More than 6,000 farmers in the Upper East Region will not be able to undertake dry season farming using the Tono and Vea irrigation dams this season.
This is because the two dams have been shut down as the water they contain has reached dead storage level.
Consequently, there is a clear possibility of low tomato supply early next year, since a good percentage of tomatoes and other vegetables in the region are produced from those two irrigation facilities.
The impact of the closure would also directly affect farmers in 18 communities in the Kassena-Nankana and Bolgatanga municipalities.
They, as well as other farmers who usually move from other locations to the irrigation areas during the dry season to cultivate vegetables, would lose revenue because they cannot carry out dry season farming.
In the case of Vea Dam, the implications go beyond a freeze on dry season farming, as it also serves as the main source from which Ghana Water Company pumps water for supply to residents of the Bolgatanga Municipality for domestic use.
Alhaji Issah Bukari, Director of the Irrigation Company of Upper Region (ICOUR), who made the revelation in an interview at Tono, told the Ghana News Agency (GNA) that the shutdown, which took effect from November 21, 2014, was necessary because both irrigation projects were in their dead storage water levels, which posed a threat to fishes in the dams, thus the action was “necessary before the dams get to their dead bottom.”
He said the current level of water in the Tono dam stood at 173.6metres as against the maximum operating level of 179.2 metres above sea level, and explained that “when the water is at this level, water cannot flow out through the valves which convey water to the farms for irrigation, and can therefore only be reserved to protect marine life such as fishes in the water resource.”
Mr Bukari, who gave the background of Vea and Tono dams, stated that both dams were established in 1965 and 1979 respectively with the objective to improve food production, household incomes, food security and standard of living in the communities.
However, even though for over 30 years both dams had made gains, there were challenges that included the deterioration of the facilities, especially the canal systems and drains.
He said the canals that were lined with concrete slabs at the onset of the projects were worn out and currently exposed through wear and tear, leading to the choking of valves, and the drains silted with sand.
Mr Bukari blamed the challenges also on low rainfall, high evaporation rate and large quantity of sand in the dams that reduced their water holding capacities.
As to how farmers were prepared to cope with the change, he said sensitisation of communities were ongoing to enable them to adjust to the situation while consultations were going on for the rehabilitation of the dams.
However, the Director said in order not to allow farming to totally come to a halt, efforts would be made to pass some water in bits in some zones depending on the situation, but added that others would completely remain shut down.
Mr Sebastian Bagiba, Deputy Manager of ICOUR, advised the farmers to prudently manage the produce they harvested from their farms during the just-ended rainy season.
He particularly urged farmers who depended on rice straw harvested from the irrigation sites for their animals to plan well during the shut-down period since no straw feed would be available.
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