Every year, millions of domestic and international tourists troop to Ghana in such of mindboggling, rich but natural and captivating sights to feast their eyes on.
Worn-out by growing pressures from offices and homes, many people are now beginning to make travel and tourism a key component of their family and corporate budgets, as the need to de-stress catches on with almost individual. That is good news, at least to the country’s private sector operating in the tourism business.
Home to many world heritage sites and sumptuous natural assets that include waterfalls, Ghana is indeed a force to reckon with when it comes to tourism.
Brong Ahafo’s potentials
Unfortunately, however, not much effort has been put into exploiting that potential. This is in spite of the fact tourism continuous to show clear evidence that if fully exploited the business of traveling for pleasure can easily overtake gold and cocoa as the premier foreign exchange earner for the country.
Conscious of this, the Savanna Accelerated Development Authority (SADA) has made tourism one of its focal points in the development of its medium term development plan, the SADA Master Plan.
Although the plan intends to unlock the agricultural and tourism potential of the entire savanna ecological zone (NSEZ), its regional concept plan gives much impetuous to harnessing the burgeoning potentials of the business in the Brong Ahafo Region.
Home to about 24,042 square kilometers, Brong Ahafo accounts for 18 per cent of the total land area of the NSEZ and boasts of rich natural assets that consist of 40 per cent of open forest and 36 per cent of grassland.
The region currently contributes about 13 per cent of NSEZ’s total economic output, measured by gross domestic product (GDP). Its economy is primarily agrarian economy, with fishing activities being prominent in Sene East, Sene West and Pru districts mainly because of the close proximity to the Volta Lake.
It is also home to many scenic tourist attractions due to its ecology, hence the emphasis on tourism and agriculture.
Under the regional concept plan, SADA aims to develop three strong projects – Kintampo Tourism Cluster, the Digiya Tourism Cluster and agro industrial tourism center – to make the region the nerve center of the tourism industry in the country and the subregion as a whole.
hile the Kintampo Tourism Cluster seeks to capitalise on the many natural assets and scenic tourist attractions in that area of the region, the Digiya Tourism Cluster aims to make that community nature park and bird lovers’ hub. SADA also seeks to also exploit the agro-tourism potential in that area, using the large fertile land around Atebubu.
The agro industrial tourism center will also help encourage tourists to experience the traditional or local products.
This unique composition makes the region a hotbed of tourism that SADA is now seeking to use its master plan to unleash.
The authority is of the firm believe that given the right support and funding, its projects, which could easily pass for a blueprint of the government’s ‘one factory, one district programme’ will help propel the region to the next level of its economic development.
Other key projects
Under the regional concept plan, SADA intends to develop the following key urban centres in the region to serve as the hub for regional and district level commercial, community facilities and administration:
Regional Centre – Kintampo
Small Cities/Key Urban Centres – Atebubu
Multi District Centres/ Key Rural
Centres – Yeji, Nsawkaw and Kajeji
These centers will add to the following projects aimed at opening the area up to commerce, tourism and agriculture.
Agro-processing park housing the agriculture Research & Development and Training Centre at Kintampo to drive agriculture knowledge development in the region that will capitalise on the large amount of priority agriculture land surrounding the centre.
Agri-processing park with agro-industries and market centres for agriculture produce in other identified settlements.
Develop aquaculture industries at Kwadwokrom to optimise its frontage along the Lake Volta.
Develop phase one of the expressway for the Kumasi/Boankra Inland Port-Kintampo to bypass Kumasi city for the purpose of travel time reduction.
Develop a bridge at Kete Krachi to connect Kete Krachi and Kajaji to improve inter-regional road connectivity.
Upgrade coach and bus station to enhance intercity and intra-city transport respectively.
Develop a regional hospital in Kintampo and increase provision of secondary healthcare facilities to improve the quality of healthcare services in the region.
Develop polytechnic, vocational and technical institutions at the key urban centres, including Kintampo and Atebubu, to enhance human capacity building.
Establish flood protection zones.
Provide 100 per cent infrastructure coverage for water supply and electricity access.
Upgrade the existing power lines and equipments to reduce power losses.
Develop Kintampo Tourism Cluster to capitalising on the scenic natural assets with Kintampo waterfalls and national parks.
Agro industrial tourism will also be encouraged for tourists to experience the traditional or local products.
Develop the Digiya Tourism Cluster as a nature park and bird lovers’ hub, as well as for agro-tourism with the large fertile land around Atebubu.
In spite of the potentials, SADA acknowledges that the region is faced with some challenges.
It lists gold mining activities in Tain and Banda districts, the prevalence of annual bushfire and related environmental degradation and heavy timber extraction in forested areas for firewood and construction material.
Also, the authority observed that urban areas are primarily located along the central corridor while most of the other areas in the region are rural.
Other challenges include
Population density in the region being lower than the national average
Limited non-agricultural economic attractions as the regional capital is located outside NSEZ boundary
East, Pru and Kintampo south districts are not suitable for variety of crop production
Irrigation potential mapping showed that agriculture master plan for this region is not as abundant as other regions, although the dominance of the Volta Lake across the zone implies that pump irrigation can be, to a certain degree, largely exploited, just as much as cage and pond aquaculture
Although blessed with the long lake coastline, its aquaculture potential is not explored and utilised
Opportunities to leverage
In the environment, opportunities exist in the areas of conservation of existing protected areas, forests, wetlands and water bodies.
Brong Ahafo sub-region is the fastest urbanising area in NSEZ with the growth rate of 6.3 per cent, 34 per cent of urban population and positive migration rate of five per cent.
This presents opportunity to create secondary and tertiary urban centres to ease urbanisation pressure in the central economic corridor by taping into the variety of economic potentials in the region, which will help in a more even distribution of urban and rural population in the region.
There is also opportunity to develop large scale agro- processing industry in Kintampo due to its diverse agricultural potential and close proximity to Techiman, Buipe & Tamale.
Beynd that Atebubu could serve as a hotbed for agricultural production, processing and agro-tourism hub.
Similarly, Nsawkaw could be developed into a gold mining hub, with high value agricultural production and processing.
Gold mining and processing opportunityies also exist around Brohoni, Nsawkaw and Bodi towns.
The region also has aquaculture potential between Yeji and Kajaji lake coast.
Beyond these, teh following opportunities also exist, which SADA is seeking to exploit through the implementation of its master plan in the region
Agriculture: Soil conditions around Atebubu and Digya National Park made it suitable for the production of variety of crops, fruits and vegetables, signifying the potential for such agriculture value chains creation.
Also, agricultural land in Tain and Wenchi can be used for commercial scale cashew, cassava, new value added crops fruits, cashew production.
There is also pportunity for the land in the northeast belt of the region to become the rice bowl of the region with given irrigated condition. The area can also be utilised for forestry and large scale live stock production.
Transport: There are also opportunities to improve inter-regional road connectivity in the eastern part of the region, construct a bridge across Volta Lake to improve Kajaji and Kete Krachi connectivity and develop the Techiman-Kwadwokrom rail corridor as well as enhance the Kintampo-Techiman road safety record with safety measures.
Infrastructure: SADA envisages to construct a hydro power plant at potential dam sites at Lanka. There is also opportunity for the development of solar farms to provide additional power to the region.
All in all, the Brong Ahafo Region is a huge potential that the nation should fight to fully exploit.
While the regional concept plan on the region provides an excellent glimse into the future SADA intends to build for the region, the plan also provides a clear blueprint to the government’s ‘one district, one factory’ programme that will be rolled out shortly.
This is because although the plan does not cover the entire region, each of the projects could easily be adopted as factories under the programme and implemented to the letter.
This way, the government will be using its development facilitation wing in the savanna, which is SADA, to achieve one of the programmes that could define its success.