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25.03.2009 Regional News

Upper East to get combined harvester

By William N-lanjerborr Jalulah,Tano/Vea - Ghanaian Chronicle

FOLLOWING PERSISTENT calls by rice farmers in the Upper East Region for a combined harvester to boost rice production, the Ministry of Agriculture has committed itself to providing the farmers with the machine.

The Minister of Agriculture, Mr. Kwesi Awhoi, disclosed this through the Chief Director of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA), Dr. Gyiele Nurah to the staff of Irrigation Company of Upper East Region (ICOUR) and some beneficiary farmers of the Tono irrigation project, at Tono near Navrongo.

Dr. Nurah who had accompanied the sector Minister on a working visit, told farmers and staff of the irrigation project that government was securing some tractors with harvesters, as well as a combined harvester to ease the stress the went through during rice harvesting.

This disclosure attracted spontaneous applause and cheers from the farmers who were full of big smiles on their faces.

He was, however, not happy that since 1994, some farmers who were given tractors on loans have still not paid back the monies. He warned that government would soon publish their names and if they still refused to pay, they would be dragged to court.

Earlier at a meeting with District/Municipal Directors of Agriculture in the region, the Agriculture Minister disclosed that coupons for subsidy on fertilizers for farmers across the country were being printed and would soon be released to farmers to access them. Observing the benefits that farmers derived from the package when it was introduced by the previous administration, Mr. Awhoi said government would maintain the fifty percent subsidy to ensure that the fertilizers were not only accessible to farmers, but also available.

According to him, he was aware of the logistical constraints that all the District/Municipal Directors were going through in the performance of their duties, and pledged government's commitment to offering them all the necessary assistance including in-service trainings.

He however, charged them not to fail the small-scale farmers, emphasizing that “the success of whatever you do should translate into the quality of life of the local farmers to enable them send their children to school”.

Mr. Awhoi also urged the directors to work in close partnership with the private sector while collaborating with departments and agencies in their operations.

Briefing the Minister on the present state of agriculture in the region, the out-going regional director of MOFA, Mr. Roy Ayariga, mentioned land tenure system as a major problem facing major cash crops like shea nuts, Dawadaw, groundnuts, mango, and cashew in the region.

He said there were a lot of potentials in these areas that if given the needed boost, could contribute significantly in bridging the development gap between the North and the South. Other areas included rice production, tomatoes, and onion. Another area that needed much attention was livestock rearing such as guinea fowls.

The Minister and his entourage led by Mr. Ayariga and the Managing Director of ICOUR, Mr. Issah A. Bukari, later toured Vea and Tono Irrigation projects. The latter is presently under rehabilitation.

When Mr. Issah made a complaint on behalf of the contractors that they have not been paid for the certificates already raised, the agriculture Minister informed them that money had been released to that effect.

ICOUR Director said since 1979, Tono has been in operation, thus the irrigation canals, roads, drains have deteriorated to such a point that government of Ghana intervened in 2007 to rehabilitate the scheme at a total cost of GH¢ 7,875,705.04 funded by the government of Ghana.

Mr. Issah said progress of work, as at now was about 80% complete on the main gravity canal. The remaining 20% must be completed to pave the way for use in the next rain season which starts in May.

ICOUR has about 6,000 small scale farmers spread over nearly 3,000 hectares, covering Kassena-Nankana, Builsa, and Bongo districts, and Bolgatanga municipality