Vegetable Farmers in the Keta Municipality of the Volta Region, who rely on electricity to power their irrigation pumps, have hit the streets to demonstrate against what they say is the high cost of vegetable production as a result of increasing electricity tariffs.
According to the farmers, government has failed to redeem a promise made in 2012 to put farmers who use electricity in any form for agricultural purposes on a special tariff, instead of the current Non-Residential Tariff. From 2009-2012, Ghana embarked on the Agricultural Water Solution Project with funding from the Bill Gates Foundation and supported by International Water Management Institutes (IWMI), International Food Policy Research Institutes(IFPRI), International Development Institutes(IDI), Food and Agricultural Organization(FAO) and others.
The aim of the project was to boost income and food security for the millions of small-holder farmers in sub-Saharan Africa and India by providing reliable access to water for irrigation. At one of such stakeholder workshops held at Erata Hotel from 28-29 March 2012, and chaired by Dr. Alhassan Yakubu, Chairman of the Parliamentary Select Committee on Food and Agriculture the following decisions on rural irrigation were arrived at:
• Extensive rural electrification, which is a government policy, should include sending electricity to irrigated areas to ensure that electricity is used for economic productive purposes in rural areas.
• There is need for synchronization of electricity and rural roads provision to irrigated areas. That implies collaborative planning by the relevant stakeholders, especially electricity providers and distributors, Department of Feeder Roads and District Assemblies.
• There is need to argue for “reasonable tariffs” to be charged for electricity for irrigation but AWM/GIDA must provide evidence-based information on the costs and benefits of electricity for irrigation vis-à-vis diesel/petrol and make suggestions of “reasonable tariffs”.
• Subsidies on electricity of the type that exists in some states of India should not be contemplated because it is not sustainable.
• There is need to link farmers to appropriate markets so that their produce do not go waste after spending so much on production.
• The decisions of the workshop should be presented to the relevant people in the Ministries of Energy and Food and Agriculture, PURC and the Energy Commission for reactions and then a memo should be produced for cabinet. The Chairman of the Keta Municipality Vegetable Farmers and Marketers Association, Mr. Roland Tudzi, said there have been several failed attempts to draw the attention of stakeholders to redeem their promise including several letters to the office of the President. He said the situation was worsening as they continue to bear the brunt of the high electricity bills.
Presenting their petition to the Municipal Chief Executive (MCE) for Keta, Mr. Sylvester Tonyeava, the group called on government to expedite action towards the implementation of the project and support activities of farmers in the area by including them on the various interventions.
The farmers were seen clad in red wielding placards with inscriptions such as, “the bills are too much”, “we need special tariffs now” among others. Farmers along the shoreline of Southern Volta have over the years been practicing tube well irrigation system to cultivate crops.
The system allows farmers to construct a tube-well which is about 9 meters into the soil, and with an electric pump, water is pumped into a sprinkler irrigation system which is used to water their crops.