Ghana: Israel's Drip Irrigation System Will Boost Ghana's Cocoa Sector

Ghana has been advised to adopt Israel's Drip Irrigation System to help in an all-year round farming, especially in the cocoa sector.

The system, which is also known as trickle irrigation, involves dripping water onto the soil at very low rates from small diameter plastic pipes fitted with outlets called emitters or drippers.

Enock Agyemang, who is one of 51 Ghanaian students benefiting from the AgroStudies Programme, an Israeli initiative offering apprenticeship for students, said the drip irrigation system is ideal for the cocoa sector during the dry season.

"Israel saw their problem and found solution to it, which is the Greenhouse," Agyemang told Starr Business.

"In Ghana we have the fertile lands and the rains. We'll need their drip irrigation system in the dry season... we can introduce the drip system for our cocoa which dies in the dry season and our plantains which record shortages too during that season," Agyemang, who is on a year's internship in Israel said.

Job creation

Agyemang, who has been assigned to the Danziger Greenhouse Farm with seven other agriculture students from Ghana and other African countries, believes the drip system can help create jobs for the teeming unemployed youth.

"There is a company in Accra (Golden Exotics) which is into banana production and operating about 2,368 hectares of banana all under drip irrigation. Our leaders know about it.

"We can learn from Golden Exotics, which employs about 1000 workers from the community and its surroundings. So if at least about five districts in Ghana will establish such a farm I don't think the youth in Ghana will try leaving Ghana to other countries for a living," Agyemang suggested.

Drip irrigation is a technique in which water flows through a filter into special drip pipes, with emitters located at different spacing. Water is distributed through the emitters directly into the soil near the roots through a special slow-release device. If the drip irrigation system is properly designed, installed, and managed, drip irrigation may help achieve water conservation by reducing evaporation and deep drainage.

Compared to other types of irrigation systems such as flood or overhead sprinklers, water can be more precisely applied to the plant roots. In addition, drip can eliminate many diseases that are spread through irrigation water. Drip irrigation is adaptable to any farmable slope and is suitable for most soils. In contrary to commercial drip irrigation, simple self-made systems are cheap and effective.

Netafim, which makes drip irrigation technology, says the technique saves 25%-75% pumped water compared to flood, on average. So, the farmer uses less water, fertilizer and sometimes pesticides, and is happy. The aquifers suffer less chemical pollution. The crops yield more (about 15%, say Netafim and some experts) and food prices drop, so the consumer is happy.

Drip irrigation is one of Israel's greatest inventions. It was invented by a former government official named Simcha Blass, who sold the rights to Netafim. The company says that compared with flood irrigation, drip even causes rice and tomatoes to emit less greenhouse gases and nitrous oxide - emissions of which have been associated with deadly algae blooms. These days there are even technologies to fine-tune drip, for instance sensors that, when stuck into a tree, measure the actual plant's water stress, rather than that of the soil by the root.

By Kent Mensah, Online Editor, EIB Network| | The author was on a week's study tour of Israel on the invitation of the Israeli Foreign Affairs Ministry

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