Across the world more than a billion people live without safe water. And nowhere is this challenge more pressing than in Ghana, where about a quarter of the country, or close to six million people, rely on surface water, leaving them vulnerable to water-related illnesses.
The situation is even more dire in the north of the country, where close to 50 percent of people don’t have safe drinking water.
UNDP is working with the Ghanaian government with an Adaptation Fund project to help the country adapt to climate change, improve its water management and promote sustainable livelihoods in rural communities.
The project is constructing and rehabilitating small dams and boreholes across northern Ghana, along with solar irrigation systems, rainwater harvesting and irrigation.
The work means that water is now available to local communities even during the dry season. Farmers can now cultivate their land and grow crops throughout the year.
The livelihood component of the project provides hives so farmers can keep bees for honey, and groundnut oil extraction which means women’s groups can produce shea butter.
The borehole dug in the Bihinaayilli community, strategically built between two primary schools, is now providing clean water.
“We used to suffer to get water, especially during the dry season as we had to travel a long distance. With this borehole, water is close by; we can only be grateful,” says Fatima Mahama.
The dry season is usually a difficult time for these communities as food supplies dwindle. But that has changed as the project has rehabilitated existing dams and constructed new ones where appropriate.
Communities can now farm year round. And they have increased their incomes by selling surplus fish, vegetables and other products.
“In Yindongo, we have a 24-acre dry season garden and about 100 women are benefiting from the initiative and are able to produce vegetables for personal consumption as well as for income,” says Madam Agabeni.
The livelihood component of the programme has directly benefited 5,407 people. It is anticipated that they will increase household incomes by at least 50 percent when a full scale individual assessment of their work is done by the close of the year four.
Communities have created a small enterprises that work on planting, harvesting, producing, processing, and marketing shea butter.
More than 60 percent of the communities live below the poverty line. Traditionally in Ghana, women are also culturally responsible for sustaining family livelihoods. Women have shown a great deal of enthusiasm for project as it means they’ll make more money.
“I am glad that I am part of the association. In the past, the production took time and effort. The training we are receiving from the project through the local NGO has built our capacity in production as well as in business investment. Today, I am able to expand my business in shea production and support my family, and send my children to school,” said Sulemana Amiu of the Zheng community.
More than 30,000 people from 25 communities have directly benefited from dry season crop production, tree planting, dams and boreholes, agro-processing, and beekeeping.
The project has informally spread to neighbouring communities who have witnessed the benefits and started replicating some of the activities.
In addition to transforming lives, climate action and resilience-building efforts help Ghana fulfil its commitments to the 2015 Paris Agreement, including executing the country’s Nationally Determined Contributions to reduce national emissions and adapt to the impacts of climate change.
These initiatives are also advancing Ghana’s efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This project supported progress on SDG 1 on poverty, SDG2 on zero hunger, SDG3 on good health and well-being, SDG6 on clean water and sanitation, SDG 13 on climate action and SDG 15 on life on land, among others.
For more information on the project, please visit: Increased Resilience to Climate Change in Northern Ghana through The Management of Water Resources and Diversification of Livelihoods
Story by Adey Tesfaye, Andrea Egan, and Muyeye Chambwera; Photos by UNDP Ghana