Feature Story

In Ghana, Resourceful Communities Transform Landscapes, Livelihoods

June 22, 2018

Ghana's arid north region has struggled with exacerbated poverty as a result of land degradation and climate change. Thanks to a project funded through the World Bank and Global Environment Facility, landscapes are being restored, productivity has increased and there is food to feed the family and sell any surplus.

Takorayili, a village in the Northern region of Ghana, is sprinkled with bare, scorched hills and rocky arid terrains. The soil is not able to retain rain water. It is not fertile enough to sustain the growth of plants. As the rain water runs off downhill and drains into channels that dry up as quickly as they are filled, it washes away the top soil and its nutrients.

The people who live there had no other option than to till the land as it is, often using the wrong approach. Because of this, Takorayili, like many of the surrounding communities, was synonymous with food insecurity. That was before the Sustainable Land and Water Management Program (SLWMP). Now, landscapes are being restored, productivity has increased and there is food to feed the family and sell any surplus.

“The project taught us how to protect our land and enhance the nutrients in the soil,” said Takora Dininbahara Dauda, Chief of Takorayili village. “We have increased our yields and can now feed our people.”

Located in the heart of West Africa, Ghana is renowned for its tropical forests, cocoa and rapid economic growth. But, in the arid north, where most of the country’s poor people live, land degradation and climate change have exacerbated poverty.

“Ghana presents an interesting story of evolution in innovative land management,” said Magda Lovei, World Bank practice manager.  “Since 2009, sustained commitment, strategic planning, gender inclusion and strong partnerships between agencies and resourceful communities have transformed both the landscapes and the livelihoods.”

Institutions, people and financial structures have created a robust enabling environment, supported by the $30 million SLWMP funded through the World Bank and Global Environment Facility under the TerrAfrica Partnership.  

Thanks to the program, Ghana’s fragmented habitats are now connected and are becoming natural habitat corridors adjoining productive landscapes. The program design combines a package of soft and hard investments and community level interventions to promote the adoption of sustainable land and water management. Key features include community watershed planning and Community Resources Management Areas (CREMAs), which create and nurture local groups to conserve the resources. This has strengthened community ownership and empowered vulnerable groups.

“I have 40 mango trees and I used to make 40 trips a day to the stream to water them,” says Habiba Abu, a 75-year woman farmer from Kpalinye, in the Wa East District. “This used to take me several hours. Life is better now…I have access to water on my farm and can eat twice a day. Before, eating once a day was nearly impossible.”

The program is contributing to honing farmers’ skills, building their capacity and raising crop quality with technical assistance. Elements of sustainability are realized by bringing in the private sector. Companies such as The Savannah Fruits Company, which produces hand-crafted shea butter, pay a premium for organic shea nuts and helps women gain financial independence.

“Before there was no profit, but now we make profit and even get a bonus,” said Kavor Mariama who picks certified organic shea nuts from the Gbele reserve. “

An approach using integrated landscape management is now in place with a focus on enhancing resilience and food security.

“Momentum has been created, and good practices are spilling over to adjacent communities,” said Gayatri Kanungo, World Bank senior environmental specialist. “But more communities need to be reached, broader landscapes transformed and proven results scaled-up to meet the growing demands.”