A two-day conference on Irrigation and Agricultural Development (IRAD) has been held in Tamale to share ideas and knowledge towards the development of the irrigated agricultural sub-sector in the country.
It was on the theme: “Mining, Water Resources Management and Environmental Sustainability in Africa: Opportunities and Challenges” and brought together practitioners, academics, researchers, policymakers, civil society, communities, traditional leaders, farmers, agricultural extension agents, irrigation consultants, irrigation facility contractors, technical experts, and students, amongst other stakeholders.
The conference, the third in the series after the earlier ones in 2018, and 2020 was organised by the West African Centre for Water, Irrigation and Sustainable Agriculture (WACWISA) of the University for Development Studies (UDS).
Professor Gabriel Ayum Teye, Vice-Chancellor of UDS, speaking during the conference in Tamale, said the University was an important player in the global system, adding “This is why we consider a conference like this very critical because it affords us the opportunity to share experiences and ideas from our various schools, faculties, and institutes with the wider world with the aim of improving food security.”
Whilst mining plays a crucial role in the socio-economic development of the country, its activities have undesirably impacted the environment, and this has given rise to recent concerns about environmental problems emanating from mining activities.
These environmental problems include land degradation, air and water pollution with heavy metals and inorganic waste with a negative impact on plants and animal ecosystems, human health and socio-economic development.
These problems lead to poor livelihood outcomes and wellbeing, especially among populations that depend on the environment for survival.
Professor Teye said, “As a University for Development Studies, all issues of development are dear to our hearts, especially those that most affect our daily sustenance. We have tried in our small way through the WACWISA to develop skills and knowledge of individuals in the Africa Region to provide practical and sustainable solutions to challenges of water resources, irrigation and agricultural development through excellent high-quality teaching and research.”
Mr Samuel Abdulai Jinapor, Minister for Lands and Natural Resources, called on large scale mining companies to realise their duty towards the local community and ensure that their operations bring optimal benefit to them.
Mr Jinapor further called on mining companies to always observe their duty to mine responsibly both environmentally and socially to minimise the impact of their operations on the environment.
He pledged the government’s commitment to implementing appropriate regulatory, legal, fiscal and environmental policies.
“To build a responsible, viable, sustainable and environmentally-sound mining industry anchored on integrity, transparency and good governance, and that brings optimum benefit to the people.”
Mrs Cecilia Abena Dapaah, Minister for Sanitation and Water Resources, whose speech was read on her behalf during the conference, expressed the need for mining operations to be in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to ensure that future generations benefited from the country’s mineral resources.
Professor Felix K. Abagale, Pro-Vice-Chancellor of UDS, and Director of WACWISA, said the focus of the conference was in line with the SDGs and the government’s vision, to ensure sustainable management and utilisation of the nation’s water, lands and natural resources as well as the efficient management of the mineral resources for inclusive growth and development.
Professor Abagale said, “WACWISA is at the forefront of finding sustainable solutions to, especially irrigated agriculture sector challenges. This is a task we will be able to perform with the support of stakeholders. Together with our industrial partners in the country, Africa and beyond, we seek to address pressing issues on water resources development aimed at addressing SDG Goal six,12 and 15 amongst others.”
He said WACWISA currently hosted 138 students from 25 African countries at the Master’s and Doctor of Philosophy levels, studying Irrigation and Drainage Engineering and Environmental Management and Sustainability.
The WACWISA was established in 2019 as one of the African Higher Education Centres of Excellence (ACE) with funding support from the Government of Ghana and the World Bank.
As a semi-autonomous Centre of Excellence, it undertakes cutting-edge research and training in irrigation, drainage, water resources management, sustainable agriculture, climate change and food and nutrition security.