COP26: How northern Ghana farmers are battling drought and floods from climate change

Many farmers in the northern parts of Ghana are yet to recover from the shock of the devastating flooding that hit the area in last August and September, causing massive destruction of farms.

In the Upper West Region alone, 6,880 acres of farms were destroyed by the floods.

It affected the livelihoods of a total of 6,623 farmers. Even before the unusual rains set in, some crops were already failing due to long spells of extreme dry weather conditions.

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Local farmers have started they’ll be unable to meet the demand in the coming planting season.

A drought-affected farm at Sewua. Picture: Ministry of Food and Agriculture Ghana

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“In terms of food availability to the local market and shortage, we are likely to get less than 50 per cent of the expected harvest as a result of the weather changing pattern,” says Charles Nyaaba, head of programmes and advocacy of the Peasant Farmers’ Association of Ghana (PFAG).

"The crops in question are maize, soybeans, sorghum, yam and cassava.”

The agriculture sector contributes 18.2 per cent to the West African country’s gross domestic product, coming only after the service and industry sectors.

Flooding is affecting farmers in northern Ghana. Picture: Qujo Buta

This is quite concerning when you consider there has an increase in river flooding and drying, agricultural and ecological drought in West Africa.

The rise in temperature was not only causing surface water to dry up, but brought about a strange fungal disease, that was affecting rice farms in the Upper East Region.

Additionally, the PFAG was convinced by the field assessment it had conducted that this year’s harvest would not be good. It would fall short of that of 2020.

Flooding is affecting farmers in northern Ghana. Picture: Qujo Buta

Mr Nyaaba said: “The middle to southern belt of Ghana used to have two planting seasons – a mix between major and minor seasons," he explained.

"Years back, the rains started in mid-March or late February, through to early August, whilst the second minor season sets in from September to early December. Rains now come in either April or May, and so the farmers have decided to crop only once”.

The northern part of the country is also experiencing a similar situation, where the normal planting season has changed from May to June-July.

The observation is that a month after planting, dry spells would set in for some time and then the rains would begin with high intensity, destroying the crops.

Journalist Albert Oppong-Ansah

To mitigate the situation, the government is rehabilitating some irrigation facilities with the capacity to irrigate 7,817 hectares. Added to that is the construction of 240 earth dams to support all-year round farming.

The government’s extension officers are introducing farmers to climate smart interventions – intercropping, crop rotation, mixed cropping and the use of compost fertiliser.

“If you take the Planting for Food and Jobs programme, there is a climate change adaption initiative in there,” says Kingsley Kwako Amoako of the Environmental, Land and Water Management Unit of the Directorate of Crop Services.

"All farmers receive a variety of seeds and fertiliser. However, those in the northern regions where there are erratic rainfall and have only one cropping season are been given short duration and drought tolerant seeds.”

At this point, the government needs to invest in rain harvesting technologies nationwide to save the nation’s agriculture, ensuring all-year round farming. Considering the extreme weather conditions, we cannot continue to rely on rain-fuelled agriculture.

- Albert Oppong-Ansah is a journalist based in Ghana. He reports for Ghana News Agency. This article is part of The Scotsman and Earth Journalism Network partnership – set up by global non-profit organisation Internews.

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