The Provost of the College of Agriculture and Natural Sciences, Prof. Livingstone K. Sam-Amoah, has observed that any country that depends on agricultural production as basis for industrial development is most likely to fail if irrigation is not part of the development plan.
“Indeed in some parts of the world, irrigation remains the dividing line between abundant food and no food at all. Irrigated agriculture represents 20 percent of the total cultivated land, but contributes 40 percent of the total produced worldwide,” he noted.
Prof. Sam-Amoah made these observations when he delivered his inaugural lecture on the topic “Ensuring Food Security: Damming the Waters or Damning our Future?” at the School of Medical Sciences Auditorium.
He was worried that Sub-Saharan Africa was the region with the lowest portion of the cultivated area with irrigation adding that “just over three percent against almost 21 percent at the global level”. This point to the fact the region had the highest prevalence of undernourishment thus 25 percent in in 2011-2013 against 12 percent at the global level, he explained.
The professor of Soil and Water Engineering said the declaration of 2014 as the “Year of Agriculture” was a demonstration of a continued recognition of the importance of agriculture, not only in the context of food security but also as a primary driver of economic development. He said it had been argued that Africa could only feed itself in a generation and emphasised the fact that there were three main opportunities that could help make the vision a reality. He said these included “Advances in Science, Technology and Engineering – including improvements in infrastructure; better efforts at capacity building through higher technical training and the emergence of a new crop of entrepreneurial leaders dedicated to the continent’s economic improvements.
Giving some statistics to explain the benefits of irrigation, Prof. Sam-Amoah said irrigated agriculture was a key contributor to food security, producing 40% of food and agricultural commodities on 17% of agricultural land. He said that in Burkina Faso, irrigated agriculture continued to contribute significantly to food security noting that “irrigation produced in 2010 around 10 percent of the total agricultural production for only 1 percent of the cultivated area”.
According to him, China was the country with the largest area equipped for irrigation, thus 69.4 million hectors, immediately followed by India with 66.7 million ha. “Outside the Asian continent, the countries with the largest irrigation areas are: the United States of America in the Americas with 26.4 million ha, Italy in Europe with 3.95 million ha, Egypt in Africa with 3.65 million ha and Australia in Oceania with 2.55 million ha,” he explained
In Ghana, he noted that “despite considerable potential for development and the emphasis placed on irrigation development in many plans, less than two percent of the total cultivable area in the country was irrigated. He further indicated that the performance and productivity of existing irrigated schemes, particularly those that were publicly developed were generally low.
“In irrigation, we are interested in constructing dams over bodies of water and rivers i.e. damming the waters, and storing the water so that it can be delivered through the irrigation system for meeting the water requirements, then we will be risking our future, i. e. damning our future!” Prof. Sam-Amoah pointed out. He also noted that if “we continue to rely on rainfall as our main source of meeting the crop water requirements, then we will be risking our future, i.e. damning our future!”