THE SOD has been cut for commencement of rehabilitation works on the Tono Irrigation Dam at Navrongo in the Kassena-Nankana District of the Upper East Region.
The rehabilitation works on the over 20 kilometres stretch irrigation scheme, which will cost GH¢7.9 million, will be carried out by six construction firms and it is expected to be completed and handed over by the end of December this year.
The construction firms, Maymens, Waale, Rajga, E.A.U and Z.Q, Munisco and Appro-M Company Ltd, will executive different works including gravelling of the main access road, regravelling of the dam wall, erosion control of the dam slope, and replacement of lost linings of concrete on the main and lateral canals of the irrigation network.
Other works include construction of culverts and water control gates, desilting, and the construction of washing bays in the community.
Meanwhile, farmers around the dam had been assured that the rehabilitation work had been scheduled to take off at different periods so it would not interrupt their water supply throughout the year.
On March 27, 1975, a sod was cut by General I.K. Acheampong, then head of state, for constructional work to begin on the Tono Irrigation Dam and its canals that convey water to the about 2,440 hectares of farmland at the then cost of ¢60 million.
The project was completed in 1984 and since then farmers had been depending on it to do all year-round farming including cultivation of tomatoes, onions, rice and other food crops for both local and international markets.
About 33 years down the lane, the dam had suffered the harsh conditions of the weather and activities of man, without any attention in the form of rehabilitation, thereby reducing its irrigable areas from the initial 2,440 hectares to 1,800 hectares, as a number of canals had also collapsed.
After the current year-long rehabilitation works, the irrigation dam will serve up to about 3,000 hectares of farmlands, and it is hoped that this would curb the usual struggle over farmlands by local farmers; a situation which over the years had created tensions in the area.
During the sod-cutting ceremony, the Minister of Food and Agriculture, Ernest Akobour Debrah, said the intention and the release of funds for the rehabilitation of the dam was an indication of government's commitment towards creating an enabling atmosphere for farmers and the agricultural industry to thrive, as the sector plays an important role in the nation's economy.
He said government was aware that any improvement in the Tono Irrigation Scheme would help enhance the wellbeing of the people of Navrongo and its environs and the nation as a whole, for which reason it had committed that huge sum of money to rehabilitate the facility despite the scarce national resources.
“The increasingly unreliable rainfall pattern calls for more irrigation dams across the country; and I hope that the management of the irrigation dam will ensure proper maintenance to prolong its life span. It is bad that almost 29 years that the Tono Irrigation has been operating, there has not been any main maintenance.
“The reduction from 2,440 hectares of irrigable farm lands to the current 1,800 hectares due to destructions of the canals should be a source of worry to management and all whose livelihood depends on the project. Farmers and the nation would have made some money from the 600 hectares of farmlands that have been cut off.”
According to the Minister, the new irrigation policy makes it mandatory for government to develop the irrigation facility, while farmers and the district assemblies under which the facility falls are also expected to manage and maintain it, adding that it was the only way to ensure its sustainability.
Mr. Debrah disclosed that with the coming rainy season, his outfit would assist farmers in the region to cultivate 1,000 hectares of rice and the outcome of this would determine whether the Ministry should continue assisting the rice farmers or not.
The Managing Director of ICOUR, Issaka Bukari, was grateful to government for listening to the appeals of management of the project and farmers.
He said the Tono and Vea Irrigation Schemes are noted for their ability to supply water for tomato production during the dry season, stressing that any attempt therefore to develop these projects would be good for the whole nation.
In 1984, the government of Ghana incorporated a limited liability company to manage the Tono and Vea Irrigation Schemes called the Irrigation Company of Upper Region (ICOUR), which was managed by Tate and Lyle Technical Service of the United Kingdom for a period of five years.
From 1990 to date, ICOUR has been fully managed by a Ghanaian management, propelling the irrigation facility to have positive impact on the surrounding communities.
Over the years, some farmers, who have had the opportunity to farm throughout the year under the Tono Irrigation Scheme, have won various awards at the National, Regional and District Farmers' Day ceremonies.
The rehabilitation works on the Tono Irrigation network, when completed, would enable the facility to serve about 4,000 farmers from nine communities.
From Ebo Bruce-Quansah, Tono