Autonomous smallholder shallow groundwater irrigation development in Upper East region of Ghana
International Water Management Institute
In sub-Saharan Africa in general, and in Ghana in particular, groundwater resource is associated with domestic use. There is paucity of information on groundwater resource potentials and the limited information that is available based on data from specific aquifers indicates a pessimistic view about the groundwater resources in Ghana. Moreover, the agricultural use of groundwater is not reflected in the country?s water and irrigation policy. Contrary to the official knowledge, farmers have started using shallow groundwater to produce horticultural crops. In Upper East region, the groundwater infrastructure is developed using extremely rudimentary digging/drilling technologies banking on the abundant human labor during the long dry season. This paper analyzes: (1) the economics of smallholder groundwater irrigation; (2) food security and poverty outreach of access to groundwater resource; and (3) constraints and opportunities of smallholder groundwater irrigation systems. The paper is based on data generated from 420 farmers in 35 communities distributed in three micro-watersheds of the White Volta basin in the Upper East region of Ghana. These communities are divided into 2,085 compounds harboring 4,576 households and 20,962 people. Of the total 4,576 households found in the area, about 61 percent are practicing irrigation of one sort or the other. Of those practicing irrigation, about 89.9 percent are using shallow groundwater. The rest are using small dams, river and drainage water. Even though the agricultural use of groundwater had significant positive livelihood impacts, further development and productivity is constrained by complex land tenure issues, lack of access to efficient drilling technology, marketing challenges, and the general lack of official support services such as extension and micro-credits.