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Climate change: Can water retainer salvage Ghana’s drought situation?

drought - climateaction

Climate change: Can water retainer salvage Ghana’s drought situation?

Ghana lies within the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ), with a southern region that experiences two rainfall peaks (a major season occurring from May to July and a minor season occurring from September to November) and a northern region that experiences one peak (from June to September).

As temperatures rise in Ghana due to climate change, drought occurs frequently and this results in a reduction in the amount and frequency of precipitation and a reduction in streamflow, leaving crops parched. Also, this means the country’s northern region no longer gets two rainy seasons of a few months each but one five-month-long wet season, which can flood fields and drown crops.

For the fact that most food production systems in the country are generally rain-fed, the worsening floods and droughts have made growing crops, fruit, and vegetables harder for farmers.

This has severe implications for Ghana’s economy as the agriculture sector contributes about 18.2% to its gross domestic product, relying heavily on returns from the export of cocoa and other tree crops.

For Ghana to mitigate the effects of climate change (especially drought) on agriculture, adapt to the situation, and achieve food security in the process, it is important to invest in water retaining technologies nationwide to save the nation’s agriculture and achieve all-year-round farming.

Recent developments have shown that there just might be light at the end of Ghana’s agricultural tunnel as a product, water retainer, has been developed to solve the drought problem.

The water retainer is an organic soil conditioner that helps plants to take up water and diminish the effects of drought and dehydration. Generally, its effects last for up to 3 months, during which the soil’s water retainment ability is substantially increased.

The water retainer, which is developed by the Water and Soil Company of Hungary, can transform agriculture in Ghana by improving soil moisture by 30-40% over current conditions, according to Professor Samuel Nsiah-Adjei of the Forest and Horticultural Crops Research Centre of the University of Ghana and an International Research Scientist at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture.

It is designed to reduce the impact and to initiate adaptation to climate change and it results in increased microbiologic life activity, increases crop yield, helps better germination, reduces salinization makes farming possible in very dry areas and provides good ROI to farmers – crops can survive the drought period much longer (1-2 times longer) in rain-fed cultivation resulting in greater yield increase, and farmers can save larger amounts of irrigation water and irrigation cost.

It can be applied by either spraying on the surface or solved in the irrigation water, with different levels of dilution possible. In time, it will attach itself to both the roots of the plant and the soil grains, thus allowing water – either by rain or irrigation – entering the soil to trickle down to the water table, increasing water reserve.

The water retainer operates when vapour streams its way upwards through the capillaries, trapping vapour and transforming it into tiny droplets of water. The droplets can be drawn upon by plant roots to absorb water. On the other hand, the product sprayed on the surface also traps air humidity.

It improved soil moisture conditions of fields used for tests with significant improvement on the cocoa plot due to differences in the soil textural characteristics of the plots. When water retainer application was combined with mineral fertilizer application to cocoa seedlings, soil moisture conservation was more effective and this translated into improved growth of seedlings.

This development is encouraging especially at a time when poor climate conditions in the country are causing the pods of most cocoa trees to fall prematurely, resulting in decreased crop yield. Applying it in the developmental stages of plants will yield benefits in better root development and better hydration for the whole cultivation period.

The product is registered to be used in organic farming and is applicable independently from the soil type and the kind of plant. It is endorsed by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and is already in use successfully in India, Hungary, South Africa, Morocco, Kenya and seven other countries.

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