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26.11.2003 General News

Minister of Agriculture answers questions in Parliament

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The Irrigation Development Authority (IDA) is seeking funds from the government and its donors to rehabilitate some of the existing but aged public irrigation schemes to enhance production of irrigated agriculture.

The Tanoso Irrigation Project, located at Tanoso on the Kumasi-Techiman highway in Brong Ahafo, together with eight other existing irrigation schemes have been selected for the rehabilitation.

Answering questions in Parliament on Wednesday, Major Courage Quashigah (rtd), said the rehabilitation works were expected to begin within the first half of next year with funds from the Agriculture Services Sub-sector Investment Programme.

The question, which was filed by Mr Prince Oduro-Mensah, NPP-Techiman South, sought a clarification on what the Ministry of Agriculture was doing to re-activate the Tanoso Irrigation project.

The Minister said the pumps at the Tanoso project had been there for more that 20 years and that they had become old resulting in low performances.

"Also the pipelines and sprinklers have either deteriorated or have been completely damaged for use", he said.

He said there had been no scheduled maintenance works over the years for lack of funds, adding that this had resulted in a general deterioration of the entire scheme.

He said the project covered an area of 64 hectares, comprising a concrete wall across the valley of River Tano with an intake channel, four diesel pumps, main distribution pipelines and portable laterals.

The area is irrigated by the sprinkler system and cropped to tomatoes during the dry season, he said, adding that crops such as maize, cowpeas and eggplant are cultivated in major wet season in rotation.

In another development, Mr John Tia, NDC-Talensi, asked what the Ministry was doing to alleviate the sufferings of tomato farmers in the Upper East Region whose farms were severely destroyed by a strange disease this year.

The Minister said the main tomato season this year witnessed an outbreak of a disease known as "tomato yellow leaf curls virus disease", in the region affecting about 448 hectares of farm land cropped by some 1,506 farmers.

He said a team of researchers with assistance from the Ministry had assisted in diagnosing the disease and submitted their recommendations, which were being implemented through the Land Conservation Smallholder Rehabilitation Project (LACOSREP) at Bolgatanga.

"As a first measure, LACOSREP is mounting farmer field schools in three locations, namely, Tono, Kpalugu and Vea to educate farmers on how to prevent the disease."

According to Maj Quashigah, LACOSREP has made available 1.3 billion cedis to the affected farmers and advised them to organise themselves into groups in order to access the credit.

"So far, about 140 groups, 130 groups from Kasena Nankana district and 10 groups from Bolgatanga have applied for the credit.

The participating institutions include, Ghana Commercial Bank (GCB) and the Naara Rural Bank in the Kasena Nankana district, the Agriculture Development Bank and the Ghana Commercial Bank in the Bolgatanga district."

Major Quashigah said the farmers have been advised to contact the district assemblies to access the HIPC and Social Investment funds too.

Mr Cletus Avoka, NDC-Bawku West, questioned why the farmers had to pay an interest rate of 25 percent, which was a commercial rate instead of ten percent as was the case with credit facilities from the district assemblies since they lost their tomatoes through a natural disaster.

The Minister said natural disaster was only part of the problem since bad farming practices also helped in the spread of the disease.

However, the possibility of charging the farmers ten percent interest rate would be looked at, he added.

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