Continued from yesterday Edition
The indigenes and residents of the western part of the region believe that development has skewed towards the mid-eastern part, within the environs of the Tamale metropolis and towns like Savelugu, Walewale and Yendi. They have therefore called for a new region in order to enable them catch up with this development.
A careful observation however reveals that there is actually no strong sustainable development taking place in any part of the region, not even in Tamale, where a sizeable number of people have settled; housing and infrastructure is still inadequate and the city is still living far below its potential.
Recently, the construction of the 150 km Fufulso-Damongo-Sawla highway has opened up the area, thus leading to the construction of market sheds, the rehabilitation of schools and health facilities, water supply works and greatly improved accessibility to the major tourism sites along the corridor, including the Mole National Park, the Larabanga Mystic Stone and Ancient Mosque and the Gonja Kingdom Regalia.
The Northern Savannah Ecological Zone (NSEZ), of which the Northern Region forms a part, occupies more than 50 percent of the country’s landmass, although it contains just about 20 percent of the population. Some of the key challenges affecting the zone include the fact that it has an agricultural dependent economy, characterised by high levels of unemployment, low economic productivity, low literacy levels, low levels of social infrastructure, lack of a developed and integrated transport infrastructure, and environmental degradation.
Major potentials of the area include its location within the food basket of the country. This makes room for the re-engineering of human settlements to build dense compact communities, which will make infrastructure provision more efficient, effective and less costly.
To harness these opportunities, a network of urban centres with strong links to the southern parts of the country has been defined by the team working in the Northern Development Authority with the support of Surbana Jurong, a Singaporean firm. Under the master plan, Tamale and Buipe have been earmarked as special economic zones within the network to serve as economic drivers that will support the zone. These two cities, which are located along the main central economic development corridor and on the proposed new North-South highway, have been modelled as world-class settlements, and meant to play the roles of an industrial and services hub of the NSEZ.
Buipe is positioned as an industrial hub and green port waterfront city, located along the primary growth corridor of the zone, thus imbuing it with the potential of being established as a special economic zone. Tamale, on the other hand will serve as the administrative and commercial hub within the zone.
It is earmarked to be developed into a thriving and connected city, exhibiting features of competitiveness and vibrancy, harmony and humanity, greenery and resilience, mobility and proximity, identity and educational excellence and to serve as the commercial, knowledge, logistics and industrial hub of the zone. There is a proposed rail network and an expressway to link Tamale to Bolgatanga, Paga and Wa. It is expected that urban growth poles would be developed around Bole and Damongo in the West, and in Walewale, Gushiegu, Yendi, Bimbilla and Salaga in the North East.
While urban growth poles can be created with the proposed towns, other parts of the region can be put into other economic uses. The three northern regions, with their high poverty rates and declining agro-ecology, are generally disadvantageous places to live in. While policy makers consistently acknowledge this deficit, little has been done to address the region’s vulnerabilities in a credible way.
The new NSEZ plan has design a holistic and strategically efficacious planning systems to facilitate rapid growth of the area, not only focus on infrastructure development as the key to reverse the worsening development challenges in northern Ghana. Turning parts of the area into large grazing fields to facilitate the rearing of cattle will help to address the menace of Fulani herdsmen.
The Fulani herdsmen menace has been a major crisis the country has faced for some time now. As the country develops and the population increases together with agricultural production and urbanisation, there is need to change the centuries old ways of nomadic rearing of cattle. With Ghana’s population expected to hit 60 million by 2050 at the current growth rate of 2.5 percent, the strain on the country’s resources has never been greater.
It is common knowledge that meat consumption increases with rising incomes and economic growth. As Ghana becomes richer and more prosperous therefore, the demand for meat and dairy products will soar, and the country needs to allocate land for the growth cereals and silage to feed our poultry and herds. Given the country’s vision to industrialise, agriculture must be viewed as a precursor to an industrial revolution.
There is the need for policies that would promote good modern practices in cattle rearing and pasture farming to be formulated and implemented, and Ghana can use a large part of this region to grow and accommodate the hundreds of cattle roaming and destroying farms in the Brong Ahafo and Eastern Regions. Large expanses of highly nutritious pasture can be grown and stored as silage.
Silage grows very fast and can be harvested six times in a year. Currently, Sudan, with a much hotter climate than Ghana, grows and exports silage to feed cattle and horses in several Gulf countries. This is a venture that can be explored by Ghana as well. With the establishment of fodder banks, the perennial clashes between nomadic herdsmen and crop farmers in Ghana can be halted.
If properly implemented, Ghana can obtain far more returns from cattle rearing than it is getting now. The cattle will grow bigger because less energy is lost to foraging, herdsmen will make more money and have to travel less, and it would be easier to gather, pasteurize and process the milk.
Brong Ahafo Region
The Brong Ahafo Region is the second largest region in the country and contains about 9.4 percent of the nation’s population. This region is potentially the best connected in the country as it shares borders with five other regions; Northern Region to the north, the Western, Ashanti and Eastern Regions to the south, and the Volta Region to the east. It also borders la Côte d’Ivoire to the west.
The Region is an integral part of the food basket of the country, being one of the largest cocoa producing areas in the country, and the largest cashew producing region. Other cash crops produced in the region include coffee, rubber and tobacco. The region is also an important producer of timber. A large number of the region’s inhabitants are engaged in primary economic activity, mainly farming, and food crops produced in the region include maize, cassava, plantain, cocoyam, rice and tomatoes. It is the country’s largest producer of yam, especially around the Techiman, Kintampo, and Nkoranza areas, which fall within the Guinea Savannah Zone.
However, the Brong Ahafo Region is faced with its own fair share of challenges. Agriculture in the region, like the rest of the country, is increasingly becoming unattractive. Credit facilities for farming is largely unavailable, inadequate water is a growing problem, and storage and agro-processing facilities to support the agriculture value chain are almost non-existent.
The region is plagued with heavy post-harvest losses as a result of inadequate roads linking farms to markets. The very poor road connections to agricultural towns such as Yeji, Kwame-Danso, Amantin, Bassa, Prang, etc. have affected development of the area. In fact, general connectivity within many major parts of the region is very poor as roads are untarred and at the mercy of the weather. Domestic access to electricity within the region is also quite low, and, crime rates are high, especially along the main north-south corridor that traverses the region.
The region is however home to many natural and cultural attractions such as the Kintampo and Fuller waterfalls, the Boabeng Fiema Monkey and Butterfly sanctuaries, the Buoyem Caves and the Tanoboase Sacred Grove, which is touted as the cradle of the Brong civilization, as well as natural reserves such as the Bui and Digya National Parks, which draw in tourist activity, albeit at a lower rate than its potential capacity.
By virtue of its agricultural potential, the region is ripe for sparking an industrial revolution in the country. Its agricultural base provides a ready resource for agro processing industries, which will serve as a source of employment for the youth, thus going a long way to reduce the crime rate along the major highway that runs through the region. Industrialisation driven by strong linkages with agriculture and the other natural resource endowments is very much needed in this region.
The tourism potential of the region cannot be underestimated either. Improving road connectivity and the supply of electricity within the region will enhance its competitiveness in the tourism sector. Enhancing the tourism industry in the region will stimulate a chain of other services that will increase jobs and reduce the mass migration of the people in this region to the southern parts of the country and also to Europe, through the Sahara Desert.
The settlement pattern in the Brong Ahafo Region is mainly elongated, stretching along road networks. This makes the provision of basic infrastructure very expensive and quite ineffective and inefficient. This calls for the re-engineering and agglomeration of human settlements within the region, and creating growth poles around selected large towns. Instead of creating a new region, an integrated human settlement, agriculture, infrastructure and industrial development plan to kick-start industrialisation in the region and connect major roads and railways to the urban centres must be prepared and implemented. Key towns that could be redeveloped into major growth poles include the regional capital, Sunyani, and Techiman, Kintampo, Berekum, Wenchi, Atebubu, Kwame Danso, Yeji, Kenyasi, and Goaso.
The Western Region covers approximately 10 percent of Ghana’s total land area, and has about 75 percent of its vegetation within Ghana’s high forest zone. It lies in the equatorial climatic zone that is characterized by moderate temperatures and is also the wettest part of Ghana.
The region is endowed with considerable natural resources, which give it significant economic importance within the context of national development. It is the largest producer of cocoa, accounting for almost half of all cocoa produced, and also the largest producer of rubber and coconut, and one of the major producers of oil palm. The rich tropical forest makes it one of the largest producers of raw and sawn timber as well as processed wood products. A wide variety of minerals in the region, including gold, bauxite, iron ore, diamonds and manganese are either being exploited or are potentially exploitable. The region’s total geological profile and mineral potential are yet to be fully determined.
The region has the highest rainfall and the most fertile of Ghana’s lands, with the Axim area as well as the Ankobra and lower Tano river basins having the highest rainfall in the whole country. The high rainfall makes the region suitable for the cultivation of rain-fed cash crops such as cocoa, coconut, oil palm, rubber, and coffee. The region has the highest production figures for these economic crops. The largest deposits of potentially exploitable gas and crude oil can be found in the Tano Basin and offshore the Jomoro (Western Nzema) District.
The exploitation of the forest resources must be managed efficiently and existing regulations enforced strictly, otherwise, areas once covered by tropical forest would be converted into grassland. This has already happened in parts of the once lush tropical rainforest areas of Ashanti and Brong Ahafo, and it could easily happen in the Western Region, which is probably the last bastion of a true rain forest belt left.
The recent drying up of the Brong Ahafo section of the Tano River, which also drains a substantial portion of the Western Region before entering the sea in Côte d’Ivoire, has been attributed to the indiscriminate and uncontrolled exploitation of Brong Ahafo region’s forest cover and efforts should be made to avoid the same fate befalling the Western Region. Again in spite of the high amount of rainfall, only 32 percent of the people have access to treated pipe-borne water and only 8.5 percent have pipe connection in their homes.
The road condition in the region is the worst in the country. The high amount of rainfall has caused the deterioration of existing roads, thus exacerbating the already serious situation of inadequate roads to link farms to markets. The lack of silos and warehouses to preserve food crops harvested also results in high post-harvest losses. The region also has poor access to electricity, housing and sanitation systems.
Once again, what needs to be done is the preparation and implementation of integrated human settlements, agriculture, infrastructure and industrial development plan to kick-start industrialisation of the region as well as the connection of major roads and railways to the urban centres. The region can be turned into a high-class green environment, with all necessary infrastructure provided, that will attract tourists all year round.
The Ghana Infrastructure Plan intends to gradually increase the road length in the region from 5,671 km to 27,654km in 30 years. The government must purpose to implement these plans as these will adequately resolve the innate problems of the people, rather than creating a new region, which might in turn further entrench their challenges.
Though well intentioned, the petitions submitted in favour of the creation of the regions were borne out of the notion that creating new regions spur economic and infrastructural development and alleviates poverty. Unless this initiative will lead to an automatic increase in national resources, the regions, both existing and new, will share the same existing resources spread around the country but in smaller bits and pieces, as the resources of larger ones will be split to fund new ones. This would only mean that no region would have enough to embark on any meaningful capital development projects.
What the regions need is improved infrastructure arising out of an integrated and good development planning. Under the Ghana Infrastructure Plan, there is a massive amount of road network to be developed in Ghana over the next 30 years, from the current 72,000km to 253,000km in 30 years with 70%, approximately 177,000 km tarred.
The Ghana Infrastructure Plan indicates the sources of funds, bitumen, aggregates, human resource requirements, etc. The socio-economic benefits of these roads include increased access to markets for agricultural products, improved education and healthcare services, and reduction in transport costs on goods and services.
Each of these regions has special distinct features that must be harnessed. Government policy makers must carefully determine the comparative advantage of each region, especially considering the soil type, mineral deposits, climate conditions, etc. before deciding on splitting any. It is a mistake to create regions when the country has not determined what functions those regions will serve, nor specified any development plans that have been crafted for those areas.
The Government is thus being called upon to reconsider the division approach and redouble the development effort. Rather than splitting these regions, the government should consider planning and providing their infrastructural needs instead, while keeping the national interest as paramount. Government must resource and raise the image of the National Development Planning Commission, making it relevant to the nation to address development in a holistic manner.
The NDPC has prepared a long-term national development plan, which includes the Ghana Infrastructure Plan. These plans, when implemented, will go a long way to solve the country’s problems as far as infrastructure is concerned, and place it on a trajectory towards attaining high-income status.
By Ing. Charles K. Boakye, and Annie Baisie
Institute for Infrastructure Development, Ghana