DRY yearly forecast is provided and supplemented with

DRY
SEASON MANAGEMENT PROCESS IN GHANA

 

Ghana
relies mainly on rain fed agriculture in all the major farming areas. Rain is
however not available throughout the year and this affects agricultural
production having an effect on food security. The two seasons present in the
country are the wet season (rainy season) and the dry season. These seasons are
not same for all the parts of the country at the same time periods. For the
Northern part of Ghana, the dry season lasts between November to April and the
wet season spans from May to October. There is therefore one planting season
for the regions of upper Ghana. For the Southern part of Ghana, there is a
major raining season, minor raining season and the dry season. This allows for
2 cropping regimes. There is therefore a need to manage the dry season when
there are no rains to ensure agricultural production. This part of the document
considers the measures in place to ensure management of the dry season as a
Nation. From the information gathered from the various institutions, the
following came out clear as existing approaches for dry season management

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1.     Information
Delivery and Transfer – Relying on information from the designated agencies
(GMet, HSD), end users (Farmers) are informed of the expected periods for the
different seasons and their intensities. The Ghana Meteorological Agency,
Hydrological Services Department, Volta River Authority and other institutions
generate forecast information from the various systems available and
crosschecks such information with information from other countries in the
region especially neighboring countries. This information is passed on from the
National offices of the various institutions to the District offices and to the
Extension officers who further inform the farmers and other stakeholders. The
mode of transfer include announcement on radios in specific community
languages, printed materials, toll free service with pre-recorded messages. The
yearly forecast is provided and supplemented with updated information as the
seasons gets closer. This allows the farmers to prepare in anticipation for the
seasons to ensure efficient and effective farm returns. Preparation for some of
the commonly adverse effect of the dry season including hunger, wildfires are
also put in place. This involves the training of fire volunteers, security
agencies and NADMO to meet the challenges that come with the season. This is
however insufficient because there is mostly a long period of inactivity on the
farm lands.

2.     The
information received from the agencies allows the farmers to engage in other
livelihood activities in the dry season. There is a major migration to other
parts of the country especially people leaving in the three (3) Northern
regions to partake in service activities and raise money to use during the
planting season. Most of the farming communities use the dry season as a period
to prepare their farms and market the harvested produce.

 

3.     During
the dry season, the Water Resource Commission and other agencies allows for farming
activities in the buffer zone (the no go areas) around water bodies for
ecosystem preservation. Certain Agricultural practices are also allowed on the
buffer zones of some rivers in the dry season to ensure the availability of
food. During the dry season the water recedes and part of the water banks –
high quality soil becomes available for such agricultural activities.

 

4.     The
government as part of its agenda to encourage year round agricultural
activities is embarking on a one village one dam project. This is to ensure
availability of water for agricultural processes in order to sustain livelihood
and food security. This will act as a storage point for water and supply such
to the farms in the dry season for agricultural activities. This project is yet
to take full effect though. As part of the agenda, the government is targeting
rehabilitation of old dams. A DAM safety Act has also been put in place to
safeguard dam operations and all these policies are meant to make water
available for active production in the dry season.

It
can therefore be concluded that the country rely majorly on the information
received from the agencies in planning its agricultural activities, thus
growing when there are rains and using the dry season to plan farming
activities. There are however no management plans and policies for the dry
season that ensure food security. 

HOW
THE SYSTEM CAN BE UP SCALED AND EMBEDDED INTO THE CURRENT WORKFLOW AND
PROCESSES IN GHANA

 

SCOPE OF THE SYSTEM, GAPS THAT REMAINS
AND SUGGESTIONS FOR UPSCALE

 

The
current drought forecasting portal has a nationwide coverage. Most of the data
and information retrieved refers to data averaged over a particular area most
often missing the occurrence of events at specific locations. It is important
to obtain farm specific measurement to enhance productivity and action. These point
specific data on drought should be related to specific GPS Location linked to
registered farmers. This will ensure that the farmers who are the end users
develop trust for the system, own it and also use common tools to obtain ground
data for input into the system. This farm specific ground data coupled with
satellite data will enhance forecasting

 

The
online drought forecasting portal uses to a large extent satellite data, there
is the need however for the incorporations of ground data for the validation of
records from the satellites especially when the different satellite products
have some huge differences between them. This is a big challenge which needs to
be mitigated. The system with the use of satellite data also aggregates data
and averages them over some spatial resolution. The averaging affects the
presentation of data for specific location and sites. It is important to have
point values to be able to evaluate the effect of drought on small localities.
With the wide distance between the few measuring stations available in the
country, it is important to establish more ground stations with better and sharper
sensors to capture ground data for use in validation. Limited stations in the
country possess a great challenge for advanced analysis. The satellite data
covers a grid and may overstate quantity at specific locations because of the
averaging factor.

Aside
the online system, it will be productive to have a stand-alone system to be
synchronized intermittently with the online system so that provided network/
internet failure, we can still rely on the standalone system for accurate
information. Internet disturbance is a common occurrence and affects systems of
such nature.

Another
addition to making the portal more useful and portable is to develop a smart
device compactible version for handheld devices and smart phone to enable data
view and the not so resource consuming activities.  Mobile phone and smart devices have become a
daily equipment used by individuals including the farmers who are the end
beneficiaries of the system. Providing an app for them will relief the burden
and long procedure in sending information to them. This will allow the farmers
to have accurate and timely data to assist in their work. With constantly use,
the system will be appreciated. It is also fairly cheaper acquiring the
handheld devices. Developing a mobile application that works hand in hand with
the system and linking it to the telecommunication networks will help overcome
the challenges of delays in getting timely and accurate information to the end
users. Such delays occurs and often action are not taken at the most important
times rendering the effect of the action less than it could have been.

The
reporting mechanism of the system also requires an improvement. It should be
possible for a user to select the information he/she requires which can be
different from the report template included in the system. Different users have
different needs and it should be possible for each user to obtain report
specific to the need. Develop different reporting templates for the various
users of the system

Currently,
the server is hosted in Denmark. Relocating it to Ghana and hosting it within
the government offices (Water Resources Commission) will help build capacity
for the local working force. Also the provision of administrative rights to the
country officer registered as users of the system will be a step in the right
direction. They should be able to add users, should be trained to make changes
to some extent, update some information when necessary, restrict users, etc.
This will help build capacity.

Furthermore,
there is the need for linking the current system to other systems already in
existence to coordinate the information from all these systems. This will offer
better support to the farmers and work flow in general. There is a major
challenge in Ghana where each project develops a system without considering
what already exists and how they can be improved to enhance the workflow
without duplicating.

Also,
when these intelligent systems were not available, the local communities had a
way of forecasting some of these environmental phenomenon. It will also serve a
greater good to incorporate such knowledge into the developments of systems.
This will increase the acceptability of the packages and systems that are
developed.  

HOW THE SYSTEM CAN BE INTEGRATED INTO THE WORKFLOW

 

1.     The
system stands to benefit organizations and individuals working in the area of
forecasting agricultural productivity in terms of efficiency and effective
farming practices, disaster prevention organizations, non-governmental
organizations because they will be privilege to quality and readily available
data as and when needed. It will also help to know when signs of disaster due
to environmental factors becomes glaring and how to mitigate them or perhaps
reduce to a minimum the effect it can have. It does not however remove the
rigorous effort required to analysis and process data for better management.
Garbage in Garbage out, a phenomenon of all systems is still at play in this
regards. The system can be incorporated into the work flow of many organizations
such as the Water Resources Commission, Ministry of Food and Agriculture
(especially the work of the extension offices in the various districts),
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Meteorological Services, Hydrological
Services Department, Ghana Irrigation development Authorities (GIDA), Ghana
Meteorological Services (GMet), NGO’s etc.

2.     The
system will also be beneficial to research work in the country. Access to data
required for investigation will be made less stressful and easily available for
all. The additional charts and plots will help to enhance and speed up the
decision making process. Verification and validation of the data with ground
data will however be necessarily and even for this, the present work confirms
that the satellite data represents fairly the observed ground data. The
satellite data can also help fill in the gaps of missing data a phenomenon
common to the manual collection of data and also the gaps created by
insufficient ground stations.

3.     GIS
layers in both vector and raster files formats are also available for easy
downloading to be used in other GIS software (ArcGIS, QGIS) for further
analysis and the provisioning of further informative maps. This is however
limited to advance users of the portal.

 

RELEVANCE OF THE SYSTEM TO THE CURRENT
INSTITUTIONS

 

Major
institutions stands to benefit from the full operation of the online portal. It
can be incorporated into the workflow of most institutions for decision making
and actions.

Firstly,
it is accessible to all provided individuals apply for accounts, a very easy
process. Its online nature allows for accessibility from all over the country
when the necessary internet infrastructure is available.

The
WRC can generate information and disseminate it to the other agencies. They can
as well verify the information with the tools available and further push the
information to the end users. There can be the provision of information screens
in the various administrative units that are in direct contact with the users
of these information.

It
can be used to certify other products that are already in the system, providing
additional support for areas that are not mostly covered in such developments
because they do not fall directly in the basin.

The
water resource commission can use the reports generated in the system in
informing institutions of impending drought events. NADMO and MOFA can then
further inform farmers on the best resistant crops to grow in other to minimize
the lost and make the most of the environmental conditions available. NADMO can
also evaluate and encourage relocation of the farmers to suitable sites. Some
agriculture activities can be allowed in the designated buffer zones when the
worse conditions present itself all because information is made known ahead of
the events.

GMET
and HSD can use the tool to also evaluate results from other products and
supplement the data they receive from the limited available stations.

The
Ministry of Finance can rely on data from the system in taking decisions while
signing unto the ARC project.