Understanding the Public P: Insights from a PPP case of water management in North Ghana

What is the best way effectively work with public partners in a public–private partnership (PPP)? The partnership of IWAD Ghana Ltd., supported by the Dutch Government Sustainable Water Fund (FDW), is an interesting case with which to explore this question.

IWAD and the Dutch–Ghanaian company Wienco are among the few active investors in the agricultural sector in Northern Ghana – a region lagging behind due to its harsh climate and limited private and public investments. Since 2013, the activities of the partnership have 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.

The partnership was created between IWAD, Wienco Ghana Ltd, Alterra (Wageningen Environmental Research), Rebel group and the Savannah Accelerated Development Authority (SADA), which represents the Government of Ghana. Other Ghanaian partners bringing in local knowledge and research include institutes such as the University of Development Studies in Tamale, the SARI crop institute, and the Damongo training college for hands on farm training. The Dutch government not only financed 60% of this project, but also facilitated and brokered the partnership while providing a trust factor and ensuring that partners meet their commitments.

The unique element of this partnership is the deep involvement of the Government of Ghana through SADA. Its contribution is manifold and its role developed: not only cofinancing, but also contributing to a conducive enabling environment in this region, which is also called the Savannah Agro Ecological Zone. This is strategically interesting for the lead partner’s scaling plans.

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