The Peasant Farmers Association of Ghana (PFAG), the Chamber of Agribusiness Ghana (CAG) and the General Agricultural Workers Union (GAWU) are farmer-based organisations with many years of participation and experience in agricultural production in Ghana. We observe with sadness like many Ghanaians do, the perennial flooding in the country especially in the northern part of the country. The northern part of the country is predominantly agricultural activities in the absence manufacturing and industry. The northern part of Ghana also constitute the food basket of the nation, but paradoxically, the three northern regions remain the most poor. We also recall that smallholder farmers produce not less than 80% of the country’s domestic production. About 49% of food crop farmers are poor.
Annually, thousands of hectares of farmlands and variety of crops and livestock are destroyed through flooding. The effect of these floods is huge and diverse and well known. These floods however are man-made, self-made and preventable. These floods destroy farmlands and displace farmers which may affect food production. The perennial flooding and the havoc is also caused by the spillage of the Bagre Dam in nearby Burkina Faso. The devastation caused by the spillage is having a negative impact on the livelihood of the people in the downstream who are predominantly smallholder farmers in Ghana.
It is sad that as farmers experienced low crops and livestock productivity due to limited availability of water for farming activities, conscious efforts have not been made to contain the excess water from the perennial heavy downfall of rains and the spillage of Bagre Dam over the years to augment agricultural productivity. The rains which started in August coupled with the spillage have within the short period led to the destruction of farmlands, food crops, livestock and houses. Also, lives have been lost and potable water polluted posing a potential health risk.
We believe that the annual combined ritual of the Bagre dam spillage and massive downpours can be turned into blessing and put Ghana on a sustainable development path. The much talked about plans to build huge dams at Pwalugu and in Bawku and modernisation of the Tono and Vea in the Upper East Region should be implemented expeditiously. The objective of these dams is to capture the excess water to prevent flooding and its attendant consequences, and also be used for farming in the dry season which is not less than 8 months. The construction of these dams is in consonant with the government overall vision of modernising agriculture and agricultural productivity. However, it does not appear to us that government has immediate plans to construct these dams. Meaning that the farmers would have to continue to be helpless and suffer a fate for no fault of theirs, but which is as a result of policy failure of government. We therefore call on government to make the construction of these dams a priority. We propose that the fund of the Ghana incentive-based risk sharing system for agricultural lending (GIRSAL) 500 million cedis could be used to construct these dams.
We also call on government to revamp the agro-industries in the affected areas to create jobs and improve the living standards of the farmers and Ghanaians in order to give meaning to the President’s vision of Ghana beyond aid. Aside, government should identify the affected farmers and compensate them for the devastating loses they suffered.
We use this opportunity to request government to resource the National Disaster Management Organization (NADMO) to enable them quickly respond to the plight of the affected people especially the farmers who have been the hardest hit. Also, we make an appeal to donor organizations, development partners and private institutions to extend a helping hand to the displaced victims who need food, shelter and other forms of assistance.
We also call on government, as promised in the 2018 National Budget to establish a GHS 400 million fund to de-risk agriculture through sustainable agriculture financing and crop insurance schemes, to compensate farmers who have lost their farmlands to these floods. This action will serve as an incentive for the affected farmers to go back to farming and reduce the perceived risk and lack of governmental support associated with farming.
It should be noted that this year’s spillage has killed seven people, displaced over 100,000 and others so far. Also, houses, roads, domestic water sources have been destroyed. Besides, an estimated 7,500 hectares of farmlands have already been destroyed. The figures are expected to increase as the spillage is on-going coupled with the heavy rainfall which is likely to continue throughout September. Some of the affected districts include Bawku West, Kassena Nankana East and West, Binduri and Talensi Districts in the Upper East; Sissala East, Nandom and Wa West in the Upper West Region and Karaga, East Gonja, Tolon Kumbungu, West Gonja, Savelugu, Nanton, East Mamprusi and West Mamprusi Districts in the Northern Region.