Bringing Water to Dry Land

Parishioner John Merten reports on his eighth trip to Ghana.

It was a typical March day: 105 degrees in the shade, sun blazing and the land dry. And there we were, standing in the dusty field and digging a trench to the area we had selected for our garden. They didn’t say anything, but you could see it in their faces – “What is the matter with these crazy foreigners? Don’t they know you don’t try to dig during the dry season? Don’t they know you can’t grow crops during the dry season?”

All of that changed in a matter of minutes when we finished installing the drip irrigation system, turned it on, and they saw water steadily drip onto the bone-dry soil. Their skeptical looks turned into excitement as they realized the potential of this new technology. I think that might have been the most gratifying moment of all of my trips to Ghana.

Here in the United States, I can walk into Kroger at any time of year and be able to purchase all manner of fresh fruits and vegetables. I can buy broccoli in August, romaine lettuce in January, tomatoes in March. Technology provides us so many amazing opportunities in this country.

In northern Ghana, people are not so fortunate. The rainy season typically begins in late May and lasts through early September. During that season, the fertile ground yields corn, millet (a wheat-like grain), rice, okra, tomatoes, onions and a limited variety of greens. A family must cultivate, grow and harvest all the food they will need for an entire year. Starting in October, the dry season begins and there will be no measurable rain for eight months – nothing but sunny, 100-plus-degree days.

The mission of Kimoyo, one of St. John’s outreach partnerships, is to provide the people of rural northern Ghana with sustainable opportunities to improve their lives. Our latest project in this effort is a drip irrigation demonstration project. Though rainwater is for all practical purposes nonexistent, limited groundwater is available. Imagine being able to grow much-needed food during the dry season. That is life


Our initial effort is on a small plot of land provided by a church in the village of Kokure. In August, we had a well drilled on the property, fabricated and erected a water tank, mechanized the well and constructed a water filling station to provide clean water to the local villagers. On this most recent trip, we purchased and installed the drip irrigation system.

Our hope is to expand this project to other villages. We are in discussion with World Vision and Heifer International to partner on future projects. If all goes well, we would like to create a cooperative amongst all the villages that would allow for sale of excess crops to provide much-needed income to the region.

For more information, visit

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Top image: John Merten with students in Ghana.

Bottom images, clockwise from top left: Merten talking with students in Komega; the drip irrigation system about to be turned on; Merten, along with Rauf, a local plumber, and Kingdom Life pastor Kathy O'Keeffe; cows next to the Binaba dam; young girls in afterschool enrichment program in Komega play soccer after tutoring.

Posted by Cara Modisett at 9:30 AM
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