The Peasant Farmers Association of Ghana (PFAG) has called on the government to fast-track policy direction to strategically invest in creating viable irrigation facilities in Northern Ghana to sustainably grow the economy.
It said Northern Ghana was blessed with vast and fertile arable lands, which had the potential to change the face of the economy should government shift towards rehabilitating existing irrigation facilities and providing water sources to support all year farming.
This, it said, would attract many people particularly the youth into the sector and that would contribute to attaining food security, reducing poverty, unemployment and rural urban migration.
Dr Charles Kwowe Nyaaba, the Executive Director, PFAG, made this suggestion in an interview with the Ghana News Agency at Kayoro in the Kassena-Nankana West District of the Upper East Region on the sidelines of a maiden Kayoro Sorghum Farmers awards ceremony, organised by PFAG.
Dr Nyaaba regretted the importation of food stuffs from other countries including tomatoes from Burkina Faso when Ghana had the potential to become the food basket of West Africa and net exporter of food.
For instance, statistics from Ministry of Trade and Industry indicates that Ghana spends more than $1billion each year to import rice and in 2017, an amount of $1.1 billion was spent to import only rice.
According to the Ministry of Finance, in 2018, food imports cost the nation an average of $2.4billion annually for domestic and industrial consumption.
Approximately, Ghana spends about $99.5million to import fresh tomatoes from Burkina Faso annually, according to the Ghana National Tomatoes Traders and Transporters Association.
Meanwhile, available statistics indicates Upper East and North East Regions alone have more than 15,000 hectares of rice valleys which had been developed for use.
This, he said, was unacceptable and the country needed to invest in irrigation to put the idle arable land into good use to create jobs for the youth, reduce poverty and contribute to food security.
He said most of the dams constructed for irrigation purposes were dried up while some had siltation and other challenges, which could not support dry season agricultural activities, compelling the people to rely solely on rainfall to engage in farming.
“Most of our youth are in the southern sector looking for jobs and the jobs are not available and yet we have arable land here which is very fertile but there is no water, so we are appealing to the government to de- silt the silted dams,” he said.
He urged government to consider revisiting the dams constructed under the One Village One Dam policy especially those which were poorly built and improve upon them to serve the intended purpose of supporting farmers to engage in dry season agriculture activities.
Madam Latifa Kuzula, a farmer at Kayoro, complained of inadequate fertilizer that usually gets to the farmers late, in the middle of the season and did not adequately support farming.
About 100 farmers from the Kayoro Traditional Area received various prizes including knapsack sprayers, smartphones, PFAG branded cloths and T-shirts for efforts in production of sorghum in 2021.
With the support of PFAG, the farmers produced 7,000 tons of sorghum from 2019 to 2021 but are targeted to produce 10,000 tons of sorghum in 2022 which would be purchased by the Guinness Ghana Breweries PLC.