In the arid northeastern corner of Ghana, past the White Volta River, the government built a crescent-shaped concrete dam that holds back a million square yards of water. Cattle drink the water and eat green grass at its edge, as a pipe sends water to 75 2.4-acre plots cultivated by 75 families.
Several of these families gather to speak with Alhassan Idrissu, head of the program department at the Oxfam-supported African Centre for Energy Policy (ACEP). He tells the farmers that his team has learned from Ghana’s finance ministry that money from the sale of Ghana’s offshore oil paid for the dam.
“They tell us how oil money is being spent, and we go check,” he tells the group. “We want to know if this is benefiting the community, especially women. We want to know if there are problems. Does this [project] reduce poverty?”
In this case, the irrigation system is working, and farmers say they are growing rice and vegetables year-round. But not all of Ghana’s oil money is as well spent. Idrissu and his team, operating with a grant from Oxfam, have also discovered irrigation systems and other projects funded with oil revenues that are not finished.
ACEP created an “Oil Money TV” YouTube channel (oilmoneytv.org) to document these projects—part of Oxfam’s efforts to help civil society organizations like ACEP monitor resource revenues paid to the government to see how these monies are deployed in the budget and if they are spent properly.
Legislation developed with help from ACEP and others funded by Oxfam mandates this kind of transparency, which we are promoting with our partners in many other countries where governments struggle to deploy oil, gas, and mining dollars to fight poverty. Next up in Ghana: legislation mandating similar transparency requirements in the mining industry.
Video: Oil Money TV segment on irrigation dam in northern Ghana