File photo: Cocoa is a major export commodity for Ghana. Photo credit: Ghanatalkbusiness.com
One of the 51 Ghanaian students currently on an eleven-month-long intensive agricultural training in Israel has recommended the famous drip irrigation technology as best for Ghana’s cocoa sector.
Enock Agyemang, who had been working with the Ministry of Agriculture in Ghana before his study tour in Israel, thinks Israel’s drip irrigation system will solve the perennial drying up of cocoa farms in the dry season and thereby boost Ghana’s cocoa production significantly.
“In Ghana, we can introduce the drip system for our cocoa and plantain [farms] which dies in the dry season…” he told Myjoyonline.com in Israel recently.
Enock and the 50 other Ghanaian Agric students are benefiting from the AgroStudies programme, an Israeli initiative, that offers apprenticeship for students.
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Photo: Enock Agyemang in Israel
The programme focuses on agriculture capacity building and promotes food security, and is a collaboration between the Government of Ghana’s Ministry of Food & Agriculture and the State of Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Enock Agyemang and seven other agric students from Ghana and other African countries have been assigned to the Danzinger greenhouse farm.
Danziger touts itself as one of the world’s most innovative floriculture companies and has a big presence in Kenya.
Photo: Danzinger’s greenhouse in Israel uses drip irrigation technology extensively for breeding and rooting of flowers.
Drip irrigation technology
Drip irrigation system, also called trickle irrigation, involves dripping water onto the soil at very low rates from a system of small diameter plastic pipes fitted with outlets called emitters or drippers.
Water is applied close to plants so that only part of the soil in which the roots grow becomes wet, unlike surface and sprinkler irrigation, which involves wetting the whole soil profile.
With drip irrigation, water applications are more frequent (usually every 1-3 days) than with other methods and this provides a very favourable high moisture level in the soil in which plants can flourish. The system is suitable for vegetables, soft fruit and cash crops like cocoa.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organisationn (FAO), generally, only high value crops are considered because of the high capital costs of installing a drip system.
The design of the technology is attributed to Israeli water engineer Simcha Blass, and his son, Yeshayahu Blass in 1965.
Ghana cocoa woes
Cocoa remains Ghana’s chief agricultural export and the country’s main cash crop. Ghana is the second largest exporter of cocoa, behind Ivory Coast, however, the production has been faced with major challenges. In 2016, it was estimated that Ghana lost at least 25 percent of its projected cocoa output due to harsh winds and lack of rain.
The Harmattan wind, which blows over Ghana and the Sahara area, saps soil moisture and spoiling seeds.
Harsh weather conditions also stunts pod growth.
Enock believes that if Ghana invests in the drip irrigation technology, the country could beat Ivory Coast and double its production within months.
Already, he said smart companies are using the technology, one of which is Golden Exotics, a banana production company, which is reaping the benefits of the technology.
“Golden Exotics employs about 1000 workers from the community and its surroundings. If at least about five districts in Ghana are able to establish such a farm I don’t think the youth in Ghana will leave to other countries for a living,” he observes.
This story was written in Israel where the author, along with 22 other journalists from Anglophone African countries, just returned from a study tour on the invitation of the Israeli Foreign Affairs Ministry.