Paga Nabio is a farming community with over 5,000 inhabitants in the Upper East Region’s Kassena Nankana West District. Farmers here mostly cultivate millet, maize, tomatoes, pepper, okro, cowpea, and groundnut against outstanding odds. The community, as is characteristic of the District, is also the unwarranted recipient of the longest and harshest dry season which lasts from seven to eight months annually. For half of this period, rainfall is entirely absent, making farming a near exercise in futility. The resulting consequences are numerous, the most glaring being the rut of abject poverty inhabitants contend with on a daily basis. Harvesting water for irrigation purposes, then, becomes a viable remedy to mitigate their woes.
Irrigating Irrigable Lands
It is trite knowledge that irrigation plays a critical role in farming endeavours the world over. Indeed, if there is any technology that has stood the test of time and whose relevance, time and advancement in technology has not been rendered obsolete, it is, arguably, irrigation in farming.
Its importance notwithstanding, the discourse on the role of irrigation in farming practices has become more critical at a time climate change has made weather patterns highly unpredictable. In recognition of this reality, governments have sought to provide sustainable irrigation schemes and technology to their farmers.
Here at home, the Ghana Irrigation Development Authority (GIDA) is responsible for exploring all water resources for livelihood options in agriculture at appropriate scales for all communities. However, a lot more can be done by the private sector to prop up the Authority, considering 95% of Ghana’s cultivated lands are yet to be irrigated.
The Eagle Farmer Project: A Promise to Small-holder Farmers
It is against this backdrop that Accra Brewery Limited’s (ABL) Eagle Farmer Project makes an entrance. As part of its Growing World agenda, ABL’s Eagle Lager brand has, for the past two years, provided irrigation infrastructure to some communities in three of Ghana’s regions. In 2015, ABL, under the “Eagle Farmer Project”, deployed irrigation facilities and infrastructure comprising a solar-powered furrow irrigation system to Yirene and Paga Kajelo in the Upper East Region; Gbi Avega in the Volta Region; and Huniso in the Western Region. The Project has continued to impact more lives, this time in Tindongo and Gambibgo, Upper East Region, as recently as October and November, 2017 respectively.
Eagle Lager’s initiative has not only promoted food security in those communities, but has, most importantly, improved the livelihood and incomes of over 15,000 small-holder farmers.
Roland Tuumyeridam is a former Assemblyman for Nabio’s Kajeto Electoral Area. He wields a post-graduate degree in Development Planning and currently teaches in the area’s local Junior High School. He narrates the ordeal of his kinsmen prior to the construction of a solar-powered furrow irrigation system in his community.
‘Previously, during the dry season, they travel down south to do menial jobs’. He proclaims that the project has drastically changed fortunes, noting that ‘those are things of the past. Since they can farm all year round, they are no longer interested in travelling to the south. There is year-round vegetable farming going on and they have enough income to take care of themselves’, Tuumyeridam says.
Joseph Tuumbabuya, Community Farm Leader, Paga Nabio, corroborates Tuumyeridam’s assertions, adding, ‘now, we have access to water every day and it has also helped in dry season vegetable farming. We are benefitting a lot. When we harvest the pepper, onion and okro, we get money to buy ingredients and prepare nutritious food for the family, take care of ourselves, as well as pay our children’s school fees’.
Madam Mokekem Tanga, a female farmer, rounds up the impact of the project on their lives.
‘This project has really helped us in the area of (potable) water. We (are also) now (able) to undertake vegetable farming throughout the year and we are better off financially than the previous years’.
ABL’s Commitment to a Growing World
As a subsidiary of Anheuser-Busch InBev (ABInBev), the world’s largest brewer, ABL’s Dream is to bring people together for a better world. To live this Dream, we employ the vehicle of the Eagle Farmer Project to invest in a Growing World where everyone has the opportunity to improve their livelihood. Achieving resounding success though, means collaborating with government agencies and industry peers to reduce the colossal financing constraint that adversely affects food security and crop yields.
Having been devoted to partnering nation building efforts for over 85 years, this is a path ABL has trod before and will continue to tread irrespective of how seemingly insurmountable the odds are. And with capacity expansion, our use of locally-grown raw materials (maize and cassava), which increased by 98.14% and 83.19% respectively from 2015 to date, is set to increase as well.