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Ghana's climate change adaptation landscape discussed from various angles

In the photo: Farmer in Lawra-Jirapa, Ghana. Expert team from various backgrounds came together for a “dialogue workshop”, discussing recent study of Ghana’s climate change adaptation landscape. Photo: P. Casier
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Researchers, academics and practitioners descended upon Oxford recently to join the second of three ‘Pluridisciplinary Dialogues” which form part of the Systemic Integrated Adaptation (SIA) project. The CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) works directly with the Systemic Integrated Adaptation (SIA) project team.

'The Dialogues' follow each field program and are an important step in the integration, review and synthesis of findings towards systemic frameworks for integrated adaptation planning. The events aim to bring together experts to critique and review approaches and findings, and work together to draw out integrated, scalable and replicable recommendations.

A corresponding event was held in September last year following on from SIA’s South Asian field program.

The recent event follows on from SIA’s West African field program. The team have spent four months working across the many levels of Ghana’s climate change adaptation landscape; from CCAFS’ baseline sites in the districts of Lawra and Jirapa, to the Upper West and Upper East regional capitals of Wa and Bolgatanga, to the country’s central administration in Accra.

Smallholder farmers in Ghana are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climatic change and variability due to the compounding impacts on yield from poor quality laterite soils, limited government investment in irrigation scheme or transportation lines allowing market access.

Learn more about our activities in Ghana: Groundnuts in Ghana: how change on the ground can combat change from above

Farmers are, however, adapting to global environmental change through shifting to improved crop varieties, changing cultivation practices (e.g. from mounds to ridges) and diversifying crop cultivation in to dry season vegetable farming.

The team documented why these adaptations are being implemented, what forces influence decision making and the impact of these interventions on ecosystem services and human wellbeing.

The SIA program, which aims to co-identify and support appropriate adaptation actions at multiple levels within the social, economic, political, and environmental systems in which small-scale farmers are embedded, has been conducted in Nepal and Ghana and a forthcoming site in Latin America. The program adopts a critical approach to these systems and their boundaries.  

More on research in Nepal by the Oxford team: Believable climate futures explored by Nepalese farmers

Doing so requires intense collaboration within the multi-disciplinary team, and with the farmers who are the ultimate beneficiaries of this work, as well as the governmental and non-governmental organisations that support them and the broader community of practitioners and academics.

The team employs a broad spectrum of approaches to achieve this, including the dialogues, which are themselves an important tool. The multidisciplinary approach is intended to draw a wider range of perspectives and worldviews in to the framing of climate change challenges and adaptation responses than would be possible in traditional single-discipline research.

The methods applied by the team are truly cross cutting; from highly quantitative techniques, including ecological measurements rooted in positivist science, to narrative approaches and visualization tools rooted in post-normal science.

Accordingly, integrating the methods and results of this research into a coherent framework for adaption across scales and levels is not without challenges. The dialogue addressed these interdisciplinary and inter-sectoral challenges directly.  

The attending group commended the CCAFS team and management for their efforts to achieve this more holistic (and realistic) interdisciplinary vision; efforts that will need to be replicated if we are to curb the impacts of climate change in complex socio-ecological systems.

“I’ve seen many examples of bad interdisciplinary research over the years.  And trust me, this is not that! It’s been an exciting opportunity for me to participate in this workshop and to contribute to the work that you’re doing”, said one attending participant from the development sector.

You can link to the SIA team’s Facebook page which provides regular updates and photos of the team in action and to see their research outputs.