The government last Friday handed over the Vea Irrigation Dam project in the Bongo District of the Upper East Region to a contractor for rehabilitation works to begin.
The rehabilitation work, which is expected to be completed in 30 months under the supervision of the Ghana Irrigation Development Authority (GIDA), was awarded to Merssers RannLuuk Limited.
The Regional Minister, Mr Stephen Yakubu, handed over the project to the contractor at Vea on behalf of the Minister of Food and Agriculture, Dr Owusu Afriyie Akoto, and said that when completed, the project would help boost farming in dry seasons and contribute to food security and poverty reduction.
The scope of work will include the reconstruction of the slops, canals and laterals of the dam to ensure stability, good drainage systems, inner roads, perimeter protection around the irrigable area, among others.
The project was established in 1965 as part of efforts to promote agricultural activities among peasant farmers in dry seasons, and had the capacity to irrigate about 1,179 hectares of farmlands.
It supplied water to about 4,000 farmers in nine major communities in both Bongo District and the Bolgatanga Municipality, including Vea, Bongo-Nyariga, Yorogo, Dindubisi, Bolgatanga, Zaare, Yikene, Gowrie and Sumbrungu.
Due to lack of maintenance and major rehabilitation since its construction, all canals and laterals had seriously damaged, making it difficult for water to be carried to the farms in the communities, thereby throwing over 2,000 farmers out of business.
Mr Yakubu noted that apart from the project empowering the youth in the region to engage in productive ventures such as farming to mitigate migration, reduce poverty, ensure food security, the project would also contribute to cutting down cost in importing food, particularly rice.
“It will interest you to know that between 2007 and 2015, the amount spent on imported rice rose from US$151 million to US$1.2 billion. The Vea Irrigation project alone has a total of 850 hectares of rice cultivation, comprising 350 hectares of lowland and 500 hectares of uplands for rice production.
“The irrigable land for rice production may double to about 1,700 hectares when completed and I am very hopeful the increase in hectares will drastically reduce the importation of rice to realise the vision of President Akufo-Addo’s Ghana beyond aid,” he added.
The Executive Director of GIDA, Wilson Darkwa, urged the beneficiaries to plant trees around the dam to protect it, and pleaded with the beneficiaries to cooperate and support the contractor to finish the work within the time scheduled in order to restore the livelihood of the people.
The Divisional Chief of the Vea community, Naba Thomas Azubire II, applauded the government for the intervention and noted that it was a big relief to residents of the area, who mostly depended on farming for their livelihood.
FROM SAMUEL AKAPULE , VEA