Sophie tells about a training in the Ghanaian city of Tamale

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By Sophie van der Horst

26 / 01 / 2024

 

In January 2024, Sophie, Hasse and Felix facilitated a training course about climate change and agriculture at the University for Development Studies in Tamale (pronounce: ta-ma-lay, with stress on the first syllable). Sophie found it a beautiful and special experience. We asked her to tell us more about it.

Sophie van der Horst weet alles over dit project

Why did you give a training in Tamale?

Sophie: ‘The aim of our training was to make farmers in the Tamale area more resilient to the effects of climate change, using various adaptation measures. Over the past few years, droughts, floods and crop pests have impacted smallholder farmers in northern Ghana. This has a lot to do with climate change, which has made the rainy season in the area more erratic.’

‘One major topic that kept coming up in our discussions was the changing rain seasons and how unpredictable they have become.’

To whom did you give the training?

Sophie: ‘The training about climate change and agriculture took place at the University for Development Studies. For this, we worked together with our colleague Spyros Paparrizos from Wageningen University & Research. We had a diverse group that included students from the University for Development Studies of Tamale, staff from the Ministry of Food and Agriculture and the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, some risk and insurance advisers and a PHD student from the University of Parakou in Benin. Also, a staff member participated from the Sungold Farm Estate, an organisation dedicated to sustainable agriculture in Africa. The training was supported by Nuffic’s Orange Knowledge Programme.’

First training day: getting acquainted and gathering information

Sophie: ‘We kicked off the training on 16 January at the WACWISA Center for Excellence with a lot of excitement. In the introduction round, we found out that the participants really enjoy nature, the environment, farming, and animals. To start things off, we did a group exercise, focusing on climate change in Ghana. We used posters and impact chains to collect information about relevant hazards and their impacts. One major topic that kept coming up in our discussions was the changing rain seasons and how unpredictable they have become. Last year, some farmers faced difficulties because of the late start of the rain season, resulting in the loss of two rounds of seedlings. By the time the rain finally arrived, the farmers lacked the financial means to buy seeds for a third planting. I also discovered that farmers used to rely on signals from nature to predict the weather, like the flight patterns of flamingos or fruit bats. Unfortunately, these animals have disappeared.’

Second day of training: field trip and Drop App

Sophie: ‘On the second day, we first went on an excursion to the Golinga Irrigation Project dam. Issa, one of the participants, explained how the dam was built to provide water for the nearby communities where 4000 people live. We were amazed by the green surroundings of the dam since we had become accustomed to seeing dry fields during the dry season. We expected to see various irrigation methods like drip or sprinkle irrigation, but to our surprise, irrigation was done by women using buckets to collect water.’

‘We were amazed by the green surroundings. We expected to see various irrigation methods like drip or sprinkle irrigation, but to our surprise, irrigation was done by women using buckets to collect water.’

Sophie: ‘In the afternoon, we focused on different data types and portals. But students were clearly most interested in Spyros’ presentation about the Drop App, which is a weather prediction app for farmers using both scientific and indigenous forecasts. They could relate well to Spyros’ experiences with local communities in often remote areas. They asked many questions about costs, data usage, how engaged the members of local communities were and whether they had smartphones.’

‘I also discovered that farmers used to rely on signals from nature to predict the weather, like the flight patterns of flamingos or fruit bats.’

Third training day: adaptation measures and storytelling

Sophie: ‘After a morning session about adaption measures, we focused on storytelling. The aim of storytelling is to bridge the gap between knowledge providers, such as scientists, and end users, like smallholder farmers. We encouraged creativity and many storylines were created using drawings and AI generated images. One of the stories was about Adam, a maize farmer in the Northern region. In 2017 he experienced a lot of crop damage. He was desperate, feeling his livelihood threated. An extension officer from the ministry helped him to take adaptation measures. In 2020, he had a successful maize harvest.’

Final day: presentations, presentation of certificates and guided tour

Sophie: ‘Friday was the day of celebration! The students shared their case studies, bringing together various training topics from the training, like engaging with stakeholders and storytelling. After the presentations, we gave out certificates, accompanied by a big round of applause. The final activity was a guided tour around the campus by Didier, one of the participants. The tour highlighted various climate-smart agriculture measures, like greenhouses. The tomatoes growing in the greenhouses are protected from extreme heat and water demand is reduced by 75%, Unfortunately, most farmers cannot afford a greenhouse, even though the return on investment is only 3 years.’

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