CHANGES IN RAINFALL AFFECT ALL FARMING ACTIVITIES

Climate change in Ghana has caused crop failures leading to yield reduction and food insecurity in the region. Most vulnerable to this variability and change in climate are smallholder farmers. Changes in rainfall affect all farming activities.

The Pra River Basin primarily produces cocoa, Ghana’s most valued economic crop. It is also the leading producer of maise and cassava, the country's first and second food security crops. Research in the basin reported that rainfall could reduce by 1.77% between 2020 and 2049, shifting from a bi-modal pattern to a mono-modal way of rain starting in late March and ending in November. The mean temperature was projected to increase by 1.51 degrees Celsius simultaneously.

These projected changes in rainfall and temperature could reduce surface water yield in the 2-16mm range with both flood and drought consequences in the basin.

Farmers are vulnerable to increased temperature and changes in rainfall, especially in the growing season, with a noticeable impact on their yield. They are informed about climate change through personal observations and radio broadcasts. Although most farmers adapt to climate change through changing planting dates, only about 30% have access to weather information, mainly through radio broadcasts - which has yet to prove reliable. Moreover, only farmers with larger farm sizes and a high level of climate change awareness were likely to access climate information because of its relevance in protecting crop production from significant losses due to climate change. Most farmers in the Pra River basin rely on their indigenous skills in predicting weather conditions for their farm-level decisions.

“I believe the indigenous people have been adapting to changing living conditions in the past and know how to tackle problems around them, including climate change. Therefore, giving them an opportunity through co-production of solutions to the issues of sustainability of the environment on climate change will make the world a better place. I believe, through my research and combining skills from the social and natural sciences, I can create an innovative way of making integrated scientific and indigenous weather and climate forecast accessible and user-friendly to improve the preparedness of the local people for climate change impacts on their lives and economic activities,” says Dr Enoch Bessah.

Dr Bessah’s FAR-LeaF research project is titled Co-production of integrated indigenous and scientific weather and seasonal climate forecast for climate change adaption in the Pra River Basin of Ghana. His study investigates and hopes to improve climate services in the Pra River Basin through co-production by integrating scientific and indigenous forecasts to support farm-level decision-making.

The study will assess the potential of climate information services in supporting farming decisions in the study area and identify farmers' specific weather and seasonal climate information needs. It will then assess the skill of available seasonal climate forecast models in meeting the climate information needs of farmers and determine the performance of indigenous and scientific forecasts. Lastly, it will assess the influence of weather and climate information on farm-level decision-making.

Expert interviews, focus group discussions and feedback workshops will be done to assess the core social-ecological issues farmers perceive as critical challenges that require the development of weather and seasonal climate information services.

The results of Dr Bessah’s study will serve as an essential building block to formulate strategic ways to improve climate services in Ghana and, in doing so, potentially help alleviate food insecurity while increasing farmers’ economic status.


Combining methods will aid in verifying the quality of the data gathered from the study area. Workshops and interviews will be used to identify the indigenous ecological indicators farmers use for forecasting and to explore the techniques behind the indigenous forecasts. Forecast verification methods will be employed to evaluate the performance of indigenous and scientific weather and seasonal climate forecast data concerning farmers’ measured rainfall and the district’s automatic weather station measured records and to estimate the reliability of integrated forecasts compared to indigenous and scientific predictions.

The results of Dr Bessah’s study will serve as an essential building block to formulate strategic ways to improve climate services in Ghana and, in doing so, potentially help alleviate food insecurity while increasing farmers’ economic status. It will also contribute to research on the co-production of climate services. Using citizen science to collect and handle indigenous forecasts and observed rainfall provides insights that can be used for citizens' future engagement in meteorology and atmospheric science. It will create a second-generation climate information service for the Pra River Basin and identify the specific climate information needs for climate-smart agriculture.

Heidi Sonnekus | FAR-LeaF Program

 

The Future Africa Research Leader Fellowship (FAR-LeaF) is a fellowship programme, focussed on developing transdisciplinary research and leadership skills, to address the complex, inter-linked challenges of health, well-being, and environmental risks in Africa.