By Prince Ansah and Ekua Odoom
Communities in Upper West region of Ghana suffer more than seven months of dry spells each year, affecting agriculture and food security for many households. As climate change exacerbates this risk, the calls for adaptation solutions at the local level also increase. During this period of dryness, vulnerable farmers have to make the hard choice of migrating to southern Ghana as an adaptation option or engage in dry season farming with the limited water resources available in the region. Farmers who have access to farmlands along the water sources (rivers, dams and dugouts) are usually faced with inadequate access to extension services which results in low-crop yields, making dry season farming an unprofitable venture. ASSAR Ghana's Scenario Based Capacity Building (SBCB) activities were designed to support efforts to resolve these challenges.
The SBCB workshops, held in two districts (Nandom and Lawra) in the region, brought together three key players (farmer groups, input dealers and extension officers) to discuss and strategise for the dry season farming activities. As part of the workshop, stakeholders produced a set of advisories that will inform and help farmers to adequately plan for agriculture activities during the dry season. The advisories cover practical agronomic and water management activities that are climate resilient and enable high crop productivity.
A workshop participant expressing his views during an open discussion on the advisories.
To make the farming advisories more meaningful and relevant to ordinary farmers and support extension work, the ASSAR team partnered with three institutions at the local level (Department of Agriculture – DoA, Planning of Office of District Assemblies, and the Nandom Dinery Integrated Rural Development Partners – NANDIRDEP) and others from the national level (Ghana Irrigation Development Authority – GIDA, the Ministry of Food and Agriculture – MoFA, and Innovation for Poverty Action – IPA) to set up Climate Advisory Resources Centres (CARCs) in Nandom and Lawra districts. The CARCs are digital information centres for training farmers and extension officers on climate change adaptation, water management and agronomic practices. CARCs are setup in four key locations, two in each district (one within the premises of DoA and another located within a popular input dealer shop). The CARCs and Adaptation Hub Mobile App complement each other as information hubs that provide much needed information at a local level, and promote agriculture and adaptation planning in semi-arid Ghana.
ASSAR technical officer Prince Ansah explains the purpose of the CARCs at Nandom.
The ASSAR Ghana team collaborated with the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (planting for food and job programme secretariat) and Innovation for Poverty Action (IPA) in Accra to select over 50 relevant agronomic-training/instructional videos on different crops (vegetables, legumes and cereals) grown in the region. These include instructional videos on compost making and use, agro-chemical use, land preparation, seed selection, water management, crop harvesting and storage, as well as marketing and other videos produced by ASSAR (e.g., experiential learning and TSP videos).
Workshop participants watching some of the training videos.
To set up the centres, the district department of agriculture offered a hall within their building to be solely used for this purpose. The local partners also collaborated with the team to select two credible input dealer shops to host the centres. Renovations were done at the given venues and later branded with ASSAR materials, including posters, tickers and banners. The items used for the setup included digital TV screens (49” and 32” at DoA premises and input dealer shops respectively), 64 gigabyte flash drives loaded with the videos, a phone for extension services, and a book shelf to keep ASSAR printed documents (briefs, reports and fliers).
ASSAR's Climate Advisory Resource Centre (CARC) that was set up at the Lawra district Department of Agriculture (Photo by Prince Ansah).
A phone at the centre for extension services.
A CARC that has been set up at an agriculture input dealer shop at Nandom Market (Photo by Prince Ansah).
The ASSAR team inaugurated the CARCs as part of the SBCB follow-up workshop. During the workshop, stakeholders discussed how the CARCs could be used to achieve optimal outcomes, as well as how to maintain and sustain the use of the facility. Participants were taken through some of the videos to access their applicability to the agriculture activities in the region. Participants then selected members to be part of the Climate Advisory Personnel (CAP) in each district. The CAP are extension officers and input dealers who will be responsible for managing and coordinating with farmers to use the facility. The ASSAR Ghana team and the local partners together agreed on the Terms of Reference for running the facility. National partners who work in the area have committed to supervise the use of the CARCs in both districts.
Stakeholders discussing how to maintain and maximise the use of the CARCs.
Some participants shared their excitement at the end of the inauguration:
“Anytime there is an initiative in the district, it only serves the interest of farmers. The CARCs are the only innovative initiative I know that will build the capacity of both the extension officer and the farmer at the same time.” – Extension officer, Lawra
“The number of extension officers in the district is very small compared to the number of farmers in the various communities. This centre will enable farmer group leaders like us to bring our groups to learn more about climate change and how different crops can be effectively cultivated with limited water.” – Farmer group leader, Nandom
“Farmers always come to us to seek advice on what chemicals and seeds to use during the farming and dry seasons. These videos will help make our work easier since we sometimes don’t even have the right information to give to them [the farmers].” – Stakeholder, Nandom
Participants at the SBCB follow-up workshop in Lawra.
With this initiative being the first of its kind in Northern Ghana, the next steps are to seek extra resources to expand this activity to more districts and to translate the training videos into the most common local language (“Dagaare”) spoken in the region. Even though the current videos are in English and it is possible to understand them with the visuals only, it will be more helpful with a translated version. Again, the team is looking forward to training more community leaders (both men and women) as CAP and extension support volunteers, who can help provide credible climate information and extension services to more vulnerable farmers in the region.