Government, through the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA) has 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 contract was awarded to Merssers Rann Luuk Limited and rehabilitation work is expected to be completed in 30 months under the supervision of the Ghana Irrigation Development Authority (GIDA).
Mr Stephen Yakubu, the Regional Minister, who handed over the project to the contractor at Vea on behalf of Dr Owusu Afriyie Akoto, Minister of Food and Agriculture, stated that the project when completed, would boost dry season farming and contribute to food security and poverty reduction.
The scope of work included the reconstruction of the canals and laterals, slopes of the dam to ensure stability, drainage systems, inner roads and perimeter protection around the irrigable area among others.
The project was established in 1965 as part of efforts to promote dry season agriculture among peasant farmers 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 the canals and laterals were damaged, making it difficult for water to be carried to the farms, 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 through farming to mitigate migration, reduce poverty, ensure food security, it would 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 this 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 Regional Minister noted that due to erratic rainfall caused by climate change, government was not only committed to constructing new dams and dugouts but was rehabilitating existing irrigation schemes to make agriculture attractive to the youth.
He warned the contractor to ensure quality work stating “government will not tolerate shoddy work and my technical men will visit the site from time to time and report to me if you are doing the right thing”.
Engineer Wilson Darkwa, the Executive Director, GIDA, advised the beneficiaries to plant trees around the dam for protection, and urged them to cooperate and support the contractor to finish the work within schedule, to restore the livelihood of the people.
Naba Thomas Azubire II, the Divisional Chief of the Vea community, applauded the government for the intervention and noted that it was a big relief to residents of the area who mostly depended on the dry season farming as source of livelihood due to the erratic rainfall pattern.
By Anthony Apubeo, GNA