Agriculture is the backbone of the people living in Sub- Saharan Africa, and 85% of the rural poor depend solely on agriculture for their livelihood (Ziba, 2015; Nnadi et al., 2016; Owusu et al., 2017). It is also evident that, about 70% of global water is for agriculture purposes and this figure is expected to exceed 90% in developing nations (Russo et al., 2014). Likewise, about 70% of fresh water is diverted to agriculture with more demand for irrigational purposes (Cai et al., 2001). In addition, developing nations are exploring and expanding their options in relation to irrigational agriculture projects to combat climate change and ensure food security (Namara et al., 2013). For instance, dry season small-scale irrigation schemes are being developed in Ghana and Africa in order to overcome the serious setback effect of ‘’erratic rainfall and high evaporation’’ on production (Unami et al., 2012).
Agriculture crop farming is seasonal in Ghana especially in the Northern zones of the country and this seasonality is driven by the wet and dry seasons. The wet season starts from April/May to September/October and followed by a prolonged dry season (Fuseini, 2014; Sidibé, Williams & Kolavalli, 2016). The wet season crop production is being off-set with climate variabilities as in short erratic rainfall pattern that leads to poor yields (Donkor & Awuni, 201; Unami et al., 2012).
Due to this climate variability, the normal cropping season is no longer reliable for farmers to have bumper harvest as short heavy rainfalls results to flooding, destroying farms and reducing yields (Sidibé et al., 2016). Climate variability in some regions have caused normal seasonal rainfall pattern to be disrupted by uneven distribution of rain in the wet season (Hillel & Vlek, 2005).
However, FAO (2012) show that, Ghana is opportune with an average amount of rain water supply which is unevenly distributed geographically and seasonally hence, there is the need for irrigation production of crops (Mendes et al., 2014). While these climatic interruptions tend to have great implication on production, there is the need to increase food production in most developing countries like Ghana. And this has become an ultimate goal in order to cope with the growing populations by ensuring food security (Unami et al., 2012). For this reason, resources are exploited beyond producing food only in the wet season but also in the dry season.
Usman (2015) confirm that, crop farming is solely rainfed which is usually unpredictable and inadequately marked by poor crop yields. Notwithstanding, small-scale irrigation has the advantage of producing different kinds of fresh and high-quality food stuffs particularly in the dry season.
The importance of small-scale irrigation/dry season farming is that it has become an efficient source of food supply to supplement the wet season farming in Northern Ghana (Donkor et al., 2016) further with the increasing population, dry season farming has become a sustainable means to manage demand and supply of food and to ensure food security (Ojo et al., 2011). Cultivation during this season is particularly suited for smallholder farmers and their families, who usually have limited resource base which often allows them to just meet the production requirement for irrigation by the use of simple equipment like watering cans (Robert, 2003).
Research shows that, dry season farming forms a major part of farmers’ income thus improving their livelihood and for this matter farmers are motivated to engage in dry season production (Oruonye, 2011; Onuk et al., 2017). Some farmers possibly rely on dry season production than the normal cropping season because of profitability.
Dry season farming as the name suggest is arid, comes with resource demands like water. It is alleged that, dry season farming or small-scale irrigation farming is a major consumer of water resources through irrigation mechanically or manually (Onuk et al., 2017). Yet a report by FAOSTAT, (2012) indicates that, less than 1.6% (31,000 hectares) of Ghana’s irrigable land is in use out of 1.9 million hectares hence land is available for dry season production (Mendes et al., 2014). This means that Ghana is seen as unable to make use of its irrigable land to the fullest and it is also agreed that water sources are potentially available which makes dry season irrigation farming a potential investment avenue. Moreover, because dry season farming is usually small- scale and irrigation fed with its bigger prospects with respect to irrigable land and water. It is imperative to consider the sustainability of these resources.
Studies reveal that water resources are under pressured as a result of agricultural activities. Cai et al., (2001) claim that, surface and ground water have been used to the point of exceeding their replenishing rates in some countries and this makes it very interesting since the environment is concerned. That said, dry season comes with harsh weather conditions such as high temperatures and dry heavy winds. Which has implications on the environment especially with inappropriate farming practices. It is easy for surface water to reduce drastically due to high evaporation in the dry season (Abass, 2016) but surface water evaporation can also be attributed to vegetation loss because of farming activities such as land clearing near surface water, tilling and irrigation practices. This argument is based on the fact that, farming activities can impact the environment likewise the environment on farming. For instance, vegetable production in the dry season is done under intensive irrigation and it is characterized by intense cropping which means efficient water supply is required (Ojo et al., 2011). More demand for water becomes high in the dry season than in the wet season because in the dry season, the soil is dry and will take enough time to absorb
moisture as well as pass the required amount for crop uptake unlike the wet season water is available through rainfall.
From the angle of environment, small-scale irrigations farming has impacts on the soil, vegetation and water resources. As stated earlier, farming activities such as land clearing, soil tilling, weedicide and pesticide applications has consequential implications like loss of vegetation, loss of soil moisture (especially in the dry season), proliferation of weeds and chemical pollution in nearby water sources. Other environmental impacts that may rise from irrigational agriculture are land degradation, loss of soil fertility probably due to continuous pesticide application as well as environmental degradation.
Dry season small-scale farming is mostly vegetable base with few cereals and legumes in Africa and Ghana. Ojo et al., (2011) had stated that dry season farming particularly vegetables are of high quality since there is low disease pressure as compared to vegetables produced under rain-fed conditions. This makes vegetable farming more suitable for cultivation in the dry season and perhaps the fact that, vegetables are easy to produce in small-scale compared to legumes and cereals. Notwithstanding, vegetable production is highly intensive that makes high profit for farmers but has consequential effects on soil health as a result of high and intensive use of agrochemicals (Norris & Congreves, 2018).
Irrigation for dry season farming does not only ensure food security for the growing population all year round but provides jobs hence income for the indigenous people (Kay, 2001). Abass (2016) believe that water unavailability for farming activities during the dry season can influence household income levels negatively. He also mentioned that, implementing institutions such as non-governmental organizations’ (NGOs) report that, dry season farming is for certain the greatest
means to cut down poverty and unemployment as well as improve nutrition for farmers and their families in northern Ghana (Abass, 2016).
The economic efficiency of the Upper East region is dependent largely on agriculture with 70% of the populace involved in farming yet the region is set upon with unreliable rainfall pattern which results in poor quality of crops. In areas where total seasonal rainfall is adequate on the average, it may be poorly distributed or vary from year to year (Ziba, 2015; Adongo, 2016).
Also, the major source of water for Bawku west is the White Volta that is usually used for most dry season farming. Wastewater sewers, dams and near dugouts are sometimes water supply sources for dry season farming in the District. The river flows through most communities in the District who engage in dry season production and this potentially supports family food supply, employment and household income. Irrigated agriculture has a significant role in expanding the level of food production in order to attain food self-sufficiency and overall agricultural development in the Bawku West.