Environmentally Sustainable Agricultural Practices: Protecting Natural Ditches & Ponds
This blog post is the third installment in a five-part series by Seth Asare based on his Farmer-to-Farmer experience through ACDI/VOCA in Ghana. This installment discusses how the farm's natural ditches and ponds could be protected. Read Part 1 and Part 2 here.
Most of the non-perennial stream beds in both the new and old farmlands have a number of ditches that drain into the Rice Valley. If they are not protected, these ditches tend to become serious erosion concerns as the rains start. There are three visible channels that run into the two-mile river section serving as the southern boundary of the new farm. In addition, there are two non-perennial ponds that are completely dry. Closer to the river on the south end, there are some non-perennial wetlands which will come to life with the rains.
As the southern section of the new farm is developed for this farming season, it is highly recommended that AFL (the commercial farming company we worked with) ensure that all pond banks, ditches and stream channels are protected with native grass and shrubs. Well-designed waterways should be developed in all inlet and outlet ditches that extend for more than 20 feet. This will buffer and filter surface runoff before it leaves the field, provide streambank stabilization and reduce erosion. It will also improve water quality for multiple parameters (temperatures, pH, sediment, nutrients) and improve fish and wildlife habitats.
Large sections of the government forest reserve west of the property have been burnt, and some fires were still smoldering during the assessment period. In some instances, the fires had jumped the barrier that AFL created along the boundary for fire protection. Talking to the staff, it became apparent that these fires are often set deliberately by young children who are hungry and hunting for rodents hiding in the dry bushes. These children are from poor families who can can barely afford one meal a day, especially during the dry season, so they have to fend for themselves in these harsh weather conditions when other food sources are virtually non-existent. Mitigating the bushfire issue becomes partly a social issue. Preaching to communities to avoid bush fires without resolving the underlying social problems will be futile.
In view of this, I took the opportunity to talk to the mothers who attended the community meeting held on March 15, 2016 about the part families—especially mothers—can play in mitigating bushfires. Families should explain to their children the impact of bushfires on the environment and how those fires are the major cause of desertification and land degradation in the Guinea and Sahel Savannah agro-ecological zone of the West African region. Children and families should be educated on how they can contribute to the fight against climate change and ensure that they leave sustainable resources for future generations.