The West African Centre for Water, Irrigation and Sustainable Agriculture (WACWISA), an African Centre of Excellence, in the University for Development Studies (UDS) held the second (2nd) International conference on Irrigation and Agricultural Development, dubbed ‘IRAD 2020’. The 3-day conference, which was under the theme “Water Resources Development for Sustainable Agricultural Systems”, sought to create a platform for the exchange of ideas and knowledge among stakeholders for the development of the agriculture sector in Africa, particularly the irrigated agriculture sub-sector.
Opening the three-day conference, the Director of WACWISA and Pro-Vice Chancellor of UDS, Prof. Felix K. Abagale indicated that WACWISA was established in January 2019 as a semi-autonomous Centre of Excellence specialized in education and research in Water Resources, Irrigation Science and Engineering, Sustainable Agriculture and Climate Change.
The Centre, which is funded by the Government of Ghana with support from the World Bank, envisions “to be a leading world-class academic and research Centre specialized in irrigation, water resources, sustainable agriculture and climate change.” He intimated that the Centre aims at training high level personnel at the Masters and PhD level as well as conduct cutting-edge research through postdoctoral training in the areas of water resources, irrigation engineering, sustainable agriculture and climate change for the growth and development of the Africa continent. WACWISA also supports practical training of students, facilitates students and staff mobility, partnerships with industry and academia or research institutions amongst others.
WACWISA is currently providing scholarships to nineteen (19) students at the Masters and PhD levels as its first cohort who are studying Irrigation and Drainage Engineering. These students are from eight (8) African countries i.e. Ghana, Cameroun, Uganda, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Ethiopia. In the next academic year, WACWISA will be supporting students through scholarships to study: Irrigation and Drainage Engineering, Integrated Water Resources Management, Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems; and Environmental Management and Sustainability at Masters and PhD levels. It will also offer training and capacity building for industry in the form of demand-driven Short Courses.
The Director of WACWISA noted that IRAD 2020 conference had received abstracts and participants from Benin, Cameroun, Ethiopia, Ghana, Japan, Nigeria, Togo, United States of America and United Kingdom.
He noted the need for increased investment in research, innovation and development, which are very important for the development of any society and called on the government of Ghana and the donor community to support research, innovation and development by devoting and making funds accessible purposely for the conduct of cutting-edge research and innovation. This he noted was very important in the achievement of the desired development goals of government and for Ghana to develop Beyond Aid. He asked the Government of Ghana to expedite processes leading to the implementation of the National Research Fund and as well make resources available for the conduct of cutting-edge research for the development needs of the country.
Prof. Abagale disclosed that Ghana has an irrigation potential of 1.9 million hectares but only 11.6 % (221,000 hectares) is being used. This means that the potential investable area of 88.4 % of the irrigable potential area is available in Ghana for investment. He therefore hoped that the conference would lead to open investment opportunities in the sector, which will contribute to reduction in the unemployment prevalence in the country especially among the youth.
He further added that the theme of IRAD 2020 contributes well to answering critical questions and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – SDG 1 – No Poverty; SDG2 – Zero Hunger; SDG 3 – Good Health Well-Being; SDG 4 – Quality Education; SDG 6-Clean Water and Sanitation; SDG 12 – Responsible Consumption and Production; SDG 13 – Climate Action and SDG 17 – Partnerships as well as the Africa Unions (AU) Agenda 2063 for inclusive growth and sustainable development of Africa, especially Aspirations 1 (A prosperous Africa based on inclusive growth and sustainable development), 6 (an Africa whose development is people driven, relying on the potential of the African People, particularly its Women and Youth and caring for children) and 7 (Africa as a strong, united, resilient and influential global partner and player).
In his address, the Upper West Regional Minister, Dr. Hafiz Bin Salih challenged the conference to come up with innovative solutions to make water use more efficient while increasing agriculture productivity to meet the growing food needs of society. He also called on participants at the conference to embrace and propagate the need for sound environmental practices for the benefit of the present and future generations.
On his part, the Deputy Minister for Food and Agriculture, Dr. Sagre Bambangi indicated that the theme for the conference was in line with the Government’s ‘One Village, One Dam’ policy initiative. He acknowledged that where there is irrigation, there is the need for drainage to remove surplus applied water in order to create a healthy balance. He therefore called on WACWISA to collaborate with relevant stakeholders and build consensus towards irrigation water management for sustained food security in the sub-region. The Minister observed that if irrigation infrastructure were properly provided in many places in the Savannah and arid ecological zones of the sub-region, the frequent prolonged draught and flooding would be mitigated. In view of this, he announced that the Government of Ghana had cut sod for the construction of a multi-purpose dam, strategically positioned at Pwalugu in the Upper East Region to harness floodwaters from the Bagre dam from Burkina Faso for all-year round food crop cultivation, domestic water supply, rural industrialization and generation of electricity. Dr. Bambangi therefore used the occasion to call on UDS and WACWISA to make their expertise available in support of the Pwalugu Dam project, which has the potential of transforming the irrigated agriculture sub-sector in Northern Ghana.
The conference organization was supported by the University for Development Studies, Ecobank Ghana Ltd, Bank of Africa, PUMPTECH Ghana Ltd, Yara Ghana Ltd, Consolidated Bank Ghana, Amaati Company Ltd, HydroFarm, GliCO LIFE Insurance and GCB Bank Ltd.