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Feature: Developing SADA’s Ecological Zone Six: partnership between Ghana and EU

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Ghana is West Africa’s second largest economy. Agriculture employs about 38.3 percent of the working-age population (GSS 2019) with great potential for agriculture production and processing. This has motivated each government since independence to make some investments towards improving production and processing of food produce as well as raising the income level of farmers throughout the country.


One of such government interventions that readily comes to mind is February 1972’s ‘Operation Feed Yourself’ policy under then military head of state Ignatius Kutu Acheampong. The idea behind the policy was simple; strive for self-sufficiency.

Then, the ‘Ghana Agricultural Sector Rehabilitation Programme’ under Former President Flt. Lt. Jerry John Rawlings. Among the objectives were to develop low cost irrigation schemes as well as raise investments in agricultural research and extension services.

Under the Kufuor regime, the Accelerated Agricultural Growth and Development Strategy (AAGDS) and the Food and Agriculture Sector Development Policy (FASDEP I and II) came into being along with several other policies.

Interventions to modernize agriculture and reduce hunger levels among the Ghanaian people under the Kufuor government caught the attention of the International Community.

In 2011, the former President won the World Food Prize.

The NDC era under both Professor John Evans Atta Mills and John Mahama saw Ghana producing a million tonnes of cocoa. An achievement that was chalked due to strategic investments in the Ghanaian cocoa sector.

Under the current Nana Akufo-Addo dispensation, mention could be made of policies like the ‘Planting for Food and Jobs’ (PFJ), ‘Rearing for Food and Jobs’ (RFJ), ‘One District One Warehouse’ among others.


In Northern Ghana, it is estimated that over 90 percent of households are engaged in some form of agriculture. It could either be crop farming or animal rearing.

With agriculture being the mainstay of the Northern economy, expectations are that economic levels of farmers in Northern Ghana would be high.

Unfortunately, the reverse is true. Experts have attributed the reverse trend to inadequate skilled labour, lack of information and equipment to adopt modern technologies and issues relating to land tenure systems.

To address the agricultural challenges in Northern Ghana, the then Savannah Accelerated Development Authority (SADA) was established. SADA has now been restructured as the Northern Development Authority (NDA).


The Savannah Accelerated Development Authority (SADA) was established in 2010 by Government as an autonomous institution to provide a framework for the comprehensive and long-term development of the Northern Savannah Ecological Zone (NSEZ).

The NSEZ or “SADA Zone” included Northern Region, Upper East Region, Upper West Region the bordering northernmost districts of Brong Ahafo Region and Volta Region. (This was before the creation of the new regions to include the Savannah and North East Regions.)

In a paper named Commercial Agriculture Investment Guide: The Northern Savannah Ecological Zone of Ghana, published by SADA the then CEO, Charles Abugre is quoted as saying that “the vision of SADA is to see a transformed Northern Savannah Ecological Zone; a place of opportunity and free from poverty”.


In the organisation’s ‘Toward Inclusive Agriculture-led Economic Transformation of the Northern Savannah Zone of Ghana’ paper, SADA strongly reinforced the thought that “the SADA Zone (especially its urban centres) has potential as a market hub for raw and processed agricultural inputs and outputs.”

It again suggested that “there is potential for agriculture (i.e., crops, trees, and livestock) and aquaculture”.

SADA was of the view that “the SADA Zone was/is a “rough diamond” that could be polished to become an economic reservoir with improved land/water”.

There were also however a litany of challenges that threatened the development of the Ecological Zone.

“The SADA Zone is characterized by year-round warm temperatures and abundant sunshine, which is conducive to production of various crops. A major constraint is the erratic (and sometimes insufficient) rainfall. Rainfall has a unimodal pattern, with a wet season from May to September, and a dry season from October to April.”

“In general, soils in the SADA Zone are suitable for a wide range of land utilization types, including arable farming, forestry and perennial crops. However, constraints of main soil types are low natural fertility, high acidity, sandy topsoil texture, and clay hardpans starting at 20-40 cm depth.”

To ensure the development of the NSEZ, SADA was supposed to mobilise human, financial and other resources, and to coordinate existing and future development projects (by Government, donors, NGOs).


The European Union in 2014 introduced the European Union Ghana Agriculture Program (EUGAP). Their aim was to partner with the Government of Ghana through SADA to develop the agricultural potential of the SADA Ecological Zone Six (6).

This zone was comprised of all eleven (11) Municipalities and Districts in the Upper West Region, the North Gonja and Sawla-Tuna-Kalba Districts in the Northern Region (now Savannah Region). It also included the Mamprugu Moaduri District in the Northern Region (now North East Region).

The European Union through the German Development Cooperation (GIZ) are implementing the EUGAP.

The EUGAP has three major components. The Market Oriented Agricultural Programme (MOAP), Resistance Against Climate Change (REACH) and the Infrastructure Component.


REACH’s major objective is “to enable a sustainable and inclusive improvement in the rural economy through enhanced implementation of gender sensitive climate adaptation and mitigation practices in a minimum of 200 communities within the 14 districts of the Programme”.

REACH which begun earnestly in 2019 has three sub-components. These include ‘Building the Capacities of MMDAs in Environment Analysis’. REACH in doing this is supporting MDAs to create Climate Smart Development plans.

The other sub components are ‘Community Action Plans and Climate-Smart Activity Funding’ as well as ‘Research on Social Transformation’.

Production Advisor, REACH Project, Prosper Wie

According to the Production Advisor, REACH project, Prosper Wie, the project is essential because it is helping farmers to mitigate the effects of climate variability. The project is equally helping to build the resistance of communities against climate change in its catchment area.

At the community level for example, Mr Wie said REACH has begun taking steps for communities within the districts they work in to adopt a more modern approach to agriculture; Conservation Agriculture’.

To add to that, training manuals are being developed to teach Agriculture Extension Officers the concepts and methods of Conservation Agriculture.

This will allow the Extension Officers gain in-depth knowledge about Conservation Agriculture to be able to pass the knowledge to communities.

Finally, communities that are able to successfully adopt the principles of Conservation Agriculture and remove the barriers that affect the direct implementation of the agriculture method will be able to apply for ‘matching grants’.

What Is Conservation Agriculture?

Conservation Agriculture is a sustainable approach to farming that protects the soil from erosion and degradation, improves its quality and biodiversity, contribute to preservation of natural resources whilst improving yields.

This method proposes to users that in the medium to long term, farmers will begin to invest less in weed and pest control while experiencing high yields due to a more sound soil structure. This thus translates into larger incomes for practitioners of this farming method.

Conservation Agriculture is based on three main principles; Land preparation, accumulation of biomass and crop rotation.

Pneumatic Planter, used in Conservation Agriculture

In Land preparation, farmers are expected to embrace minimum to low tillage. Reapers are the recommended equipment for use.

In the accumulation of biomass, farmers are expected to deliberately leave plant residue on their farmlands. The farmers could otherwise plant cover crops.

The idea behind the accumulation of biomass is to protect the soil from losing nutrients or moisture.

The decaying plant residue also provides the soil with essential nutrients for plant growth.

The final principle for Conservation Agriculture is Crop Rotation.

Practitioners of Conservation Agriculture are supposed to rotate crops they plant on the same piece of land. It is generally expected that crops (heavy feeders) would make use of nutrients deposited by other crops (leguminous crops) when the rotation occurs. This in time, would save farmers the cost of fertilizers.

Production Advisor, REACH project, Prosper Wie however opined that the only way to get farmers to adopt the more economically viable and climate friendly Conservation Agriculture is through a well thought out community led approach.

Pneumatic Planter, used in Conservation Agriculture

He explained that in the Ecological Zone Six, three main factors could hinder the adoption of Conservation Agriculture. They are the lack of equipment like reapers, pneumatic planters and sprayers, scavenging animals and bush fires.

To address these challenges, REACH’s strategy is to engage communities to encourage them to collectively decide and adopt Conservation Agriculture using a community in Nandom; Goziir as a case study.


The Market Oriented Agricultural Programme (MOAP) is supposed to enhance quality in agricultural production, increase income and create jobs along the value chains.

Since 2017, MOAP has been operating in the SADA Ecological Zone Six with “all relevant stakeholders for an inclusive, equitable and climate-smart approach”.


In this component, the EUGAP is expected to develop physical infrastructure that will directly affect the course of production, processing and value addition along the agriculture value chain.

Senior Management Consultant, REACH/EUGAP, Paul Symonds

This includes the construction of 658 kilometers of roads across the Upper West Region. According to the Senior Management Consultant, REACH/EUGAP, Paul Symonds these roads are supposed to lead directly to major farming communities and or be a direct link to farming communities and available markets.

The Infrastructure component will also include the installation of a 10-megawatt Solar Generation System that will be used to boost processing of farm produce. Then with support from the Agence Française de Développement (AFD) and Ghana Irrigation Development Authority (GIDA), 303 boreholes are to be constructed or rehabilitated across 70 communities.

Nine (9) old dams have been refurbished, six (6) new ones constructed along with 16 pumping stations. All of this is expected to irrigate some 2,934 hectares of land.

Mr Symonds mentioned that some of the projects under the Infrastructure Component should begin in 2021 while others are still at the design stage particularly the dams and pumping stations that directly tap their water from the Black Volta.


The three pronged approach to developing the agriculture potential of the Northern Sector Ecological Zone (NSEZ) by the EU through the EUGAP is highly commendable.

There seems to be high coordination among all three sub-projects for the attainment of the project objective(s) coupled with the digitization of data.

Effecting meaningful change through community led sensitization makes the EUGAP a worthwhile deal.

This strategy must be emulated by government if it is to succeed in transforming the country and improving on the economic status of Ghanaians particularly those in the SADA Ecological Zone Six (now NDA).

Filed By: Mark Smith


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