Choked canals at the Weija Irrigation Scheme in the Greater Accra Region are hindering vegetable production meant for both domestic consumption and the export market.
The free flow of water through the canals has become virtually impossible as silt and debris fill the water channels.
The situation has been blamed on the public’s indiscriminate refuse dumping in surrounding communities, while silt is also usually washed down from upland areas during heavy rains.
It has left portions of the canal embankments buried underneath the silt.
In their effort to resolve the issue, the 302 beneficiary farmers on the scheme — made up of 136 men and 67 women — levied themselves to raise money to engage the services of excavators to clear the canals anytime they were choked.
The clearing exercise, which lasts 10 days on the average, costs the farmers GH¢6,000 a day, with other miscellaneous expenses amounting to GH¢4,000 for the period of the exercise.
These challenges came to light when officials of the Ghana Irrigation Development Authority (GIDA) paid a familiarisation visit to the scheme last Thursday.
The Weija scheme was constructed in 1984 to help farmers in the enclave to undertake vegetable production, especially tomatoes, all-year-round.
It is one of the vibrant vegetable producing irrigation schemes in the country with an irrigable area of 224 hectares.
The crops are produced for the local and export markets.
The scheme produces annually a total of 10.14 tonnes per one hectare of vegetables like okra, pepper, tinda, cucumber, tomatoes, onions, sweet potato and maize. Cropping all the irrigable land translates to 2,271.36 tonnes of the vegetables annually.
The beneficiary communities are Tuba, Kokrobitey, Kasoa, Bortianor, and other adjoining communities.
A spokesperson for the farmers, Alhassan Issah Tei Agbo, and the Field Supervisor of the scheme, Solomon Oteng, both told the Daily Graphic that the government must expedite action to support farmers in clearing the canals or to re-engineer them, if possible, to prevent frequent silting of the canals, particularly during the rainy season.
Mr Oteng, for his part, said the situation was dire because some of the residents living in the surrounding communities had been dumping faecal matter and plastic materials around the canals which were usually washed into the canals during heavy rains.
This, he said, decreased yield and affected the proper formation of plants because the water became polluted and infested with bacteria whenever it found its way into the fields.
Mr Agbo explained that sometimes the farmers cleared the canals three times in a year and said last year, for instance, farmers contributed to clear the choked canals and if nothing was urgently done to address the challenge, farmers would contribute again to clear the canals this rainy season.
The situation, he noted, was dwindling the fortunes of the farmers on the scheme who were already overburdened with high cost of production.
Other farmers on the scheme complained of challenges such as high cost of farm inputs, high electricity bills, lack of tractors, inadequate buyers for the vegetables, and lack of credit facilities to support vegetable cultivation.
The farmers, who spoke, included Karimato Ahmed, Inusah Kwaetsu, 63 and 40 years, respectively.
They both cultivate onions, pepper, tomatoes, cabbage, okro and maize.
The Weija Irrigation Scheme Manager, Alice Wakah, commended the farmers for attending to the choked canal when the need arose.
She reiterated the enormous potential of the scheme in vegetable production and emphasised the need for financial support.
When contacted, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Ghana Irrigation Development Authority(GIDA), Richard Oppong-Boateng, said the authority had undertaken an assessment and cost estimates for rehabilitation of the canal system but efforts were being made to secure funding for work to commence on the project.
Additionally, he explained that studies had also been conducted by China Geo Engineering company with cost estimates on the best energy options available to provide for the scheme to reduce high electricity tariffs.
Mr Opong-Boateng revealed that the irrigation scheme provided direct and indirect job opportunities to over 2,000 people.
The acting CEO said the scheme used two pump stations due to its topography.
He explained that the first one had been installed at Machigani which lifted water from the Weija reservoir through a canal of about 6.5 kilometres(Km) long.
He, however, said there was a high amount of siltation from the adjoining highlands thereby increasing the pumping duration resulting in high electricity tariffs.