Home > Basin > Volta > Identifying Constraints to Groundwater Irrigation in the White Volta

The CPWF Research into Use (RIU) program was designed to provide support to Phase 1 research projects that exhibited a high potential for contributing to improved water management practices in river basins, but were not carried over into Phase 2. The Phase 1 Volta River basin Groundwater Irrigation Project is one of five such RIU projects.

What do you get when you add six, three and five? Most people would say 14, but participants at the inception workshop for the Research into Use – Groundwater Irrigation Project (RIU 65) found out it can also mean something entirely different.

The RIU 65 project is now entering its second phase after exploratory work in phase one helped to characterize the biophysical, technical, economic, and environmental features of shallow groundwater irrigation of the Atankwidi catchment in Ghana. The second phase of the project will build on this and explore the potential for greater use of groundwater irrigation in the White Volta Basin.

The purpose of the inception workshop was to not only get participants thinking about how to tackle common irrigation issues together, but also to outline the work packages of the project and to introduce the project team.

Gathering in Bolgatanga, Ghana for a one-day workshop to introduce the project platform and work packages, participants were kept on their toes with an innovative “‘6-3-5’ Brain Writing session” facilitated by Dr Regassa Namara from the International Water Management Institute (IWMI).

The exercise is a different twist on brainstorming aimed at reducing apprehension from group members and encouraging more independent thought.

The challenge was to split up into groups of six and to tackle some of the common constraints farmers face when irrigating from groundwater. Each group individually thinks of three ideas and every five minutes, passes these ideas onto the next group member until they receive their original ideas back.

Each group tackled the issue with gusto and the result was a positive discussion about issues such as land tenure, available groundwater supply, technical skills and funding to employ irrigation techniques.

Granted, it’s still the early days of the project, but this exercise helped to emphasize the fact that solving these issues will need to be a key component of RIU 65 if it is to be a success.

Those present at the workshop heard three presentations about the key three work packages of RIU 65.

The first from Bob Nanes of iDE outlined work package one, which will examine the efficiency of existing irrigation methods. Now more than ever irrigation methods are more accessible and affordable for farmers and Bob explained how many systems such as treadle pumps or petrol pumps can be installed for as little as 60 cedi (approximately USD 30) and have the potential to irrigate a 500m2 plot of land or more.

Next the group heard from the vastly experienced Professor Saa Ditto on how the project will explore ways to improve profitability and market access for farmers. According to Professor Ditto the basis of any new intervention for farmers will only work if farmers “can make a sustainable profit from it.”  He also outlined how the second work package will look at micro, meso and macro aspects of the marketplace to explore profit pathways.

Rounding off the presentations was Pamela Katic from IWMI who talked about the uptake and out-scaling of infrastructure that will be the focus of work package three. Pamela emphasized this part of the project will require input from all parties in an innovative learning platform.

All in all, the workshop set the platform for future fruitful discussions on the issues facing groundwater irrigation in the White Volta Basin in the months ahead.


By Lee Davelaar. Lee is an AusAID Youth Ambassador for Development based at IWMI in Accra, Ghana. He is actively involved in the CPWF Innovation Fund project “Volta Storylines and Scenarios: A mouthpiece for interventions to enhance livelihoods”. Learn more about the project on the CPWF Volta Basin Development Challenge blog.