Efficient Management of Agricultural Water Vital For National Attainment of SDGs – Experts Conclude

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Africa has enormous potential to feed itself, eliminate food insecurity and also to be a major player in global food markets. Photo by Fredrick Mugira

Ama Kudom-Agyemang
October 03, 2017

A cross section of agricultural scientists, water experts and sector related policy makers in Ghana have established the importance of the management of agricultural water for the national attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals.

This was at a Forum at the end of September 2017, in Accra, organized by the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) in collaboration with the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), to discuss agricultural water management related issues that have implications for the attainment of the SDGs in the country. It was one of the series of High Level Policy Dialogues initiated by IWMI to share with stakeholders innovations that respond to challenges in agricultural water management.

The significance of the Forum was to do with the urgent need for efficient management of water for agriculture, which is the highest user of water globally. According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), “at the close of the 20th century, agriculture used a global average of 70% of all water withdrawals…” The Organisation notes that while global food production has at least kept pace with world population growth since the 1960’s, this has been achieved through extensive use of water resources. It projects that water scarcity stress will increase locally and regionally, and thereby constrain food production.

Hence, the need for countries like Ghana, to revamp their agricultural sectors through integrated approaches to water resources management in the area, while striving towards the attainment of the SDGs.

Participants at the Forum included the Deputy Minister of Food and Agriculture, Dr. Sagre Bambangi; the Africa Director of IWMI, Dr. Timothy Williams; and the Director of Science and Technology Policy Research Institute (STEPRI, CSIR), Dr. George Essegbey. Others were the Executive Secretary of the Water Resources Commission (WRC), Ben Ampomah; Deputy Director of the Water Research Institute (WRI), Dr Kankam Yeboah; and the Chief Executive of Ghana Irrigation Development Authority (GIDA), Dr Ben Nyamadi.

Also present were Valere Nzeyimena of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO); Tom Martijn of the Integrated Water and Agricultural Development Ghana Limited (IWAD); representatives of the World Bank; Institute of Environment and Sanitation Studies (IESS), University of Ghana, Legon; and other officials of CSIR and IWMI.

They examined the challenges and opportunities for agricultural water management in Ghana in the quest for the achievement of the SDGs, and noted a number of issues. First of all, “there is no specific indicator looking at how agriculture water can contribute to the national targets for SDG in Ghana.”. The participants agreed on the need for a holistic overview and integrated policy approach to ensure that agriculture plays its expected role in the national attainment of the SDGs.

Secondly, they acknowledged that the government’s policy of “One Village One Dam,” is laudable, but it should be implemented based on adequate hydrogeological, environmental and social feasibility assessments. The “One Village One Dam,” policy is aimed at making water readily available to rural communities to enhance agricultural productivity. The participants concluded that “what is important is to ensure that farmers get sufficient water to secure food production in the country and that they are supported to improve their competitiveness.”

Dr. Sagre Bambangi, who set the tone for the discussion, said the use of irrigation as a dependable source of water for agriculture coupled with the use of improved seeds and adoption of best agronomic practices, “are the surest way to modernize agriculture and increase productivity as parts of efforts to achieve these SDGs.” Therefore, government was focusing on the irrigation sub-sector to restructure and modernize it based on the four pillars of “… Institutional and Policy Reform; Water Resources Management Reforms; Irrigation Service Delivery Reforms; and Improving Water Use Efficiency and On-Farm Productivity,” he added.

The expectation is that these four pillars will form the basis of restructuring the irrigation sub-sector, which according to the Deputy Minister, “will further involve rehabilitation and modernization of irrigation infrastructure; improving water management through the use of non-conventional infrastructure such as Continuous Contour Binding; Use of Rainwater Harvesting Techniques for Home Gardening and Recession Water Management; and Developing Groundwater and Environmental Management Framework for Sustainability of Irrigated Agriculture; and Employment of Solar Energy for Small-Scale Activities.”

Dr. Bambangi was hopeful that restructuring the irrigation sub-sector will boost agricultural production, which directly and indirectly employs about 60 % of Ghanaians through various linkages, and will be “key in achieving the first three SDGs namely: no poverty, zero hunger, and good health and well-being.”
In a statement read on his behalf, the Minister of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation, Professor Kwabena Frimpong Boateng, re-echoed the fact that “water is indispensable to the quest to attain the SDGs, because of its role in economic development, human wellbeing and environmental health.” But he was also concerned about how to balance the competing demands for water for agricultural production, energy generation and industrial development, while maintaining healthy ecosystems.

The Minister’s solution to this issue was that since agriculture was currently the largest user of water resources, going forward as a country, “it is important to ensure an efficient use in the agricultural sector, so as to make water available for other sectors that are also expected to contribute to the achievement of the SDGs.”

His statement was read by the Director of CSIR-STEPRI, Dr. George Essegbey, who was personally confident that the discussion was helping to collate knowledge that will contribute significantly to national development and strengthen management water resources in the country.

A team of scientific experts namely Dr. Olufunke Cofie, Head of IWMI West Africa; Dr. Emmanuel Obuobie of WRI; Dr. Marloes Mul of IMWI; and Dr. Philip Amoah also of IWMI, delivered presentations that demonstrated that prioritizing the management of water, produces positive results whether for agricultural productivity, or in securing livelihoods or in transforming waste water into valuable resources.

The climax of the Forum was the launch by Dr. Bambangi of a Book titled: “The Volta River Basin: Water for food, economic growth and environment,” with contents compiled by a team of water and agricultural scientists, and produced by IWMI. It was based on various research findings that revealed the potential of the Volta Basin to support livelihood and sustainable development, tied to efficient management of its water resources.

In an earlier introduction of the Book, Dr. Williams said the idea for the publication was inspired by need to find answers to the basin challenges and tap into existing opportunities. He added that “it contains research-based evidence to inform policy decisions on food production, energy generation, ecosystems and transboundary management in the Volta basin.”

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