The $34 million Kpong Left Bank Irrigation Project (KLBIP) at Torgorme in the North Tongu District of the Volta Region is estimated to create a minimum of 12,000 direct jobs yearly when completed.
Apart from this, another 600 skilled and unskilled labour will be employed at the peak of the construction phase. President Akufo-Addo has cut the sod for the commencement of the project.
A brief from the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA) also estimates that these beneficiaries will see an increase in their remuneration, thereby improving the living standards of the rural folks.
It has been projected that the 2,000-hectare irrigation project will generate about GH¢28million yearly after completion of the project. The brief explained that “for instance, direct farm income per year after completion of the project and commencement of production is expected to increase from the current, GH¢1,653 per hectare to GH¢14,253 per hectare.”
Speaking at the sod cutting of the project, President Akufo-Addo added that a minimum of 17 communities with a combined population of over 6,000 would have direct access to water supply that would increase the earnings of small holder farmers through double-cropping under irrigated conditions, and the creation of jobs in addition to the completion of various agri-businesses down the value chain.
The project which involves the rehabilitation, expansion and modernisation of the KLBIP will see the initial 450 hectares irrigation project expanded to cover 2,000 hectares of land. The initial 450 hectares was started about six years ago with funds from the Millennium Development Authority (MiDA 1) and later Export Development and Agriculture Investment Fund (EDAIF). However, the project remained largely incompetent and non-functional due to some key defects.
However, under this renewed arrangement being managed under the Ghana Commercial Agriculture Project (GCAP), the defects will be repaired to make irrigation available to 2,000 hectares of land within the project area and an additional 1,000 hectares of farmland outside the project boundaries, bringing the total to 3,000 hectares.
The project, which has been described as a game changer in the transformation of Ghana’s agriculture sector into an international one, is being undertaken by OM Metals/SPML (JV). It will be supersized by Messrs WAPCOS Limited in association with Messrs AGRARTEC with HMD Africa as the leading supplier of all machinery and equipment for the project.
The rejuvenation of the project has received $50million in addition to an earlier $100million committed six years ago from the World Bank and USAID as part of a larger nationwide irrigation project spearheaded by GCAP. The project covers three irrigation schemes including the KLBIP at Torgorme. The other two are the Kpong Irrigation Scheme and the Tolon Irrigation Scheme in the North.
World Bank Wants Tangible Results
In a speech read on his behalf, the World Bank Country Director, Henry Kerali, was hopeful that things would change. He called for prudent management of funds and “tangible results” after the completion of the project.
In addition to these commitments, the President Akufo-Addo said “this project will cost the Ghanaian taxpayer an estimated $25,503,296. This is to help ensure that roads connecting the farms to the market are constructed; electricity on the project area and adjoining communities is ensured as well as connection to potable water”.
Project Will Succeed
The President was not happy that a country with 1.9 million hectares of irrigable land has only 210,000 hectares suitably developed, representing a little over 11% of the total area which can be potentially irrigated.
To this end, he was optimistic that the Ghana Commercial Agricultural Project, in collaboration with the Ghana Irrigation Development Authority (GIDA) would ensure a successful implementation of the expansion, rehabilitation and modernization of the KLBIP as well as other major public irrigation schemes to transform the agriculture fortunes of the country.
He said: “We are determined to transform Ghanaian agriculture, and break the recent dismal record of decline and negative growth that has characterised the sector. That way, we can justify the huge investments that government is making in the project”.
He was also happy that based on a comprehensive evaluation, nine crops have been selected for cultivation under the scheme. These are rice, maize, soya bean, cowpea, pepper, okra, cabbage, watermelon, and butternut squash. More so, the irrigated area would be cropped twice a year, resulting in a 200% cropping intensity, and a total cropped area of four thousand (4,000) hectares per annum.
Apart from skill transfer, the small-holder farmers will be able to sell and market their goods through collaboration with large farming enterprises with substantial technical, managerial and financial expertise and working capital. A scheme will be developed to ensure that the irrigation water users finance the operation, maintenance and management of the system, through regular payment of affordable irrigation service charges.
From Fred Duodu, Torgorme (firstname.lastname@example.org)