Harvesting Rainwater As A Way Of Life

Harvesting rainwater makes good sense Dr Abdullai Baba Salifu, Director General Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research

Farmers at Bawjiase in the Central region used to be proud of their green and high yielding farms during the dry season but today the story is different and most of them are out of business.

They were prominent during the implementation of the presidential special initiative on cassava and starch, which allowed government to buy their produce directly to feed a starch producing industry.

Farming close to rivers and on lush fields guaranteed a good yield at the end of the farming season every year, as the farmers harvested buckets full of food which was enough for the family.

‘Things have changed,’ said Kwabena Gjan, a 42-year-old who holds unto the withered maize plant in his five-hector farm.

During the raining season, he noted, the farms were green “and I wish it could be like that.”

He harvested more maize which his wife, Elizabeth who sells them at Bawjiase and Swedru Markets on Mondays and Saturdays.

He explained that farming activities have been negatively affected in the area as rain fall patterns have changed and most of the rivers have dried up.

When it rains, the river overflows its banks and most of the farms close to the river are washed away.

Mr. Gjans and his 13-year-old daughter, Esi Amissah have to walk for hours to the Densu River in the nearby town with her mother to fetch water for drinking and cooking.

However, the Ministry of Water Resources Works and Housing is instituting measures to help Mr. Gjan and his family.

A policy framework to ensure participatory, equitable and decentralized paradigm for water management is being implemented.

The policy highlights how rainwater could be managed appropriately to positively impact crop and livestock productivity as well as ensure availability of water for households throughout the year.

“Sometimes, the key to unlocking our water problems simply falls from the blue skies,” said Alban Bagbin, Minister for Water Resources, Works and Housing who believes rainwater harvesting has a great potential to ensure availability of water throughout the year in homes, farms and schools.

As part of the measures, builders would be compelled to incorporate gutters in the roofing of their building designs to ensure harvesting of rainwater by occupants.

Rainwater harvesting has been practiced in many parts of the country for many centuries, and it is hoped efforts aimed at adaptation and development of affordable technologies would boost productivity.

It also seeks to address issues of flooding and erosion caused by the lack of adequate drainage through effective capturing, retention and controlled release of rainwater.

Rainwater is directed into open wells, tanks or percolation chambers built specifically for such a purpose while water from flooded rivers can be stored in small ponds or underground wells.

In other places, where rainwater harvesting has been explored, water is collected directly or recharged into the ground to improve ground water storage.

In domestic rooftop rainwater harvesting, the system usually comprises a roof, storage tank and guttering to transport the water from the roof to the storage tank while in advance forms an additional first flush system is attached to divert the dirty water, which contains roof debris collected on the roof during non-rainy periods and a filter unit to remove debris and contaminants before water enters the storage tank.

Mr. Bagbin said “with the availability of water purifying equipment on the market, rainwater can be harvested and made wholesome to supplement our overstretched supply systems.

“For every bucket of pipe water we use, we should endeavour to capture one from the heavens.”

Government’s long-term plan, he noted, is to enact appropriate legislation to be implemented by bodies such as the Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies to incorporate and enforce the harvesting of rainwater in new building designs.

To reduce poverty, Ghana and Burkina Faso are exploring strategies to improve rainwater management for sustainable agricultural productivity dubbed the Challenge Programme on Water and Food (CPWF) in the Volta Basin.

The three-year project, which started in 2010, is encouraging research into rainwater harvesting and management of rainwater and small reservoirs for multiple purposes around the Volta Basin.

Though the Volta basin comprises the White, Black, Dake and Oti Basins which covers communities in West Africa, predominantly Ghana and Burkina Faso, the economies of these countries depend on agric, which is mostly rain fed.

Dr Abdullai Baba Salifu, Director General Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research, believes harvesting rainwater makes good sense as rain is a good source of water.

He noted that inadequate water is the key factor that is affecting agricultural productivity in two countries.

“We can harvest water, store and use them to improve our lives but this is what we are failing to do,” he said.

Kwasi Agyei Tabi of Ghana’s Ministry of Environment, Science and Technology, was hopeful the project would help improve food security in the two countries.

“Through this project farmers can be equipped with strategies to enable them increase food productivity and this can translate into poverty reduction.”

Dr Traore Hamidou of the Burkina Faso Minister of Research and Innovation said bad rainfall patterns are seriously affecting agriculture, stressing that the CPWF would complement efforts by the government to address the problems.




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