Exploring the competing uses of water in Ghana’s Lawra District

14 Jun 2017 - 10:00

By Abu Thelma Zulfawu

Photo by Neil Palmer (CIAT)

The Upper West Region of Ghana is experiencing increasing climate variability. This is especially true for rainfall patterns, which directly affect the quantity and quality of water for domestic, irrigation and livestock use. The uneven distribution of boreholes and other sources of water in the region spurred me to conduct a study in four rural communities of the Lawra District in Ghana to identify how water is used and managed in a changing climate.

Farming is the main occupation in all four communities, and everyone relies on boreholes for water. However, some communities also have access to other water sources. For example, Kampuoh community has only one source of water (a borehole), whereas Metto community has access to four boreholes, a dam and the Black Volta River (which forms the border between Ghana and Burkina Faso in two of the communities).

I found that the functionality of the boreholes is poor, especially during the dry season. Throughout my research, at least one borehole was faulty in each community, while the dam and river were almost dried up during the dry season.

The communities who have more than one source of water, use differences in water quality to allocate water sources to particular uses. For example, community members perceive borehole water to have the highest quality so they use it primarily for domestic purposes. They then irrigate their crops and water their livestock using water from the rivers and dams.

Photo by Neil Palmer (CIAT)

Due to the scarcity of water, there is an increase in competition for the resource, which leads to an increase in water-related conflicts, especially during the dry season. The traditional leaders, which include the chief and his elders in each community, play a leading role in the resolution of these conflicts and the implementation of bylaws. This in turn helps the Water and Sanitation (WATSAN) committees to better manage water sources in the area. However, the traditional leaders believe that, unlike the boreholes, the management of the dams and rivers is not being prioritised.

With my research complete, I believe it is important to promote effective construction so as to avoid frequent breakdowns of the water systems and to ensure that water can be sustainably harvested from dams during the dry season. Solid infrastructure and technical know-how will support effective adaptation to climate change and help reduce water-related conflicts.