28 November 2012

Ghana: Nation in the Grip of Climate Change


Ghana has undeniably felt the effects of climate change and, because of the country’s dependence on climate-sensitive sectors negative impacts are reverberating throughout the national economy.

One of the sectors most at risk from climate change is agriculture. In 2010, agriculture accounted for about 30% of Ghana’s gross domestic product and about 45% of all its export earnings. About 70% of the national population earns their livelihoods directly or indirectly through agriculture and forestry – farming, livestock rearing, fisheries, the marketing of farm produce, producing timber and wood products, or by providing services of various kinds to these sectors.

Research shows that the average temperature increases recorded in Ghana over the last 20 years are adversely affecting the productivity of important food staples, such as maize, millet, sorghum, rice, beans and yams.

The Northern Savannah breadbasket areas are particularly vulnerable. In these areas, maize, millet and sorghum have experienced negative growth since the early 1990s, in part due to rising temperatures and reduced rainfall. Based on these trends, the production of maize and other cereal crops is expected to drop about 7% by 2050. And under a dry scenario, overall agricultural production could fall by about 6%, with cocoa production – a major source of foreign exchange earnings – declining by more than 25%.

In recent years, the government of Ghana has taken steps to develop two draft policies on climate Change; namely: National Climate Change Policy Framework (NCCPF), and National Climate Change Adaptation Strategy (NCCAS) for 2010-2020. The NCCPF provides strategic direction for coordinating issues relating to climate change, and seeks to ensure that Ghana pursues a development path that is attuned to climate change. The NCCAS on the other hand strives to enhance the country’s current and future response to climate change impacts by strengthening its adaptive capacity and improving social and ecosystem resilience. Furthermore, the government has invested, though inadequately, in boosting smallholder agricultural productivity through targeted sustainable management of the environment and expansion of irrigated agriculture and more use of agrochemicals.

These advances alone are, however, not sufficient in mitigating the projected impacts of climate change. For example, while the NCCAS does recognize the impact of climate change on non-agricultural sectors, there is limited attention given to identifying linkages between these impacts and how they reinforce one another. The Adaptation Strategy does not adequately highlight the impact of climate change on the livelihoods of rural women (who comprise more than half of the agricultural workforce). In addition, climate change has not been effectively mainstreamed into Ghana’s national development plans, including Vision 2020; the Ghana Poverty Reduction Strategy; the earlier Growth and Poverty Reduction Strategy (2006–2009); and the current Ghana Shared Growth Development Agenda. There is clearly an opportunity for the NCCAS to facilitate stronger policy responses to climate change-related challenges, and especially as they affect women as key actors in agricultural production. Overall, government strategies have largely failed to set clear priorities, interventions, and targets that respond to climate change. Agricultural policies have not, to date, prioritised smallholder farmer adaptation. This points to the need for improved inter-sectoral integration in the interest of climate change adaptation.

Thus an urgent need exists for building the capacity of policymakers and other stakeholders with respect to issues relating to climate change, adaptation, and the role of innovation and new “climate-smart” technologies. Relevant training for policy makers and other important players is badly needed, as is the provision of accurate and timely climate change information. Education campaigns should also target women, the poor, and the illiterate among others – those who are traditionally disenfranchised.

The launching of a new project, funded by the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), which aims to support the realization of the government’s objectives to increase agricultural production in the breadbasket region of Northern Ghana is a move in the right direction.

The project, “Enhancing the Adaptation of Smallholder Farmers, especially Women, to Climate Change in Ghana”, will be implemented by Ghana Environment Policy Action Node and coordinated by the Science and Technology Policy Research Institute (STEPRI) of the CSIR. The project will focus on Ghana’s breadbasket areas – Northern Savannah, Afram Plains, Volta Region and Accra Plains. These locations are already feeling the effects of climate change and increasing weather variability trends that are likely to continue well into the future. The project will pay particular attention to vulnerable subgroups, particularly women, who play a major role in food production and distribution, and whose livelihoods depend primarily on small-scale agriculture.

The government must seize the opportunity to build on this and other such initiatives to design and implement appropriate climate change adaptation and mitigation policies – policies that promote social equity and help ensure food and income security in the decades to come.

Dr. Evelyn L. Namubiru-Mwaura, Land and Environment Policy Officer, AGRA and Dr. Nelson Obirih-Opareh, Principal Research Scientist & Head of Division, Agriculture, Medicine and Environment Division (AME), CSIR-STEPRI.

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