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Opinions of Saturday, 3 September 2016

Columnist: Abugri, George Sydney

The mechanics, math and philosophy and of dams and factories

Nana Akufo-Addo Nana Akufo-Addo

NPP presidential candidate Nana Akufo-Addo is neither the first nor will he conceivably be the last to let fly on the campaign trail, great promises of good things to come for the masses if he is elected president.

As a matter of fact, his closest rival President John Mahama has dispensed generously with some of his own during his campaign.

The difference lies in the fact that three of Akufo-Addo‘s promises are of such a nature as to have raised eye brows, lids and lashes:

The promise drawing the most debate is one to the effect that if elected, he will embark upon the implementation of a “one village, one dam programme” to support agriculture in Northern Ghana.

For a part of the country so dependent on rain-fed agriculture and sometimes plagued by sparse and sporadic rainfall, small scale irrigation dams are just what we need to promote all-year-round agricultural activity in the northern Savanna.

As a matter of fact, the Ministry of Agriculture and the Irrigation Development Authority are already engaged in dam construction and maintenance programmes in Nothern Ghana and other parts of the country.

From 2009 to date, the ministry has under various programmes nationwide, put 3,625 hectares of land under irrigation. Another programme has within the period, redeveloped about 8044 hectares of existing irrigation schemes.

These projects notwithstanding, any serious effort to construct more dams under a separate, complementary, manifesto-based project would be more than complementary in the development of irrigation systems across the country.

The source of scepticism however, is the NPP candidate’s promise to construct more than 2000 in the Northern, Upper East and Upper West Regions. It costs about $300,000 to construct a small scale dam. As my African American friend Joe Minnard used to say, “That is a helluva lotta dough, buddy!”

The candidate has not said where the money will come from but that is only one unanswered question relating to the proposed project:

The practicability and feasibility of the construction of more than 2000 dams in every village irrespective of topography and related earth features is debatable or even in doubt. The water table does not easily lend itself to tapping across terrain and topography.

Before a dam is constructed anywhere, laboratory-based soil, earth, meteorological and other tests and analysis must be conducted to establish the geotechnical and geological suitability of the location for a dam.

Dams constructed without the requite tests could dry up in a short time and be rendered useless. Tests have to be done to certify the safety of residents of the villages and the environment.

A more realistic promise may have been one to construct small dams so strategically located, as to effectively serve clusters of villages in designated catchment areas for irrigation and livestock farming and possibly fishing, although it is to be noted with regard to project scale and cost, that dams are not fish ponds or dugouts.

A second promise by the NPP candidate that has raised eye brows is the promise to build a factory in every district of the country: In the mid-1980’s, I wrote a media report on “The orchard villages of Wa.” These referred to villages and small towns on the outskirts of Wa which had such large numbers of mango trees that they appeared to be buried in expansive forests of the fruit trees.

A lot of the sweet and delicious fruits harvested annually went to a shameful waste because of the absence of storage and processing facilities, a sad fact I harped on in the report. More than three decades later, a fruit processing factory was established in Wa. Although it run into technical and financial difficulties and temporarily shut down, it has been refurbished and is soon to resume production.

As you must have noticed however, a fruit processing factory was established in this District because of a ready availably and abundance of fruit trees.

Whether the candidate’s party has undertaken a study to determine whether or not every district of the country does indeed have the raw materials and other resources to feed and sustain the viability and profitability of a factory is uncertain.

A third promise by the candidate that may be far from easy to fulfil, is the promise to implement a project in every constituency of the country to alleviate poverty. I wonder what my buddy Joe Minnard would say about the cost involved.


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