Small Scale Irrigation Schemes for Sustainable Dry Season Farming in the Kassena-Nankana District

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Small scale irrigation farming is one definite way of arresting the redundancy of the labour force in the long dry season in the Kassena-Nankana District. Most especially, it is an important strategy of addressing the growing poverty situation in the District in the face of the increasingly erratic and unreliable nature of rains in this ecological zone. For this reason, dry season farming is now a major livelihood strategy for the people, very much unlike the recent past when it was seen as an engagement for leisure. However, these small scale irrigation schemes are beset with numerous difficulties, notable among them being inadequate water supply for farming. This is also the cumulative effect of such other problems with ownership, management, operations and maintenance of the schemes among others; which raises questions about the sustainability of dry season farming as a livelihood strategy. The study sought to ascertain the nature of ownership and management of the small scale irrigation schemes, and their operational and maintenance practices. It is the view of the study that these issues are fundamental for the continued existence and operations of small scale irrigation schemes. The study employed both quantitative and qualitative tools of data collection. Such tools include focus group discussions, interviews and observations. In all cases, the data shows that the reservoir water is being used for domestic purposes, livestock consumption, fishing, and above all for dry season farming. The ownership and management of these schemes rests with the beneficiaries who are also in charge of maintenance of the schemes. Together, the beneficiaries have formed Water Users Associations (WUAs) with executives who are entrusted with the day-to-day running of the schemes. All the individual WUAs have come together to form a District Water Users Association (DWUA) to coordinate their activities and also build capacity. Maintenance in all the schemes is not satisfactory, even though they acknowledge that it is the responsibility of the WUAs. Payment of water user levies by farmers is another challenge facing the schemes and the most echoed difficulty is the silting of the reservoirs in almost all schemes. For this reason some schemes had to cease operations because of inadequate water. To address these challenges, it is imperative that efforts are made to rehabilitate and especially de-silt the dams. Fanner associations also need to be given additional training in the management of their associations to ensure trust. A lot more education by the Irrigation Development Authority (IDA) and the District Agriculture Development Unit (DADU) on practices that have negative effects on the reservoirs, good irrigation practices and maintenance activities to protect the dams is advised. Even though, beneficiary management may face challenges at the onset, it is hoped that it would bring about the success of small scale irrigation schemes as has happened elsewhere, thereby ensuring sustainable dry season farming.
A Thesis submitted to the Department of Planning, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the Degree of Master of Science in Development Planning and Management, 2008