Enhancing the capacity of local stakeholders to promote agriculture and food security in semi-arid Ghana
11 Apr 2019 - 21:30
By Rahinatu Sidiki Alare and Prosper Adiku, Technical Officers, University of Ghana
In Upper West Region of Ghana, frequent climate-induced dry spells have affected farming activities, the predominant livelihood in the area. Here, the ASSAR project focused on building resilience for food security through knowledge creation and capacity support for relevant stakeholders in the Lawra and Nandom districts.
Through research and stakeholder engagements, we identified the key issues that could hinder or enable the future of agriculture in the region; and through the Transformative Scenario Planning (TSP) process, five action areas were identified to improve agriculture in the Upper West Region by 2035. These included disaster risk management, sustainable food and livelihood empowerment, improved marketing systems, ecosystem management and climate-smart water management. In line with these actions aimed at improving food security in the area, we developed and implemented a range of capacity building activities. Here we focus on two specific examples:
Grant for Local Adaptation Support (GLAS)
According to our research, climatic and non-climatic stressors affect the most vulnerable in society, due to structural inequalities perpetuated by traditional norms and customs. While women self-help groups (SHGs) are an important social safety net that helps overcome many of these barriers by increasing the resilience of women and their households, they are often limited in number and lack the needed capacity, skills and opportunities to be effective and sustainable.
The GLAS project aimed to enhance the adaptive capacity of the vulnerable through the training of women SHG leaders and the establishment of community-based advocacy and livelihood platforms, achieving the following: i) groups that previously acted in isolation in the two districts have been brought together at the leadership levels; ii) the groups have been registered as apex bodies at the respective district assemblies; iii) these groups have been linked up with the Business Advisory Centre (BAC) to facilitate their activities, access to credit and other future training programmes; iv) the groups have gained skills and processes to advocate on issues that negatively impact women livelihoods and wellbeing, holding regular meetings in this regard; and v) the women groups are now acting as trainers to empower other groups in the districts.
“Previously, we found it difficult as women to go to some offices like the district assemblies and financial institutions to ask for certain services, but with the help of ASSAR’s participatory method of engaging with us and other stakeholders, we feel confident to go to these offices. We were not united as well and were working in isolation, but through the GLAS project we now have women platforms that have been formally registered with the district assemblies working together to improve the wellbeing of women.” – Madam Mercy Jane Sanuoo, chairperson of the Lawra women platform
Climate Adaptation Through Youth Innovation (CATYI) Competition
Implemented as part of an ASSAR Small Opportunities Grant (SOG), the CATYI competition was developed on the conviction that the sustainability of climate change adaptation lies in the hands of the youth, hence the need to increase their awareness and involve them in the climate change discourse. Targeting students in second cycle institutions in Lawra and Nandom districts, the competition focused on generating community-level practical solutions based on the TSP action areas, through encouraging students to take action in their own capacities towards the environment.
“I will encourage people and let them know that we don’t have to wait for someone to motivate us or give us something to protect our environment. We have to work hard ourselves to promote the quality of nature.” – Maaku Samson of Lawra Senior High School
Both students and their supervisors commended ASSAR’s efforts to involve the youth. Mr Jacob Dumba, a tutor of the Lawra Senior High School asserted that the students “learnt so much about the environment and climate change through the competition”. He is of the firm view that establishing more environmental clubs in the schools will enhance students’ knowledge on environmental issues. Mohammed Ibrahim of the Nandom Senior High School, on the other hand, was grateful for being inspired and having his confidence built: “I learnt that you can’t be a good innovator if you don’t want to try.”
The competition achieved the following: i) identification of innovative solutions for community-specific climate and environmentally-induced challenges, with high potential for implementation; ii) students exposed to and able to contact existing youth-based environmental NGOs which have opportunities for youth involvement in environment and climate change action; iii) students more appreciative of the expansive nature of climate change impacts and more aware of the differences between northern and southern (coastal) Ghana through the recent visit to Accra; iv) enhanced capacity and skills of participants in identifying innovative solutions and communicating environmental issues. The students’ presentation skills also improved as some used PowerPoint for the first time.
The marriage between ASSAR’s research findings and the TSP workshops resulted in a clear understanding of the barriers and key areas that needed targeting to achieve more effective, widespread and sustained adaptation responses. The capacity building activities that followed sought to strengthen the ability of strategic stakeholders to act and remove such barriers, and to enhance vulnerable populations’ adaptive capacity and wellbeing.