In the office or under the trees? The reality of working with public partners in Northern Ghana

Blogpost by Marije Balt

How to effectively work with public partners in a public private partnership (PPP)? An interesting case is the partnership of IWAD Ghana Ltd[1], supported by the Dutch Government Sustainable Water Fund (FDW). IWAD and the Dutch-Ghanaian company Wienco are some of the few active investors in the agricultural sector in Northern Ghana, a region lagging behind due to a harsh climate and limited private and public investments. Since 2013, it has introduced large scale modernized irrigation farming practices involving hundreds of small holders, promoting commercial irrigation practices and food security as well as creating local employment.

land
Women and youth working on irrigated field

A partnership was created with Wienco Ghana Ltd, Alterra (Wageningen University & Research), Rebel group and the Savannah Accelerated Development Authority (SADA) representing the Government of Ghana. Other Ghanaian partners bringing in local knowledge and research are institutes such as University of Development Studies in Tamale, the SARI crop institute and the Damongo training college, for hands on farm training.

The unique element of this partnership is the deep involvement of the Government of Ghana, initiated by the partnership’s ambition to make economic development of the north a reality. The government’s contribution through SADA is manifold – not only co-financing but also contributing to a conducive enabling environment in this region, also called the Savannah Agro Ecological Zone.

Another crucial partnership that goes beyond formal structures is with customary leaders, also called chiefs, who are in charge of local land issues. Agreements with these traditional authorities are deemed indispensable for IWAD’s current and future land based activities.

chief-of-yagaba
Chief of Yagaba, Northern Ghana

This specific collaboration between private and public partners, tailored to the local context and its complexities – designed in a bottom-up manner – proved crucial for the success of this public private partnership. Although every context requires its own specific type of collaboration, it is useful for other partnerships to take into account important generic lessons learned as highlighted by the PPPLab, before they start.

[1] IWAD stands for Integrated Water Management & Agricultural Development Ghana Limited (IWAD), part of the African Tiger Holder Company (ATHL) established to lead the implementation of the Sisili Kulpawn irrigation flagship initiative.

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