Documents and Publications    
  International Fund for Agricultural Development

Smallholder Shetu Braimah waters ''Bawku Red'' onions on her plot in Bugri. ''If the water was not here, there would be no reason to be here. Everybody would leave the town.''

IFAD photo by Robert Grossman

Name of the project
Land Conservation and Smallholder Rehabilitation in Ghana

Ghana, Upper-East Region

Responsible organisation
International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD)
Cofinanced by the World Food Programme and the Government of Ghana


With poor soils, erratic rainfall and one of the highest population densities, Ghana’s Upper East Region is the country’s most impoverished area. In 1987, 97% of residents in the area lived below the poverty line; frequent droughts and high food insecurity forced many men to migrate south seeking work as seasonal labourers. One clear solution, to achieve greater food security and allow farmers to earn a living from their land during the dry season was to use low-lying lands as reservoirs by building dykes and dams.

Many water-capturing structures were built during the fifties and sixties in Ghana. However, despite rehabilitation works financed by the World Bank between 1977 and 1985, by 1989 most had again become inoperative due to lack of maintenance. Thus, from the onset, IFAD’s Upper-East Region Land Conservation and Smallholder Rehabilitation Project (1991-1997) was mainly concerned with mobilizing communities to sustain the results of rehabilitation and to actually manage the use of water in the long term.

Consulting with area residents and traditional community leaders, the project identified the sites to be rehabilitated as well as the future beneficiaries to take part in the work and assume responsibility for their maintenance in the future. As work progressed, water user associations were created (and whenever possible, built around informal structures already in place) at each dam site to take over all aspects of project management in the long term.

Today they meet regularly to decide on water distribution within the irrigated areas, what work needs to be done on structures, canals and surrounding replanted areas and to assign tasks among members. They draw up by-laws that are submitted to the district assemblies and they collect water levies for future repairs. Through the associations, members receive training in technical and organizational skills.

By improving water resources and their use, IFAD’s project allowed farmers to remain and invest in the land, increasing local food security and reversing the cycle of neglect and land degradation that was ensuing.

Results achieved

  • household food security was greatly increased without farmers being forced to migrate for work

  • farmers now can produce crops with a high market value and earn more

  • water users' associations were created and they in turn have developed a model for community self-reliance in managing water resources and irrigation systems - a model that can be replicated elsewhere.

Lessons learned

The evaluation concluded that a number of project activities building on traditional mechanisms, community-based livestock services, and formation of water user groups have good replicability potential.

This project was closed at the end of 1997. A second phase has been approved for implementation. It is seeking to increase and sustain the farm incomes of poor rural families through irrigation, improved technology and income generating activities. It will also develop social infrastructure with a view to improve their living conditions and environment.


The interviews were conducted in November 1999, by the BBC World Service, the Vatican Radio and the Italian television RAI.

Human Stories

Nineteen years old Adelaide Attekora, is a woman who characterises the new generation of Ghanaian entrepreneurs: determined, self-assured and female. She took a loan from IFAD and since going into business with traditional hand dyed fabric, her brightly coloured batik has become a huge success. ''I want to expand the business so that in future when I’ll get married, my family will be happy,'' she says during her very first meeting with a group of international journalists in the remote upland areas of Kumasi, a few hours north of Accra. ''The loan provided by the project in 1988, has helped me a lot. I was even trained in how to manage my business. I am very happy with this change. Because I now have my own independence.'' Adelaide was a seamstress until the time she got her first loan. She dyes the material and uses the same to make clothes. In fact she now employs two young women and is hoping to open a better workshop.

''Women are a major vehicle of change for development in Ghana. You help one woman to walk out of poverty, you have helped a whole family'' says Franciska Issaka, a gender consultant serving development projects in Ghana. Asked whether women wanted change, she says: ''Ghanaian women are very proud. They just want opportunities and not to be discriminated against. Even at the lowest level, in rural areas, they want equal opportunities so that they can earn their own living. Turning a blind eye to women in development projects means reducing the country’s potentials for growth by 50 percent. Without the Ghanaian women’s contribution nor the family neither the economy can move.''Akwesi Amperatwum lives in Techiman. He ran a one-man welding business until he got a small loan from an IFAD sponsored rural bank in Kufi Assi near Kumasi. ''I was a shoe shiner, working single-handedly nearby Kumasi’s main train station, until I learned about IFAD.'' He received his first loan after attending a training programme in shoemaking and learning basics of business management in Accra. ''That loan enabled me to purchase welding equipment and develop my business.'' He now employs and trains, about 15 workers, some of whom have started their own businesses in nearby towns.

Kufi Assi’s bank manager, Colinsimkansa Amwaku, has no doubt about the value of the IFAD scheme. Responding to correspondents’ questions on microfinance he says ''the success rate has been very high - the vast majority of the bank’s clients are using the funds wisely and repaying on time.'' But that isn’t just good fortune. The IFAD scheme demands that the banks assess clients and track their progress. Offisa Pimika is a project officer at the bank. Part of his job is to help people who have never used a bank before to start saving in order to qualify for their loan - then to help them manage their project. Offisa says that the vast majority of the loans are targeted at women; women who are very poor, often illiterate and almost always with no practical knowledge either of banking, bookkeeping or business. Training is provided to them to ensure that the scheme works.

picture.gif (15427 bytes)At Tano Boase, a village near Techiman, a group of women heard of the scheme at a village meeting and decided to take up the challenge. The group applied for, and got a loan to buy a small mill - their aim, to process nuts and grains locally: not only producing products that could be sold for higher prices, but also enabling them to store foods that would otherwise waste very quickly. Richard Boating, one of IFAD’s local project managers, describes what it means for a village to own a mill: ''villagers used to hand carry the raw materials to the next town, about 11 kilometres from home. Now they extract the oil here. Making groundnut oil by hand, it’s a long hard process. Using the machine, it’s much quicker. Now that the mill is installed, they have surplus they can sell. Villagers life is much easier and the benefit significantly higher''. Alhassan Iddrisu is the only man in the group. As he is also the only one with any formal education, the women chose him to be in charge of the books.

Village children in Bugri, 10 km east of Bawku village. Water from the Bugri Dam irrigates up to 120 acres, benefiting over 1 000 farmers in the area.
IFAD Photo by Robert GrossmanGhana - Upper-East Region Land Conservation and Smallholder Rehabilitation Project


Developing a local infrastructure capable of supporting agricultural activities is another thrust of the IFAD financed project. Frances Divine Asari is head of the Techiman technology centre - a workshop and training unit at nearby Techiman. The workshop also makes oil presses and other small agricultural items which at the same time training local boys and girls in the skills needed to make and maintain the hardware.

wpe6.jpg (7143 bytes)

Sacks of 'Bawku Red' onions in Bugri. Boosting existing irrigation schemes enables farmers to grow highly marketable crops which in turn contribute to household food security.
IFAD Photo by Robert GrossmanGhana - Upper-East Region Land Conservation and Smallholder Rehabilitation Project


''In Ghana rural poverty is almost synonymous with small food crop famine,'' says Dr. Samuel Dapaah, Chief Director of Ghana’s Agriculture Ministry. IFAD is addressing the issue through provision of funds for crop diversification. In Asaam for instance, a group of women got a loan to produce shallot onions. Asaam is a small village; homes are made from sticks and baked earth, alongside the road that leads to the nearest traditional commercial hub, some 40 kilometres away. The town looks like a traditional village. There is however a subtle difference here. The crop is new. The shallots are part of the initiative to diversify from Ghana’s traditional crops in a bid to find better profits. Emma Erudu is the project officer responsible. Like the rest of the staff running the IFAD scheme on a day to day basis, she’s from the area and knows the people and their problems. The shallot group, she says, demonstrates the success of IFAD’s work.

IFAD Operations in Ghana | IFAD Through Photography - Ghana