Africa Economy

Ghana’s Agro-Industrialization Agenda SADA Region Leads the Charge

Amidst concerns about Ghana’s over dependence on annual multi-million dollar food and general agricultural goods imports,

while Ghana abounds in 17.5 million acres arable land, forested area excluded, the Presidents Atta Mills and John Dramani Mahama-led NDC governments launched the Savannah Accelerated Development Programes in 2010 and the Ghana Commercial Agriculture Project (GCAP) in 2013 respectively.
Within the context of GCAP, the mandate of Savannah Accelerated Development Authority (SADA) is to promote agriculture and other economic sectorial development in the Northern Savannah Ecological Zone (NSEZ).
The NSEZ which accounts for 54.4 percent of Ghana’s total land mass, covers the Northern parts of the Volta and Brong Ahafo regions including the Northern, Upper East and Upper West regions of the country. The last three regions are said to account for the highest poverty rates in the whole country.
With 8 million acres of total arable land, the NSEZ forms part of the African continent-wide Savannah ecological zone which of 600 million acres arable land.
All of Ghana’s major river basins namely, the White, Red and Black Voltas including the Oti, does not only take their source from the NSEZ,but its 8 million acres arable land potential puts it in the position to produce enough food through rain-fed and irrigation-fed production throughout the year to feed the entire country and the surplus for export.
Against this background, Mr. Charles Abugri,SADA’s CEO lamented in 2014 during a SADA round Table conference in Accra that this current import dependence also account for the persistent macroeconomic turbulence that we experience as a country.
Mr.Abugre was speaking on the side lines during the event in an interview with your favourite, African Development Magazine (ADM).
“We are in another unique moment in which there is strong regional (African) and international consensus that Africa can only successfully transform in a meaningful way on the back of agriculture.
“Both the Presidents of the World Bank (Dr.Jim Yong Kim) and the African Development Bank (Dr. Akinwumi Adesina) also emphasized the need to focus on the transformation of agriculture and responded positively to the request by H.E. President John Mahama to focus support on the transformation of the Savannah.
“With the attention increasingly shifting in support of the transformation of agriculture in the Savannah, the conditions are clearly coming together for a re-launch of a new version of “operation feed yourself” that focuses not only on feeding ourselves but in industrializing the Savannah through agriculture and agro-business.
“To bring this about, government needs to prioritise irrigation infrastructure to support a mix of commercial farming and out-grower schemes, and it needs to put policies in place to incentivize agro-processing and harness the vast hydro-potentials which spread across the Savannah zone to provide cheap power.
“These all require financing and explain why SADA is proposing the creation of a development financing for the Savannah.”Dr.Abugri intimated.
On strategic approach adopted by SADA to attract investment in commercial agriculture in the SADA region within the context of the ongoing Ghana Commercial Agriculture Project (GCAP) Dr.Abugri said, “attracting commercial agriculture combined with out-grower schemes is crucial if were to industrialize the zone, increase jobs, cultivate the new generation of farmers and eradicate extreme poverty”.
To bring this about SADA’s strategic focus he continued, were in the following areas:
1.” Provide user-friendly information to investors, farmers and policy makers on the agriculture and agro-business potential. To this effect, SADA is currently undertaking an extensive analysis of our soils, hydrology, weather and other characteristics in a bid to develop crop compatibility maps for the zone, both rain-fed and with irrigation. This information should be ready before the end of December 2015 (this year).
2. “Address the infrastructure issues: The transport infrastructure in the zone are horrendous – unpaved roads, broken bridges or the lack of bridges where they should be making a good part the productive areas inaccessible especially during raining season. SADA is undertaking a GIS mapping of the road infrastructure in the zone in order to lobby government and development partners to fix them. SADA is also undertaking a comprehensive study of the irrigation and hydro-power infrastructure potential in the zone in the bid to promote investments in these which are necessary for commercial agriculture.
3. “Under-taking a cluster approach: Given our interest not only to bring about commercial agriculture but to catalyze industrialization, we are working with local and technical experts to zone/cluster the area in the form of growth poles in order to encourage the convergence of infrastructure investments in order to bring about agro-parks and industrial parks. We expect to finalise these cluster studies before the end of 2016.
4.” Addressing the land problem: Acquiring large tracks of land for commercial agriculture is a complex, costly and cumbersome exercise under our current land tenure arrangements. We also need to ensure that our quest for commercial agriculture does not lead to the creation of speculative markets for land or the alienation of our people from the land.
“To bring about this balance, SADA is working with the leadership of the Ghana Lands Commission towards the creation of Land Trusts to promote more transparent land transactions and to secure community interests in lands whilst ensuring predictable and legally robust land acquisition by investors
5.” Hand-holding and Public Private Partnerships. We offer to help investors address some of the bureaucratic requirements for investing in the zone – permits and accessing legitimate incentives. We also aggressively promote these investments within national financing mechanisms and ensure that they benefit from local financing opportunities and counterpart funding requirements as provided for by various public funds. To do so, we help these investors register their projects with the relevant authorities and facilitate conversions with relevant government bodies such as the Ministry of Food and agriculture and the Ministry of Trade.
6.” Investment promotions: The investment opportunities in the SADA zone are little known by Ghanaians let alone by the global investment community. We are developing Investment Guides and co-convening various exhibitions, Fairs and Business and Investment Forums”
SADA’s Woes and Achievements
In the early days of its operation, SADA no doubt faced a number of challenges underpinned by lack of appropriate governance structures.
As a young institution with so much expected of it, SADA no doubt had its shortcomings some of which were however also constantly hyped and over exaggerated even till today just to suit partisan and vile opposition political propaganda interest in collaboration with some sections of the local media.
This was manifest in manner in which the reportage on the SADA Mango Project by Joy FM’s Manasseh Azure Awuni was carried out and posted on the online edition of April 24,2014 under the headline,”SADA mango project unsuccessful due to lack of water”
Contrary to earlier Joyonline’s gloomy picture, painted about the SADA mango project a team of independent minded Journalists from the Daily Graphic, Peace FM, among others, were later in August the same year to uncover and expose the mischief in Azure’s report earlier report of April thereby, putting out the true state of the project in the public domain.
This was however, shortly after the first SADA CEO, Alhaj Gilbert Iddi, who had received a lot of bastion from the public on the matter, had left office.
Spy Ghana’s independent latest 2016 report corroborated the report of the independent media team.
SADA’s Guinea Fowl Project a Case in Point
The SADA Guinea Fowl project which was a comprehensive commercial scale production of the Guinea fowl in the SADA Zone both for local consumption and for export.
Guinea fowl production in the three Northern regions in particular which is traditionally based on the free range system is a major source of income and livelihood for many. Its meat is on high demand as a lean meat in the EU and the US markets..
Under the project as captured in its Business Plan, five regional modern commercial guinea fowl farms came with state of the art facilities namely, a Bird processor, Packaging, Cold storage, Fertilizer processor, Further crusher, Feed processor.
The structural plans/drawings for the nucleus farms had been completed with the bill of quantities estimated at One Million Three Hundred Thousand Ghana cedis (GHc1, 300,000.00) per farm. It is never through that a SADA seed money of GHc30 million was spent on the single Guinea Fowl project alone as SADA’s detractors would like to have the public believe.
Notable among the major departments in the regional farms, the Business Plan states are: “Layers/mother stock, Broader house, Hatchery, Bird processor, Packaging, Cold storage, Fertilizer processor, Further crusher, Feed processor”
It is strange that a media war was unleashed on the project using half-truths and absolute fabrications such as the popular lie that the SADA boss in his failure to render an account said that, “the Guinea fowls had flown to Burkina Faso” and this came be accepted by some as a truth.
All this was done in the name of trying to cause public disaffection for a political opponent in order to score cheap political points to the detriment of the SADA region and Ghana as a whole.
Even though the Business Plan was available even to noted anti-SADA media houses, some politicians and activists they still pretended it was none-existent. They therefore went on accusing SADA unfairly and unjustifiably for not having put in place a business Plan and yet went ahead to implement a project. The SADA boss was therefore made to appear being grossly irresponsible and not even knowing what he was doing.
For the benefit of our independent minded readers who may like to have and insight into the laudable project but much exposed to public ridicule by politicians for partisan gains, you may click the below link.
The hidden political agenda in the dictum of “SADA was a complete failure, embezzlement of tax payers’ money without anything to show for it,” was further exposed in number of instances.
Ample evidence now abounds that, appreciable gains were also made from the SADA region-Turkey Sister City Relations programme and the Tree Planting Programme all started during the tenure of office of the first SADA CEO.
On the Tree Planting Programme,the University of Development Studies (UDS) after an independent study, have also given the SADA Project an 80 percent survival rating much to the dislike and discomfort of the doomsday mongers who had earlier gone to all bounds to discredit it and every other SADA projects as total failures .
SADA’S Achievements
Mr.Abugre taking over from his predecessor,Alhaj Gilbert Iddi,in 2014 has since brought his rich expertise and innovational skills as a reputable technocrat of international standing to bear on some gains already made, before his entry and SADA is now on a forward march to excellence.
To buttress his point, that he did indeed come to meet some gains, much to the dislike of mischief mongers, he once had cause to remark, “When I walked into SADA, I found that the saying that SADA was a complete failure was a little bit over exaggerated”
On achievements of SADA, Mr.Abugre notes, “The first achievement is the successful establishment of the Authority. It has a small, but growing and competent professional team operating out of its headquarters in Tamale and Accra.
“The Authority has also opened regional offices in Kintampo (for the Brong Ahafo region), Dembai (for the Volta region) Bolgatanga (Upper East Region), Wa Upper West Region and Tamale (Northern).
“The second is a number of successful pilots both in agriculture and in PPPs in energy and irrigation. In agriculture, SADA piloted an agriculture input support programme with intermediary organizations (Technical Service Providers) through whom support is extended to small farmers with mechanization, improved seeds and fertilizer.
This project run for 2 years and contributed to significant increase in productivity in rice, maize, butternut squash and mango plantations. Although the project is discontinued, the model can be replicated and up 800 hectares of mango plantations are successfully growing.
“For PPP projects, 3 are actually most active: a 400 hectare centre-pivot irrigation scheme and a 600 hectare rainfed farm is in full operation in the Mamprugi-Mognori district in northern region. The farm is an out-grower scheme operated around a core commercial farmer. There are plans to expand this 5000 hectares in the next 3 years. We are preparing a similar scheme in the Nasia Nabogo area to irrigate up to 14,500 hectares of land.
In the renewable energy area, SADA is also busily working on establishing a 40MW Power plant.
SADA’S Landmark Irrigation Schemes
In collaboration with development partner, Brazil’s Quiroz Galvao and other Partners, SADA is undertaking a number of large, medium and small irrigation schemes major of which is the multipurpose Pwalugu Irrigation Scheme.
The project would put an end once and for all, to the floods disaster always suffered by communities in the SADA zone anything time neighboring Bukina Faso spills the Bagre Dam .The dam would now collect the spilled water which could be used for irrigation, aquaculture and power production.
With irrigation as priority, the maximum irrigated area is around 95,000ha and there would be no final energy production. With energy production as priority, the maximum irrigated area is around 47 000ha.
A number of hydroelectricity dams are also being proposed for funding in the SADA region. Then also, in the renewable energy sector SADA is passionate about solar, wind, biomass among others.
The SADA zone contributes a great chunk of Ghana’s agriculture GDP and was the driving force behind the much successful, Green Revolution baptized as the “OPERATION FEED YOURSELF” programme of the mid-seventies led by the late General Acheampong’s SMC regime. The SADA region was once referred to as the nation’s bread basket by the late General.
For the first time in Ghana’s history, the country witnessed remarkable food self-sufficiency to the extent that, she exported the surplus from the rice and maize produced to other neighbouring countries. The SADA Zone was the heart-beat for this landmark green revolution.
The vision of Mr. Abugre is to bring about a rebirth of the Operation Feed Yourself programme and to carry its historic success story to even much greater heights not only to Ghana’s benefit, but the entire West African sub-region.
This he believes, can save the country from her multi-million dollar annual spending on rice and general agricultural products for which the country has a better comparative advantage in their production.
Vital Documentation: SADA has since invested immensely in the production of numerous technical, investment opportunities marketing and promotion documentation vital for the effective implementation of its programmes and projects to enable it ably execute its core mandate.
They include, but are not limited to the following: “Commercial Agriculture Investment Guide: The Northern Savannah Zone of Ghana Vol.1,”The SADA-WIENCO PUBLIC PRIVATE PARTNERSHIP (PPP) SISSILI-KULPAWN IRRIGATION PROJECT, “Poultry Model Ghana (Low cost broiler production and abattoir with cold store-Using off-Grid Renewable energy”, SADA Districts Investment Opportunities”, “TOWARDS A ROAD MAP on Transforming Agriculture in NSEZ”,”Investment in Medium Agriculture and Small Scale Infrastructure and Technology to Transform Agriculture in the SADA Zone:CGIAR Centres Perspective”, “Investing in agriculture in the SADA Zone”.
Government Gives SADA’s a Booster
The call by Mr.Abugre during SADA Round Table Conference in 2014 for government commitment and support towards development through agriculture was met with a positive response. This was demonstrated in the hosting of the SADA Agriculture Investment Workshop in Accra in June this year.
The event was held on the instance of President Mahama whose earlier call on the Presidents of the World Bank and the African Development Bank to support SADA host the event had been granted.
Other development partners such as USAID, IFAD among others, including local stakeholders, Ministry of Food and Agriculture, Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning, Water Resources Commission among others fully participated.
Addressing the workshop, one of whose major outcomes, was the presentation of the SADA ROAD MAP to the development of SADA Zone to the President Mahama,he commended SADA for the “new dynamism” while also recounting and pointing out that lack of adequate governance structure was partly to blame for the challenges it had to encounter in the initial stages.
EU Comes Handy
The European Union (EU), on its part has announced its intention to during the event to contribute €160 million to promote business oriented agriculture in Ghana with high quality produce for the Savannah Accelerated Development Agency (SADA) zone.
The European Union Office in Ghana in a statement said, this will be achieved with the support of farmers and entrepreneurs, who will be trained in business management and improved farming and processing techniques.
Mr. Benoist Bazin, Head of the Infrastructure and Sustainable Development (ISD) Section, disclosed this during the event.

Mr.Abugre speaking on the side lines to Graphic business during the event, disclosed to the paper that, the government had given SADA the nod through the Finance Ministry for the establishment of the proposed Savannah Development and Investment Bank expected to open shop by 2017-2018.
The pre-feasibility of the project he further disclosed, was to be funded by the African Development Bank (AfDB)
ACT 805, 2010 (here-after, The Act) that established SADA is an exceptional piece of legislation that was only possible because of the remarkable degree of national and cross-party consensus mobilised behind a determination to tackle the structural causes of the underdevelopment of the Northern Savannah Ecological Zone (NSEZ), in a comprehensive, integrated and long-term manner.
A transformed and vibrant NSEZ will serve not only the people who live in the NSEZ but Ghanaians generally in that will boost national economic growth and provide opportunities for all Ghanaians to live, work, profit, and serve.
The Act tasks SADA to achieve three strategic objectives:
⦁ To provide strategic vision and planning to government, consistent with the national plan, but one which will ensure accelerated, integrated and comprehensive development of the Northern Savannah Ecological Zone, in consultation with stakeholders;
⦁ To mobilize human, financial and other resources for the implementation of the accelerated development strategy;
⦁ To co-ordinate existing and future development and related policies affecting the Northern Savannah Ecological Zone with a view to ensuring coherence in policy-making and implementation.
Further, it emphasises “acceleration”, “integratedness” and “comprehensiveness” and implies urgency as well as a long-term view in terms of strategic planning. It envisages that additional resources (above the current average inflows from public, private and philanthropic sources) are necessary for the objectives to be achieved.
Charles Abugre, CEO of SADA Speaking during the Workshop