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Physical Characteristics


Location And Size
Builsa District is one of the eight Districts in the Upper East Region of Ghana.  It lies between longitudes 10 05’West and 10 35’ West and latitudes 100 20’ North and 100 50’ North.  It is bounded on the North and East by the Kassena-Nankana District on the west by the Sissala District and on the South by the West Mampruisi District and part of Kassena-Nankana District.

The District covers an area of 2,220 km2 and constitutes 25.1% of the total land area of the Upper East Region.

Relief And Drainage
Relief: The topography of the area is undulating and slopes ranging from 200 metres to 300 metres are found in the Northern part of the District particularly around Bachonsa and Chuchuliga zones.  In the valleys of Sissili, Kulpawn, Besibeli, Tono, Asibelika and the Azimzim, the slopes are gentler and range from 150 metres to 200 metres.

Inselbergs and other granitic outcrops occasionally break the monotony of the near flat surfaces.  In general the low-lying nature of the land makes greater part of it liable to flooding in years of copious rains.

Drainage: Like most parts of Northern Ghana, a significant portion of the District falls within the Volta basin and is heavily dissected by a number of important tributanes of the White Volta such as the Sissili, Kulpawn, Tono, Asebelika, Belipieni, etc, giving a very high drainage density.  Most of these streams are however seasonal and dry up during the extended dry season with an adverse effect on the supply of water for both agricultural and domestic use.

Besides the high drainage density coupled with the low-lying terrain reduces the level of accessibility in the District.  Between July and October in particular most rivers and streams overflow their banks, a number of roads, tracks and foot paths are flooded and settlements cut off from the centre.

Climate
Temperature: The District has mean monthly temperatures ranging between 21.90 C and 34.10 C.

The highest temperatures are recorded in March and this can rise to 450 C, whereas the lowest temperatures are recorded in January.  The dry season is characterised by dry harmattan winds and wide diurnal temperature ranges.

Rainfall: There is only one rainy season, which builds up gradually from little rains in April to a maximum in August-September, and then declines sharply coming to a complete halt in mid-October when the dry season sets in. Rainfalls are very torrential and range between 85mm and 1150mm p.a. with irregular dry spells occurring in June or July.

Vegetation And Land Uses
The vegetation of the District is characterised by savannah woodland and consists mostly of deciduous, widely spaced fire and drought resistant, trees of varying sizes and density with dispersed perennial grasses and associated herbs. Through the activities of man, the woodland savannah has been reduced to open parkland where only trees of economic value like baobab, acacia, sheanut and the dawadawda have been retained with time.

These trees satisfy domestic requirements for fuel wood and timber for local housing construction, cattle kraals, vegetable garden fences and materials for handicraft.  On the whole there are about sixteen (14) different land uses derived from the main natural savannah vegetation.  These are:
  1. Mixed arable cropping grass and herb with or without savanna trees.
  2. Mixed arable cropping closed savanna woodland
  3. Mixed arable cropping open savanna woodland.
  4. Mixed arable cropping, widely open savanna woodland.
  5. Closed forest plantation
  6. Reserved closed savanna woodland
  7. Open-access savanna woodland
  8. Reserved open savanna woodland
  9. Open-access open savanna woodland with/without scattered farms/grazing
  10. Open-access grassland with/without scattered farms.
  11. Riverine vegetation with/without farms 
  12. Forests
  13. Cloud/Haze covered vegetation
  14. Reservoir (dam) sites
In the dry season, annual bush fires decimate the grasses and shrubs and as a result pastures for livestock are largely destroyed. These bush fires also ravage the forest reserves in the District and render them hardly distinguishable from the surrounding vegetation.

Geology & Minerals
Geology: The main rock types underlying soils of the District are Granitic formations, Birimian rocks, Voltaian shale and Alluvia material or deposits.
  • Granitic Rocks including hornblende granite constitute over 70% of the geological formations of the District and cover about 153, 295 hectares of the area.
They stretch across the northern section of the District from Chuchuliga to Doninga, covering greater part of Sandema and Siniensi Zones.  They extend southwards to Wiaga, parts of Gbedema, Uwasi and Southern Fumbisi.  Few iron as well as concretions of manganese dioxide and calcium carbonate may be found in these rock deposits.
  •     Birimian rock formations:  These cover approximately 11,905 hectares or a          little over 5% of the sub-soil and are found extensively in eastern and southern parts of Kadema.  They are also localized outside Fumbisi south.  The Birimian formations have abundant green stone brash aggregates with some quartz stones in a matrix of brown to reddish brown silty clay.
  • Voltaian Shales:  The Voltaian Shales are relatively minor in extent and cover 10,950 hectares or about 5% of the District.  They are in the South Eastern and Southern parts of the District, mostly around Uwasi and Gbedembilisi area and in the flood plains of the White Volta.
  • Alluvial Deposits: These constitute the second largest group of geological formations in the District and are made up of recent and old alluvia sand stones as well as very old river terraces.  They cover some 28,970 hectares or 19% of the land area and are found mostly in the terraces of the White Volta and its tributaries, namely Sissili, Kulpawn and Kandembeli.  They cover parts of Wiesi, Gbedembilisi and south of Uwasi.
Soils
As noted from above, the soils of Builsa District are developed from five different geological formations namely Granite, Birimian rocks, Voltaian shale, Recent and Old Alluvium of mixed origin and Very Old River Terraces.  Out of these, the dominant soil groups in the District are of granite origin and they cover over 70% (approximately 153,300ha) of the District’s land area.  They form the predominant soils in the northern half of the District and more than half of the southern section. 

Most of these soils are Gravelly and concretionary, except for the lower slope and valley bottom soils, which are generally free of gravel and concretions. Majority of the soils can be used for agriculture except the Wenchi and Chuchuliga series, which are considered as non-agricultural soils.  This is because of the presence of iron pan boulders, occurrence of iron pan at shallow depths, rock outcrops and little profile development in some of these soils.  These non-agricultural soils cover more than 2.0% of the District.

The second largest groups of soils in the District are those derived form alluvia of mixed origin and those on very old river terraces.  These soils, which cover approximately 19.0% (28.970 ha) of the District, are the best agricultural soils.  They are characteristically gravel-free, non-concretionary, deep to very deep and medium – to heavy – textured.  In terms of drainage, these soils fall into two broad groups; well to moderately well-drained and imperfectly to poorly-drained.  With good water control measures and effective soil management practices, these alluvial soils can be cultivated to a very wide range of crops.  They are also highly suitable for both hand and mechanized cultivation.

The soils developed from Birimian rocks and Voltaian shale form the smallest group in the District.  The soils of Birimian rock origin cover a little over 5.0% (11,905ha) while those of Voltaian shale, are about 5.0% (10,980ha) of the District’s land area.  The middle to lower slope and valley bottom soils of the Birimian rock origin are generally deep, gravel-free and non-concretionary and, in some cases, brashly.  Most of the soils of Voltaian shale origin are gravelly and highly concretionary.  Iron pan may also occur in them as exposures or as a massive, compact and manganiferrous layer at shallow depth.  The valley bottom soils of the Volta-Lima Association on the other hand are deep to very deep and may have no iron pan.  These soils occur on level land and are therefore, suitable for mechanized farming under effective water management.

Irrespective of their geographical formation, all the soils are generally low in fertility, especially nitrogen, phosphorous and organic matter. In general, greater part of the soil covers of the District is poorly drained. Intense erosion overtime has contributed to serious reduction in soil depth and thereby to loss of arable surface.

The alluvial soils of the South are on the whole very suitable for rice production due to the seasonal flooding in the areas. It is envisaged that the regular application of mineral fertilizers and maintenance of high organic matter levels will sustain crop production in the District.

Natural Resource Development Potentials  
The Builsa District has been endowed with very rich natural resources.

Mineral Deposits
Preliminary exploratory work carried out in the District indicates that Builsa abounds in large quantities of several mineral deposits ranging from Gold, Chromites, Rutile Jasper Talc, Lime, Feldspars, Nepheline Syenite and varied types of clay.

Clay
It is known that several of the Soil Associations found in the District have large quantities of good quality clay deposits.  In particular, the Pusiga Association of soils found in and around Wiaga has large amounts of fine, sandy clays at depths of 30-35cm below the top-soil up to over 120cm of the sub-soil.  Clay is also found in Sandema, Fumbisi, Kadema and Gbedembilisi.

These clay deposits could be exploited for the development of the pottery, ceramics and paint industries.  Bricks and Tiles projects also have potentials in the District and a wide range of brick products such as building bricks; vitrified enamel bricks and floor tiles could be produced.

There are some noted towns in the District with long histories in pot making (e.g. Fumbisi, Kanjarga) and the entrepreneurial skills of these indigenous people could be tapped through credit support for input acquisition and training.

The availability of electric power could also serve as a great asset in boosting and modernizing the clay industry in the District.

Gold
Varied quantities of gold deposits have been discovered in areas around Kadema and Chansa.  It is reported that the gold deposits occur within the Birenya Association of soils in the area and are found in a seam of quartz gravel and stones embedded in 30cm of iron and manganese concretion in the sub-soil.

Bachonsa and its surrounding areas were also reported to have some amount of gold deposits.  Alleged “Galamsey” activity that emerged in the area but was stopped by the police for its possible catastrophic effect on the environment provides further evidence for the existence of the precious metal in that locality. Again in 2006 Rangold Limited of U.K. acquired a license to prospect for gold in the Builsa District. A preliminary report on the exploration exercise indicates a high probability of striking large gold deposit in the District.

Quarry Stone
Granite constitutes the dominant geological formation in the District and covers over 70% (approx. 153, 300 ha) of the land area occurring mostly in the northern section. Excellent exposures of granitic rocks are therefore found in the northern parts of the District, stretching from Chuchuliga Zone across Sandema to Bachonsa area.

These rocks can easily be quarried for stone as road and housing construction material.  Some of these rocks have fine crevices and can be shaped into ornamental and design blocks commonly used in housing construction.  It is important to note that a detailed mineralogical test is required to establish the actual quantity and quality of the various mineral deposits in the District for industrial use.

Dam/Dug-Outs
Presently the District has 17 Dams and Dug-outs.  These dams serve as sources of drinking water for a wide range of livestock besides being used for dry season vegetable production.  In view of the high market demand for vegetables like onions, tomatoes, peppers, garden eggs and most leafy vegetables, dry season irrigation gardening has enormous potential for boosting the income generating capacity of the District.  Massive investment in the area will generate employment opportunities for majority of the economically active age group, particularly the unemployed youth and thus help reduce the incidence of poverty in the District.

Forest/Game Reserves
There are eight (8) Forest Reserves in the Builsa District, namely Bopong, Sissili Central, Pogi, Kandembeli, Wiaga and Gia reserves.  The largest of these is the Sissili Central Reserve, which covers 155.09sq Km. Together the forest reserves occupy a land area of 356.86sq km.  These forest reserves serve as important habitats for wildlife particularly endangered animal species.   They also help to protect the headwaters of most rivers/streams in the district and are important tourist attraction spots.

Land Resources (Soils) And Grain Production
By far the soils of the District are the most important of its natural resource potentials.  As indicated in Section, 1.1.6 the District with total land area of 2220sq km has 14 different soil Associations developed on five geological formations, namely granite, Voltaian shale, Birimian rocks, Recent and Old Alluvial of mixed origin and very old river terraces.  Apart from the Chuchuliga and Wenchi Associations which have little Agricultural value in general due to the thin and sometimes stony top soils and the presence of granitic inselbergs and outcrops, most of the soils are suitable for the cultivation of a wide range of savanna grain and tree crops such as millet, maize, sorghum, rice, groundnuts, cotton, Soya beans, guinea-corn, sheanuts, dawadawa and root tubers like potatoes.

The well-known Fumbisi valleys consist of a vast tract of land that stretches from southern Fumbisi and Uwasi to Wiesi and Gbedembilisi at the confluence of the Sissili and Kulpawn rivers.  The zone has mostly alluvia soils developed from recent and old alluvium of mixed origin as well as those developed on very old river terraces.  Tanchera Association of soils developed on parent granite and Volta-lima, developed on Voltaian shale are also found in the area.  These groups of soils are the best agricultural lands of the District and are suitable for mechanized farming and cultivation of a wide range of arable crops.  It has the potential of offering land for large-scale rice farming and it is believed that about a third of the total rice produced in the country is from these valleys.

The District Assembly is leaving no stone unturned in tapping the benefits of the area.  For many years now, it has assisted farmers in the cultivation of rice in the area.  In 1998 for instance, it voted about 24 million of its share of the DACF under the Productivity Improvement and Income Generation Fund for the cultivation of what is popularly called “Low Risk Rice” which yielded good returns. In year 2002, the government also supported a Rice Growers Association of 15 groups with total membership of 150 farmers to cultivate about 600 acres of rice in the Fumbisi valleys.

In conclusion, it may be said that the valleys have enormous potential for increased agricultural development. What needs to be done is massive investment in the supply of agricultural inputs like fertilizer; improved rice seeds, credit/loans to farmers, tractors, etc.  Besides marketing avenues should be created by Government for the farm produce or alternatively a rice mill could be set up in the Upper East Region to absorb and process the several tones of rice produced in the area.  This move will add value to the paddy rice and help attract ready market for the product not only in Ghana but also in the neighbouring countries.

Constraints And Opportunities Of The  Physical Environment For Development
Opportunities: The main opportunities that exist in the physical environment for development of the district are:
(a)     Less pressure on the land

The District has a large land mass of 2220sq km, with high carrying capacity and about the lowest population density in the Upper East Region (34 persons per square kilometer compared to the Regional average of 104 persons per sq km). But for the small-holder traditional farming practices and the scattered built environment/settlements much of the district’s land resources are basically untapped.

(b) Mineral deposits:  As noted in Section 1.1.7. The rocks found in the District have some mineral deposits like gold, manganese and high quality clay, which have not been exploited.  Much exploratory work needs to be done to establish the industrial value of the minerals and the feasibility of any future extraction.

(c) Natural savannah vegetation, woodland, forest reserves, etc:  These protect the soils and provide much of the soil nutrients for plant growth as well as pasture for livestock grazing.  The natural plant vegetation and woodland also provide raw material for a wide range of semi-processed and processed products such as straw and bags, fuel wood, timber for housing construction, etc.

Besides, the 8 forest reserves of the District serve as natural habitants for a number of endangered plant and animal species and help to maintain ecological balance and biodiversity in the area.
(d)    Grains, Root and Vegetable Crop Production:  As noted earlier about 30% of the soils found in the District are alluvial and terrace soils suitable for large scale mechanized farming and the cultivation of various types of high value crops such as rice, millet, maize, sorghum, sweet potatoes, onion, pepper, tomatoes, garden eggs, okro and a number of leafy vegetables.

Constraints
The main constraints of the physical environment that hinder development are land degradation and desertification, seasonal water shortages arising from the extended dry season, the poor road network and the recurrent natural disasters like rain and wind storms, floods, army worm infestation, drought, etc.




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