Tackling climate change and desertification in Northern Ghana

 Mary pruning her cashew plant.
Saturday, December 3, 2022

Due to population pressure, woodlands in Northern Ghana are shrinking at an alarming rate. The livelihoods of farmers are facing a crisis on multiple fronts. Despite this, tree felling for charcoal production and bush burning, coupled with unsustainable farming practices, urbanization, and construction, contribute to severe deforestation. This is resulting in the loss of biodiversity, putting farmers' livelihoods in serious jeopardy.

Farmers in Sori No. 1 in the West Gonja District, such as Mary, a mother of two children, have already begun experiencing the impact of these activities. She fears that these practices will take away their livelihood from them if nothing is done. Mary believes inclusiveness is foundational to the national landscape restoration processes and women who suffer most in all of these need to be allowed to lead in the landscape restoration processes.

Thankfully, the European Union-funded Landscape and Environmental Agility across the Nation (LEAN) Project being implemented by World Vision in the West Gonja and Kassena Nankana Districts is using an integrated approach to build farmers’ resilience by promoting sustainable environmental practices.

The LEAN project is a 4-year intervention that seeks to directly support national efforts to conserve biodiversity, improve the livelihoods of small-scale farmers, build climate resilience, and reduce emissions from land-use changes across Ghana’s savannah, high forest, and transition zones.

The project is also addressing three structural barriers that have historically hindered efforts by governments, civil society organisations, and the private sector to halt land degradation and deforestation through the uptake of landscape approaches.

“Climate change is manifesting at a very rapid pace in Northern Ghana. To ensure building communities and small-scale farmers’ resilience, World Vision has trained and built capacities of 2,999 farmers on integrated land management (ILM) practices,” said Joseph Yelkabong, LEAN project manager.

He added that World Vision in Ghana facilitated training on conservation agricultural practices such as zero tillage, green manuring, burning-free, and mulching for 1,000 farmers, improving significantly their skills and knowledge on conservation agriculture practices and soil management.

Combating poverty and hunger among poor farmers

Aside from empowering communities and local farmers with skills and knowledge on Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration (FMNR), the project is facilitating the establishment of alternative livelihoods for the beneficiary communities. FMNR is a low-cost land restoration technique used to combat poverty and hunger among poor farmers. The practice increases the production of food and wood (timber) and builds farmers’ resilience to climate shocks and stresses. This is minimizing farmers’ reliance on forest resources and drastically reduces forest and land degradation.

So far, more than 17,000 seedlings of varied tree species such as cashew, acacia, mahogany, and teak have been distributed to local farmers. For a lasting regreening and a contribution towards the fight against climate change and desertification in Northern Ghana, the project is raising 32,000 seedlings of shea and 10,000 seedlings of rosewood.

Rosewood and shea are unique tree species with both ecological and economic advantages. They have a long lifespan and the ability to withstand harsh weather conditions. Rosewood is highly rich in nitrogen and high in demand within the wood industry while shea provides butter (oil) that is globally sought by the cosmetic industry. The initiative to raise and plant shea and rosewood will trigger changes that will traverse many grounds in any regreening initiative in the north, thanks to EU-LEAN Project.

World Vision in Ghana is achieving these by working closely with decentralized structures, local community leaders, and farmers and gradually and sustainably restoring degraded landscapes, improving soil fertility, enhancing the ecosystem and bettering the lives and livelihoods of the poor and vulnerable farmers.

This, Mary said, is currently helping restore hope for the Sori No. 1 community witnessing rapid deforestation and livelihood losses.