Dear Nana Addo, a JoyNews Hotline Documentary, has brought to the fore the plight of the people of Botingli, a farming community in the Savelugu district of the Northern region.
According to members of the community, government’s refusal to redeem its promise of providing them with a dam is telling on their livelihoods.
A group of men under a shed wearing long faces are angry.
The sub-chief of the Botingli Abukari Abdulai recollects that the entire community of Botingli burst into ecstasy when President Akufo-Addo cut the sod for the construction of a dam under the One Village One Dam project through a Private-Public partnership deal in July 2018.
The government flagship project was based on a political promise captured in the NPP 2016 manifesto. This initiative is expected to improve the productivity and incomes of smallholder farmers significantly and bring about improvements in rural livelihoods. It was also expected to improve food security and curtail migration from the north to the south in search of jobs during the off-farm season.
“We were very happy when the President came here. It was like a market day here. But when he left the project never took off”. The sub-chief said.
He added that his people were made to believe that the project would kick start immediately to help them navigate the problem of irregular rainfall by providing them constant water supply for an all year round farming.
In a video filmed and uploaded on the internet by the communications team at the Presidency, Nana Akufo Addo is seen happily excavating the land for the project to begin.
The President interacts with the project developer, Emmanuel Larbi who promised: “the project at the construction stage will generate 160,000 jobs and 32,000 permanent jobs after construction”. The president who is pleased with the project excitedly stated “this is a major, major intervention. I am excited”.
After the well-attended colourful ceremony filled with dancing and drumming the banner announcing the project was pulled off and the construction of the dam never took off.
The only thing to show after the funfair is the foundation stone bearing the names, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, and the Minister of Special Development Initiative, Hawa Koomson.
The sub-chief of Botingli is disappointed and is calling on the president to redeem his promise.
“We plead with the President not to disgrace the Savelugu chief. He should please try and fulfil the promise” he pleaded.
Baba Alhassan a farmer who was also present when the sod was cut for the ceremony says they are worried the project may not be implemented so they started planting rice and maize on the land.
“We were told that it will not take a year for the dam to be constructed. Even though they said it won’t be up to a year it has taken a long time. We released our land used for the cultivation of rice and maize to the project developers. But because they failed to start the project, we started planting rice and maize on the land. We planted rice and maize and they did well. We will even harvest soon” He added.
The farmers are not happy that that government failed to inform them on why the project did not start over a year after the groundbreaking ceremony.
Baba Alhassan stated “the DCE came here to check up on the project months after the ceremony. He explained that the project delayed because they did not have documentation. But assured they have secured the documentation and added that they will start soon. We have never heard anything from him since”.
The people say they want to remind the President that his grand plan for Botingli has not been achieved yet. “We want to remind the President that if he is asleep he should wake up and fulfil the promise because the dam will help many communities”. Ziblim Fuseini a resident and stated.
The project head and Chief Executive Officer of Hi-limit group Emmanuel Larbi, explains that the project has not yet started over one year after the sod was cut because they had to redesign the project to enable his company recover investment into the project which comprised an irrigational dam, and integrated agricultural with a renewable energy component.
He said, “Although it is a social invention project for poverty eradication, the source of financing is a loan so we needed to commercialise the project in a way that our investment can be recovered.”
He added that the project which cost 2 million dollars will rather begin at the end of November 2019.
Joynews tried to get the Ministry of Special Development Initiative for more answers but authorities stated said the project was a private-public partnership
The town Dinga also in the Savelugu district has a new dam for irrigation. The dam has not been handed over to the community for use. The people of Dinga should be happy with the project however the chief of the community Alhaji Abukari Mahama is not happy with the location of the dam insisting the dam will dry up during the dry season. “I am not actually satisfied because that area is low land. Because the place is a low land whether there is a project there or not during the rainy season the place will flood”.
However, the true test of the dam in Dinga will be known during the dry season.