Ama Kudom-Agyemang
June 3, 2011

Experts on water and food production in the dry areas of Ghana and Burkina Faso and representatives of Development Partners, have noted the importance of small reservoirs in serving multiple purposes including domestic water supply, livestock, small scale irrigation, and limited aquaculture for communities.

Such reservoirs are common property resources that also help communities to cushion themselves against intense dry seasons.

The experts agreed that the sustainability of these small reservoirs depends on improved rain water management, which has the potential to reduce the vulnerability of the poor to dry weather conditions. They observed that the effectiveness of these reservoirs has often been undermined by poor institutional and technical mechanisms required to build, maintain and sustain them for optimal socially equitable benefits.

Volta Basin

These issues were the focus of discussions at a three-day workshop in Accra, which was climaxed with the launch of the second phase of the Challenge Programme on Water and Food (CPWF) in the Volta Basin.

A cross section of participants at the workshop held in Accra

The CPWF is one of the challenge programs on the Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) and it is being hosted by the Volta Basin Authority (VBA) in Ouagadougou.

The first phase of the research based project was implemented over a five year period from 2003 to 2008 and involved about 12 activities including improving varieties of crops for cultivation, rain harvesting and water management.The current phase is a three-year project spanning 2010 to 2013, and involves a number of research based projects aimed to improve rainwater and small reservoir management, contribute to poverty reduction, and improved livelihoods resilience in the dry lands of Burkina Faso and Northern Ghana.

They will also take into accounts the implications of the activities for the environment including ecosystem services.

At the launch of the programme, the Basin Leader of the Project Dr. Olufunke Cofie gave an outline of the five major projects to be implemented. She said the first research project will develop a web-based “decision-support tool” that will identify likely sites to introduce agricultural water management (AWM) interventions for smallholder farming systems based on assessments of social, economic and biophysical conditions.

The second will identify, evaluate, adapt, and disseminate best-fit integrated rainwater management strategies. The third focuses on integrated management options and multiple uses of small reservoirs. These include sustaining infrastructures, protecting and improving the water quality for the various uses and enhancing water productivity potentials.

The forth research project will include issues that govern Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) policy-making and practice in the basin and identify demand-driven opportunities for the management and the governance of rainwater and small reservoirs at the watershed (sub-basin) level. This will enhance impacts of on-going policy initiatives in the Volta basin.

While the fifth project will ensure coherence amongst the four projects and manage their interdependences in order to integrate and align the research activities to stakeholders needs so as to contribute to poverty reduction and improved livelihood resilience in the Basin.

Dr. Cofie said the success of these research projects, will make available decision support tools to guide the out-scaling of successful agricultural water management interventions in appropriate locations in Northern Ghana and Burkina Faso. It will also ensure that rainwater is managed more appropriately leading to positive impacts on crop and livestock productivity, farm profitability, environmental resilience, and human well-being in the longer term.

Dr. Olufunke Cofie making her presentation

She stressed that the success will further engender stronger community-level institutions to manage and maintain small reservoirs to maximise the benefits from multiple uses, while it will ensure that the interaction between local and higher level institutions will be strengthened and mutually supportive.

The Director –General of Ghana’s Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), Dr. Baba Salifu noted that Ghana stands to benefit from the project. He however expressed concern about the lack of appreciation on the part of Ghanaians for resources such as water and urged engineers in the country, “to design road networks that harness water resources,” and said, “current designs tend to waste water resources.”

Representatives of the Minister of Agriculture of Burkina Faso,
Ghana’s Ministry of Food and Agriculture, Burkina Faso’s Minister of Research and Innovation and Ghana’s Minister of Environment, Science and Technology noted that this programme would improve the quality of lives of the local people throughout the basin.

The Executive Director of the Volta Basin Authority, Dr. Charles Biney described the meeting as an encouraging platform that will contribute significantly to the socio-economic development of the region.

The Volta basin lies predominantly in Ghana and Burkina Faso, with small areas in Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, Mali and Togo. These countries rank amongst the poorest in the world. The basin is inhabited by about 19 million people, 70 per cent of whom are rural. The economies of the area are basically reliant on agriculture, mostly rain-fed crossing four agro-ecological zones, with rainfall varying between 500 to 1100 millimeters per year. Highly variable rainfall during the growing season presents problems of short season droughts, even where total rainfall appears adequate.

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