Dagbon, a region in Northern Ghana, is currently facing an existential threat – climate change. The adverse effects of climate change, particularly the changing rainfall patterns, are already being felt in the region. In 2007, the Savannah Agricultural Research Institute (SARI) in Nyankpala issued a report highlighting the danger of climate change.
Dr. Abdulai Salifu, who led the research, emphasized the need for the introduction of artificial rain technology to mitigate the rainfall deficit and sustain agricultural production in Dagbon. The success of this technology in Burkina Faso served as a reference point. However, despite the worsening rainfall patterns over the years, Dagbon has yet to address this critical issue in its development agenda.
The Urgency of Artificial Rain Technology
Dagbon lacks rivers that can adequately irrigate its entire land. The few existing rivers rely on healthy rainfall regimes for sustainability. While dug-out dams can support vegetable gardening to some extent, they are insufficient for sustainable farm irrigation.
Dr. Abdulai Salifu stressed that the government has a responsibility to consider the introduction of artificial rain technology, as it has been implemented successfully in various countries. To exemplify, Burkina Faso has made significant progress in this field. Ambassador Abass disclosed that, several other African nations have also embraced artificial rain technology. Countries such as Senegal, Niger, Chad, Morocco, Egypt, South Africa, Kenya, and Ethiopia are among those that have adopted this innovative approach to enhance rainfall in their regions.
Furthermore, countries outside Africa, including Germany, France, Greece, Spain, Israel, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Iran, Australia, China, India, and the United States, have implemented similar measures. Dr. Abdulai highlighted that Ghana possesses the capacity to adopt artificial rain technology.
Understanding Cloud Seeding and Dagbon’s Rainmaking History
Cloud seeding is the fundamental technique behind artificial rain technology. It involves introducing rain-inducing particles into clouds through methods such as spraying smoke. While various chemicals can serve this purpose, silver iodide has been the most commonly used substance.
Ground-based generators and pumps were initially used to disperse silver iodide smoke into the clouds, and this method is still employed today. Another approach involves aircraft spraying silver iodide onto the clouds.
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In exploring the history of cloud seeding, we find that it was officially invented in 1946 by American meteorologist Vincent J. Schaefer. However, the practice of rainmaking existed in Dagbon long before that. Rainmakers in Dagbon employed a similar principle and technique to Vincent Schaefer, albeit with undisclosed substances and less sophisticated equipment.
These rainmakers were essentially meteorologists who concealed their craft behind pseudo-magical acts to protect it from replication. The rainmaker in my village, known as Dekpunglaan, would visit annually, observing the skies, wind conditions, and cloud formations.
Once he determined suitable conditions, he would erect a pole with three branches supporting a pot, which he filled with shea butter residue for fuel. He added various herbs and substances, producing plumes of smoke that rose continuously into the air.
This smoke acted similarly to silver iodide in cloud seeding. The rainmaker’s rituals would continue, accompanied by singing, rhythmic sounds, and appellations. Eventually, the skies would darken, and rainfall with significant water droplets would pour for a brief period.
My grandfather referred to this rain as “Dekpunglaan saa.” In retrospect, it becomes apparent that the herbs and substances burned by Dekpunglaan served the same purpose as today’s silver iodide.
Although the exact combination of substances remains a mystery, Dagbon can draw inspiration from this historical tradition to leap into modern cloud seeding technology, following the examples set by Burkina Faso and other nations.
Proposals for Dagbon’s Future
Ambassador Abass recalled that in the past, the rains used to start in March, allowing farmers to plow their fields and sow their crops. This rain, known locally as “Saling Saa,” was followed by a two-week break before the onset of the major rains. This pattern resulted in better yields for farmers.
However, in recent times, the situation has worsened. The rains arrive very late, and the gap between Saling Saa and the major rains continues to widen. Farmers cannot afford the risk of planting in March due to the fear of drought killing their crops, especially maize, before the main rains arrive in mid-June.
Some farmers have resorted to growing shorter or fast-growing crops like soybeans. Despite this, many farmers complain of lower soybean yields from last year. Dagbon is already experiencing the effects of climate change, and it is imperative that we take drastic measures to safeguard our agricultural future.
In light of Dagbon’s agricultural challenges and the potential of artificial rain technology, it is crucial to revisit SARI’s 2007 report and initiate further action. A collaborative effort between scientists, meteorologists, agronomists, and commercial farmers in Dagbon, in partnership with SARI, could organize a seminar to discuss the proposals outlined in the report.
By doing so, they can bring the attention of relevant government authorities to the urgent need for consideration and implementation of artificial rain technology in Dagbon. Ambassador Ibrahim Abass emphasizes the importance of collective action and sustained pressure from the areas most affected by climate change to spur the government into action.
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Dagbon’s agricultural production and food security are at stake. The time has come for Dagbon to address the looming threat of climate change and leverage modern technological advancements to secure its future.
In conclusion, Dagbon stands at a critical juncture, with climate change posing a significant threat to its agricultural productivity. The implementation of artificial rain technology through cloud seeding offers a viable solution to mitigate the adverse effects of erratic rainfall patterns.
By heeding the advice of experts such as Dr. Abdulai Salifu and Ambassador Ibrahim Abass, Dagbon has the opportunity to secure its future and transform its agricultural landscape. With the government’s support, international partnerships, and active community involvement, Dagbon can overcome the challenges posed by climate change and build a resilient and sustainable agricultural sector for generations to come.