Climate Change, Resilience and Technology Transfer: The Role of WACWISA-UDS in Sustainable Agriculture through Green Energy and Irrigation


A persistent variation in indicators summed in climate, called climate variability, assumes climate change when this variability persists for a long period of at least ten (10) years. It is documented that the variability occurs from the activities of humans in pursuit of ‘development’. In fact, since start of the industrial revolution, climate has been faced with changes as a result of human activities, causing global warming and many undesirable impacts. Climate variability and subsequently its manifestation in changes of climate is inevitable as humans continue to pursue ‘development’.

‘Development’ has been characterised with dynamism in its definitional and operational terms, and thus continues to generate debatable indicators, activities, innovations and processes in its attainment. We can avoid being entangled in a web of historical documentation for definition and justification of the word ‘development’, and sum up the debate and divergent views by stating that ‘development’ is an end-fulfillment by a collective group of people that is achieved through the exploitation of natural and artificial resources.

It is thus not surprising to witness the dynamism associated with themes or goals commonly identified by the United Nations as summed up in the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for all societies, through which the attainment of these goals is expected to result in fulfillment. Our quest and process to this fulfillment is however characterised by complexities as well as linkages. For instance, industrialisation, employment etc. are associated with near-irreversible consequences in the long run, such as environmental pollution; though this can be minimised depending on the level of resources such as green technologies used in the industrialisation process.

Different epochs of human fulfillment have been characterised by climate variabilities leading to climate change, but have become pronounced with wide documentation and loud suggestions as being negative to human survival in recent times. Interestingly, it appears nothing positive is associated with this period of climate change – especially in the third-world nations or societies.

However, some predictions of the COVID-19 impact on economies are expected to yield positive results on climate variability; thus a reduction in emissions of poisonous/greenhouse gases and many other activities. But it is believed this will only be a short-term and therefore cannot become a climate change determinant. It would also not be fair to say that COVID-19 has yielded fulfillment, thus development. In a nutshell, climate variability and change has therefore been characterised by the concerns of global and international stakeholders; and this is expected to trickle down to regional, national and local activities.

Upon global emissions reaching record levels with the challenging task of predicting its peak-point, Secretary General of the United Nations Antonio Guterres called on leaders and major actors for a Climate Action Summit in September 2019. This call was made with the hope of nations developing realistic plans with a target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 45 percent by 2030. This is not to say concerns about climate change have been recent. The African Union in 2013 facilitated meetings and processes involving Regional Economic Communities (RECs) and member-states aimed at finalising a single strategic direction that would enable the continent to mitigate and adapt to the challenges and opportunities inherent in climate change.

“Today, the majority of Ghana’s poor live in northern Ghana – where the poor are also poorer. Participatory and quantitative assessments describe a situation where the poor in Northern Ghana are predominantly rainfall-dependent farmers. These farmers are highly vulnerable to shocks, given the limited diversification of their income sources…This is reflective of the absence of better off-farm opportunities in these regions.” (Tackling Poverty in Northern Ghana – World Bank, 2011).

After four (4) decades, addressing poverty and development in Northern Ghana appears more complex, especially as the continent and country are yet to overcome issues of climate change. With an estimated more than sixty percent (60%) of population participating in subsistence agriculture, northern Ghana also faces negative climate change consequences such as flooding, food insecurity and severe poverty. It is estimated that Ghana has an irrigation potential of 1.9 million hectares but only 11.6 percent being 221,000 hectares is currently under utilisation.

However, it has been documented that climate change cuts across many other sectors – and will also be more severe in Northern Ghana. During an Expert Meeting on National Adaptation Plans at Don Chan Palace, Vientiane, Laos, in 2011, Ghana’s climate change impact was highlighted in the sectors of agriculture, water resources, natural resources, energy, livelihoods, health and infrastructure, with varying degrees of consequences on vulnerable groups.

It is on this premise and many other considerations that the University for Development Studies (UDS) in northern Ghana is participating in various initiatives and development partnership activities such as the collaboration between the West African Centre for Water, Irrigation and Sustainable Agriculture (WACWISA) and international and regional donors on issues of climate change and sustainable agriculture. Academic, research and industrial collaborations remain key and a gap to fill in harnessing the opportunities associated with agriculture in the face of climate change and subsequent impacts in others sectors of the economy.

The African Centre of Excellence (ACE) Project, launched in 2014, is the first World Bank project in collaboration with nine (9) West and Central African governments aimed at the capacity building of higher education institutions specialising in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM); and Environment, Agriculture, Applied Social Science/Education and Health. The 2nd phase of the project, dubbed ACE II, with success resulted in the World Bank and French Development Agency (AFD) in collaboration with the African governments launching the ACE Impact Project in 2018 to strengthen post-graduate training and applied research in existing fields and support new fields that are essential for Africa’s economic growth.

The University for Development Studies (UDS), the first public university established during1992 in Northern Ghana, is benefitting from the World Bank and government of Ghana-sponsored ACE Impact Project. With establishment of the West African Centre of Water, Irrigation and Sustainable Agriculture (WACWISA) at the University for Development Studies through a competitive proposal development, selection and implementation systems in place, WACWISA is focused on ‘Building Capacity for Sustainable Solutions’ for the Africa region in the areas of irrigation, water resources, climate change, food and nutrition security, and sustainable agriculture. WACWISA works around these by undertaking cutting-edge research and training in these areas of focus, at the graduate level and also as short demand-driven courses.

WACWISA-UDS in 2021 signed a Memorandum of Understanding with GIZ Green People’s Energy Project to implement a sustainable capacity building initiative on Solar Powered Irrigation Systems (SPIS) in northern Ghana. The initiative on SPIS was implemented in the five northern regions – namely Northern, North East, Savannah, Upper East and Upper West – and aimed at building capacity of identified stakeholders on SPIS. The capacity development has been characterised with the construction of an SPIS demonstration site at the UDS Nyankpala Campus that supported the training of targetted technicians, installers, agricultural extension officers and credit officers aimed at addressing various aspects in the acquisition and use of SPIS for sustainable agriculture. This is to empower the users of solar-powered technology to improve sustainable use of water resources for irrigating farmlands across northern Ghana, which has a clear sky with limited cloud cover and high-level illuminance from the sun.

The project’s goal was therefore to develop and facilitate trainings in solar powered irrigation in Northern Ghana. The objectives include supporting staff participation in a Training of Trainers (ToT) on Solar Powered Irrigation Systems (SPIS) for facilitators relating to a Competency-Based Training module; providing support for the development of a Competency-Based curriculum in SPIS; undertaking capacity building of the SPIS for technicians/installers, financial support systems or officers, agricultural extension agents/officers, regional and district agricultural development units; providing a demo set-up for a hands-on training facility at UDS to be used for Competency-Based training of the actors; increasing the knowledge-economy of actors; the adoption of SPIS in the agricultural systems in the five (5) regions of northern Ghana; and also providing readily available backstopping and serving as a key link to the GIZ and related companies on SPIS to the value-chain actors in northern Ghana.

With the availability of sufficient surface and groundwater resources coupled with enough solar radiation for irrigation water pumping in northern Ghana, especially during the dry season, the energy needs for water-lifting have been recognised as very important. A Solar-Powered Irrigation System (SPIS) therefore presents itself as a very important system using the sun’s energy as a renewable resource. As part of the project, a SPIS demonstration site was established for training purposes at WACWISA – UDS at the Nyankpala Campus.

The writer, Tony Akpene Klu, is a Communications and Engagement Coordinator for the West African Centre for Water, Irrigation and Sustainable Agriculture (WACWISA) at the University for Development Studies.

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