecological zone of the savannah accelerated development authority to help harvest rain water on a grand scale during the rainy season.

The Regional Minister noted that the dams and dug-outs would not only help to harvest rain water for agricultural activities, particularly in the dry season, but would also help curb the annual floods that occurred in the area every year during rainy seasons.

Such water reservoirs could be used during the long dry season to provide livelihood opportunities for the peasant farmers. It will also prevent the youth from drifting to the south in search of non-existent jobs”, he observed.

Mr Tiigah recommended to SADA to consider moving away from the traditional tree-planting approach of reforestation to tree growing, with incentive packages for farmers as was being done under the Ghana Social Opportunities Project (GSOP).

These recommendations by the Regional Minister must not be ignored. There is the need for SADA to facilitate the construction of more dams and dugouts (or water reservoirs), rehabilitate old ones, as well as de-silt the existing dams that have been silted as a result of human activities. If such pragmatic measures are taken not only would it help harvest water for all-year-round farming, particularly dry season farming, but would also help deal with the perennial floods in the area. It would particularly take care of the large volumes of water that usually engulfs the region whenever the spillway of the Bagre Dam in Burkina Faso is opened, thereby saving human lives, animals, farmlands and other valuable properties from destruction.

Rainwater harvesting is the accumulation and deposition of rainwater for reuse on-site, rather than allowing it to run off. Its benefits include the availability of water for gardening, for livestock, irrigation, domestic use (with proper treatment), and indoor heating for houses. In many places the water collected is just redirected to a deep pit with percolation. Rain water which is a resource from God must not be allowed to go waste while we wallow in hunger. All stakeholders, particularly government and SADA, should take it upon themselves to look for investors and go into public-private partnerships to tap rainwater, to boost food production.

Many countries have relied on rainwater as supplementary sources for development.   Currently in China and Brazil, rooftop rainwater harvesting is being used for providing water for drinking and other domestic uses, livestock farming, small-scale irrigation, as well as means of replenishing ground water levels.

In the  Guangzhou province in China and the semi-arid north-east of Brazil, there was the largest rooftop rainwater harvesting projects ongoing. In Bermuda, the law requires all new residential constructions to include rainwater harvesting adequate for the residents. The U.S. Virgin Islands has a similar law.

In Senegal and Guinea-Bissau, the houses of the Diola-people are frequently equipped with homebrewed rainwater harvesters made from local organic materials. In Beijing (China) some housing societies are now adding rain water in their main water sources after proper treatment. In Ireland, Professor Michael McGinley established a project to design a rain water harvesting prototype in the Bio-systems design (Challenge Module) at the  University College of Dublin. All these are lessons for Ghana and particularly for the private sector, to learn and adopt to earn income while at the same time contributing to positive change

The Sustainable Land Management and Climate Change initiative which was also recently launched at Kongo near Bolgatanga is another welcome news. The project which is a two-year project funded by the European Union, the Global Environment Facility Fund and the Research Centre for International Development would among others, empower communities in the Talensi, Nabdam and the Bawku West Districts to undertake activities including river bank protection, rehabilitation of dams, dugouts, compost production , stone bonding, nursery establishment and provide support for them to go into livestock production.

Already the Environmental Protection Agency in collaboration with MOFA and Water Resources Commission, under the Ghana Sustainable Land and Water Management (SLW) and the Ghana Environmental Management Project (GEMP), with funding from the World Bank and Canada are already empowering communities in some of the Northern ecological zones to protect buffer zones to enable rivers and lakes harvest much water, as well as provide habitat for wild life and to prevent floods.

There is need for effective collaborative efforts by all stakeholders in the northern ecological zone to help tap rainwater for agricultural production to ensure food security and help fight climate change. This would also help address the problem of animals getting water to drink during the long dry season. Government and SADA must be seen facilitating the process by encouraging local public-private partnerships and also going into partnership with foreign investors.   Also, traditional rulers and the local communities which are the direct beneficiaries should make rainwater harvesting a habit, so as to ensure the success of the concept.

By
Samuel Adadi Akapule

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