Similar to most Sub-Saharan African economies, Ghana’s economy relies heavily on its agriculture sector. In 2015, agriculture represented 20.3% of Ghana’s $37.86 B in GDP  and employed 44.7% of Ghana’s workforce in 2013. With the growth in global population and food demand becoming a growing concern worldwide, African nations are anticipated to play a larger role in the global food supply-chain. This proves promising for Ghanaian farmers, Ghana’s agriculture sector and the future of Ghana’s economy.
As a result of an under-developed irrigation network, rainfall is the primary water source for Ghana’s agriculture complex. Thus, crop production in Ghana is highly susceptible to drought and overall rainfall variability. This variability places farmers, whose income is dependent on successful crop yields, in a precarious position. Therefore, consistent rainfall and optimized water management techniques are vital for Ghana to realize its economic potential.
Rapid change in rainfall
Ghana’s national average rainfall has shown a declining trend from 2008 to 2015 (see Exhibit 1). The Ministry of Food and Agriculture (“MoFA” or the “Ministry”) – Ghana’s lead agency developing and executing policies and strategies for the agriculture sector – attributes the shift to climate change.
Exhibit 1: Ghana National Average Rainfall (mm) 2008-2015 (*Jan to Nov)
Source: SRID, Ministry of Food and Agriculture
The increase in Earth’s average temperature due to the growing rate of “greenhouse gas” emissions, or climate change, has had a dramatic effect on Ghana’s environment. Disruptions in air and ocean currents have dramatically changed weather patterns in Ghana, leading to intense droughts and floods throughout the country. The net effect [to farmers] is that, general productivity has stagnated over the years [,] leading to low incomes and food insecurity . In addition, climate change may exacerbate other risks such as seasonality of rainfall. Because of these factors, it is estimated that by 2100, Western Africa will assume agricultural losses of 2% – 4%  of GDP
To confront the impact of climate change on Ghana’s agriculture sector, the MoFA has focused its efforts on developing Ghana’s irrigation facilities. Through its Ghana Irrigation Development Authority arm, MoFA created the Small Farms Irrigation Project’s (SFIP) ) with the goal of expanding irrigable land by developing 11 small scale irrigation schemes covering 820 ha. Cropping intensity is expected to increase to 200% and incremental crop production is expected to be about 5,000 tons per year .
Another recent approach by the Ministry was to rehabilitate the Dawhenya Irrigation Scheme – a reservoir with a capacity of 5.8 mm3. The project will replace inefficient electrical pumps, rehabilitate fishing ponds and establish a farmer training center. MoFA hopes that the project will create employment along the value chain, as pilot rice and vegetables farms will also be established at the site.
In order to reverse the negative effect of climate change on Ghanaian agriculture, the Ministry must consider utilizing soil and water management techniques. Specifically, the Ministry can decrease water losses through soil evaporation and increase water storage by acquiring better soil. These practices seek to optimize soil moisture replenishment. MoFA will move forward using these techniques which utilize cut-off drains, artificial waterways, and retention ditches. Additionally, MoFa can practice water harvesting through using storage structures, such as earth dams. In the short-run the increased efficiencies from utilizing these methods will help offset the reduction in agriculture productivity.
Principally, in order for Ghana to secure the its agriculture industry in the long-run, the MoFA must develop a comprehensive irrigation system for its farms. With sufficient irrigation infrastructure the country will be less susceptible to climate change and maximize farmer profitability. The long-term benefits will help build the country’s economy and labor force. Consequently, other GDP sectors will grow and the MoFA will lead Ghana on a trajectory towards economic growth.
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- [Ministry of Food and Agriculture, Agricultural sector Progress report 2015; http://www.worldbank.org/en/country/ghana]
- [Boko, M., I. Niang, A. Nyong, C. Vogel, A. Githeko, M. Medany, B. Osman-Elasha, R. Tabo and P. Yanda, 2007: Africa. Climate Change 2007: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability. Contribution of Working Group II to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, M.L. Parry, O.F. Canziani, J.P. Palutikof, P.J. van der Linden and C.E. Hanson, Eds., Cambridge University Press, Cambridge UK, 433-467.]