Members of the Ghanaian Parliament have committed to support the mainstreaming of climate change into agricultural investment initiatives in Ghana, including research on climate-smart agriculture to benefit the most vulnerable populations.
On 29 January 2014, government ministers, members of parliament and other high-level policy makers in Ghana took part in a seminar on the impact of climate change and long-term climate risks for agriculture and food security in Ghana.
The organizers had two core objectives for the seminar: (1) to make parliamentarians and high-level policy makers aware of the vulnerability of Ghana’s agriculture and food systems to climate change and (2) to advocate for policy and budgetary support for action to adapt Ghana’s agriculture and food systems to climate change.
The 80 plus participants included two ministers, seven members of parliament and chief directors and directors from the ministries of agriculture and the environment, the Ghana Meteorological Agency and CSIR.
The seminar was organized by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) Animal Research Institute and the Environment Unit of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA) on behalf of the Ghana climate change, agriculture and food security platform.
It was chaired by Dr Abu Sakara, presidential candidate of the Convention People’s Party (CPP) during the latest election, and hosted by Deputy Minister of MoFA, Dr Ahmed Yakubu Alhassan. The meeting was co-hosted by the Ministry of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation (MESTI).
Ghana is one of the African countries most vulnerable to climate change, said Dr Alhassan in his keynote address. Most of its population depends on agriculture for their livelihood, and rainfed agriculture predominates.
Dr Alhassan noted that Ghana has made some encouraging progress in putting in place cross-sectoral initiatives to address the effects of climate change on agriculture and food security, but highlighted the need for strong action at the sectoral level to transform current national strategies into implementable actions in the ground.
Although there is some awareness of the impact of climate change on agriculture and food systems among policy makers in Ghana, he noted, there is little effort at the high policy level to address it, hence the need for the seminar.
Speaking on behalf of the Minister for Lands, Forestry and Natural Resources, Deputy Minister Barbara Serwaa Asamoah highlighted rapid changes in rainfall patterns in Ghana, resulting in longer dry seasons, drying up of rivers, increased erosion and loss of soil fertility. She outlined efforts by the Ministry, the Forestry Commission and other partners to mitigate the effects of climate change, and assured the MoFA of their readiness to collaborate in cross-sectoral efforts to address the challenges of climate change.
Technical presentations by Dr Robert Zougmoré , Regional Program Leader for West Africa of the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), Dr Abdulai Salifu, Director General of CSIR, Dr Emmanuel Tachie-Obeng from the Ghana Environmental Protection Agency highlighted the challenges climate change poses for Ghana’s agricultural sector.
Dr Zougmoré indicated climate models suggest maize yields will decline by up to 20 percent across much of Ghana’s maize-growing area and overall yields will fall by 7.5 percent by 2050. He used examples of plausible future scenarios for agriculture to illustrate the need for actions at the West Africa level, Ghana country level and community level. Dr Salifu focused on the importance of research in addressing the impacts of climate change on agriculture in Ghana.
He gave a comprehensive overview of the impacts of climate change on Ghana’s agriculture, water resources and fisheries, and the role national research must play in climate-change adaptation and mitigation initiatives. Dr Tachie-Obeng reiterated these messages, focusing on actions that would help rural communities and urban populations to deal with the effects of climate change.
Participants watched the CCAFS video, Two degrees up – Part 2: Ghana, which tells the story of the impact of climate change on resource-poor farmers in Ghana.
“We used to get huge harvests of millet, maize and groundnuts,” said one farmer, “but now we don’t get anything. Our soil is poor and the rains are also low. The temperature is never coming down … that’s why our crops don’t do well any more.”
Through dramatic photographs, the video brings home the plight facing farmers and their families in Ghana and the efforts they are making to adapt to their changing world. The video closes with a call to action to help farmers deal with the impacts of climate change.
During the active question-and-answer session following the presentations, participants asked for more information on what concrete solutions the research community is suggesting to address the adverse effects of climate change on Ghana agriculture and its economy.
Some parliamentarians were also interested to know more about the possible use of genetically modified crops in climate-change adaptation. Information aimed at government ministers, parliamentarians and other high-level policy makers must feature clear messages about what actions can be taken to help alleviate the impact of climate change in the immediate future as well as longer-term actions needed to build resilience and adapt agriculture to the new climate realities of the future.
As a first step in this process, the meeting’s organizers presented all participants with a copy of West African Agriculture and climate change: a comprehensive analysis, a new book from the International Food Policy Research Institute that examines the food security threats facing West Africa and explores the efforts that will be needed to address the impact of climate change on food security in the region.
At the end of the seminar, participants thanked the Ghana platform for organizing the event. In his closing statement, Mr Edem Asimah, Chair of the Parliamentary Select Committee on the Environment, gave a commitment on behalf of all participating parliamentarians, to support the effective mainstreaming of climate change into agricultural investments initiatives in Ghana, including support for research on climate-smart agriculture to benefit the most vulnerable populations (see statement).