Friday 25 September 2015

Impacts of land tenure arrangements on the adaptive capacity of marginalized groups: Lessons from Ghana

Dr Philip Antwi-Agyei, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), Ghana
Cohort 1 CIRCLE Visiting Fellow

It is undeniable that our climate is changing. Recent evidence suggests that doing nothing about our changing climate could have serious implications for the livelihoods of many people, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa. Climate change adaptation is, therefore, crucial if rural livelihoods are to survive the adverse impacts of climate change and variability. Yet, adaptation efforts by rural households are confronted with many challenges.
Philip Antwi-Agyei, Ph.D.

I recently published a paper in the journal Land Use Policy that highlights that the changing nature of land tenure in many parts of Sub-Saharan Africa adversely impacts on the efforts of different social groups of farming households to initiate adaptation measures. The paper employed participatory methods to explore the linkages between land tenure arrangements and land management practices in 6 study villages of different climate vulnerability status in central and northeast Ghana. The paper sought to understand the impacts of land tenure arrangements on climate change adaptation efforts of different social groups in Ghana. The overall conclusion from the paper is that “land tenure, within the broader socioeconomic, environmental and political contexts, is implicitly involved in shaping the vulnerability of poor female and migrant farmers” to climate change in Ghana. Here, I unpack the key messages from this paper and outline policy implications.

Land tenure arrangements may impact on land management practices
Different social groups pursue different land management practices based on land tenure arrangements. The study revealed that migrant farmers who were renting their farmlands, and have insecure tenure engaged in short term land management practices. On the contrary, indigenous farmers who have inherited their farmlands employed long-term land management practices and climate adaptation practices including agro-forestry systems that have the potential to reduce their vulnerability to the adverse impacts of climate change.

Secure tenure may impact on land property rights
Migrant farmers and female farmers with less secure tenure may lack property rights and are disadvantaged in sourcing credit and other facilities to initiate livelihood adaptation strategies to reduce their vulnerability to climate change.

Policy implications
The paper recommends the need to institute pragmatic measures to reduce cultural discriminations against women via land reforms and restructuring to take care of the rights of women farmers. Opportunities for women to own and formalise land titles should be vigorously pursued by the Government of Ghana, whist at the same time strengthening the capacity of state institutions involved in land transactions through institutional capacity building to enable them to function effectively. Finally, the rights of migrant farmers should be formally recognised in policy documents to enable migrant farmers to initiate land-based adaptations measures in a similar manner to non-migrant farmers.

Philip explaining a point during a focus group discussion with women farmers

Reflections on CIRCLE Fellowship
It is important to stress that although this paper was developed prior to my CIRCLE fellowship, substantial revisions were made during my CIRCLE tenure. Being part of CIRCLE has brought immense benefits and further broadened my scope for research. Crucially, it has provided several platforms for networking and collaboration. For instance, it has provided opportunities for me to be part of the Climate Change Working Group at my Host Institution, the University of Ghana. Further, it has afforded me the opportunity to work with researchers from my host institution on a larger project on “women, food security and climate change in Ghana”. Other networks and collaborations have been forged with researchers from the UK and Canada on climate change and urban ecosystems as well as “Climate Smart Cities and Climate Change”. More importantly, the CIRCLE fellowship has given me opportunities to be involved in a number of publications in leading peer reviewed international journals including Land Use Policy, Environmental Science and Policy, Regional Environmental Change, Sustainability, and the Journal of Environmental Accounting and Management. Much of the collaborative research started during this fellowship is likely to provide opportunities for research into various aspects of climate change vulnerability assessments and adaptation even beyond my CIRCLE tenure.

For a copy of this paper, please see the following web page:

Philip Antwi-Agyei (Ph.D.) is a CIRCLE Fellow hosted at the University of Ghana and his Home Institution is the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Ghana.

Monday 21 September 2015

CIRCLE Research: Contributing to Ecosystems Management, Restoration Ecology and Climate Change Mitigation

By Mrs Esther Ekua Amfoa Amoako, University for Development Studies, Ghana
Cohort 1 CIRCLE Visiting Fellow

I am a former fellow the UNU-LRT (United National University – Land Restoration Training) programme in Iceland. I have a background in Environmental Management which looks into policies and management of environmental and natural resources. I was enrolled in the six month UNU-LRT programme in 2012, which is where my interest in practicing restoration ecology began. In January 2015 I commenced the one-year CIRCLE Visiting Fellowship to further develop my research in this field.

Esther Ekua Amoako
Ecosystems management is important in climate change mitigation and adaptation. There are various forms of maintaining and improving ecosystems, mainly through conservation and preservation of species and habitats. The other forms of ecosystems management include restoration, and rehabilitation of degraded, damaged, destroyed or fragmented ecosystems.

Ecosystems degradation through deforestation, mining, bush burning, to mention but a few, create carbon sources that exacerbate the impacts of climate change. The irony is that while ecosystems degradation is a major cause of global climate change, the impact of climate change can in turn result in ecosystems degradation. When ecosystems are degraded the repercussions are enormous.

My research in the CIRCLE programme is on fire and terrestrial ecosystems management: The impact of anthropogenic bush burning on plant species and soils in West African savanna/ parklands. My focus is on the Northern Region of Ghana which is experiencing significant fragmentation of vegetation. The region which used to be categorised ecologically as the Guinea Savanna Zone is gradually transforming into Sudan Savanna (with fewer scattered trees). The result of human disturbances such as bush burning and deforestation has implications for both biodiversity and climate change.

My study is focused on measuring the density and diversity of tree species, soil seedbanks and soil nutrients under different fire management regimes. The seed bank experiment revealed a potential for natural regeneration of fire disturbed ecosystems. The soil organic carbon content is also measured and compared with tree densities on burnt and unburnt areas.

The study is contributing to the knowledge of fire in savannas in general and specifically to the Northern Region of Ghana, which has recorded higher occurrences of bush burning than the other nine regions of Ghana. It will serve as baseline information or reference for further studies, restoration of degraded lands, policies and advocacy on fire management.

Most Universities in Ghana place emphasis on issues of sustainable land management, biodiversity and conservation etc. which are more focused on the science and knowledge of environmental management. Ecological restoration, however, is the practice of restoring or rehabilitating degraded ecosystems which is what is needed most in sub-Saharan Africa.

Ghana for instance, has to buy back its diminishing (estimated at 1.3-1.7% per annum) vegetation cover and forest resources through restoration. Looking at a situation we find below calls for urgent actions from all stakeholders.

The satellite images below show the vegetation cover loss between 1973 and 2003 and anthropogenic fire active zones

Sources: Global Forest Resources Assessment 2010, Country Report, Ghana                       MODIS/ NASA 2012

A positive aspect of the CIRCLE programme is its support for networking with stakeholders: in particular sharing research information with non-acadamics and policy makers. I think the findings of my research can not be shelved but must be shared. It has a lot of policy implications  for ecosystems magement, which can be tranferred to all stakeholders. This can only be achieved through collaboration between my host and home institutions and others like the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Environmental NGO’s. This will surely reinforce the leadership enhancement aspect of the CIRCLE progamme.

In the long term, it is my hope and desire that indiscriminate burning will be reduced and more carbon sinks created to ensure healthy ecosystems that will contribute to mitigating climate impacts. My research is directed toward this objective and aligns firmly with the goal of the Society for Ecological Restoration.

Esther Ekua Amoako is a CIRCLE Visiting Fellow from the Unversity for Development Studies, Ghana, currently hosted at the University of Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania.

Friday 11 September 2015

Outcomes of the 6th Annual Ibadan Sustainable Development Summit (ISDS) 2015


2015 will see the replacement of the Millenium Development Goals with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It is therefore apposite to consider promises that the SDGs hold for overcoming the various development challenges in Africa. Africa cannot afford to be left behind in the on-going global development agenda setting. The ensuing SDGs, therefore, offer another opportunity for Africa to be more proactive in ensuring sustainable development in the continent as well as progressive transformation of economies and societies. Considering the disparate achievements of many African countries in the soon to be concluded MDGs, the organisers of the 6th annual Ibadan Sustainable Development Summit (ISDS) considered it apt to bring to the fore the level of preparedness or otherwise of the continent and what lessons it has learnt from the MDGs, as well as the expected roles from numerous stakeholders in the sustainable development spectrum.

The Organization of the Summit, Participation, Paper Presentations and Publications

The summit was organised by the University of Ibadan Centre for Sustainable Development (UI-CESDEV) in collaboration with the African Sustainable Development Network (ASUDNET) and Sustainable Development Solutions Network- Nigeria (NSDSN). It was held during 23 – 28 August, 2015. The theme for the summit was The Post-2015 Sustainable Development Agenda: Whither Africa?

About 230 people from 10 countries in Africa (Ghana, The Gambia, Kenya, Ethiopia, South Africa, Nigeria) and Europe (Italy, France, Netherlands, United Kingdom) participated at the summit. There were also representatives of Governments (including high-level delegation from the Gambia) as well as Non-Governmental Orgranisations (including the Nigerian Network of NGOs), Students and Alumni Associations. Young scholars and researchers presented papers on a range of sustainable development issues at the summit. There were two keynote addresses by Professor Godwell Nhamo of the University of South Africa (UNISA), a CIRCLE supervisor,  and Ambassador Oluseyi Onafowokan, the Nigerian High Commissioner to Ghana. 11 plenary sessions based on the sub-themes of the summit were led by seasoned scholars. A total of 67 technical paper presentations were made. The plenary papers will be published in the summit proceedings while authors of the technical papers are advised to send the revised papers for consideration and publication in the African Journal of Sustainable Development (AJSD) (

Formation of Research and Working Groups

For the implementation of the SDGs, the meeting grouped the SDGs by similarity and complementarity, and proposed the following five research and working groups for the purpose of driving research, advocacy and implementation of the goals. The summit therefore, set up five research and working groups around the Sustainable Development Goals as follows:

Group 1: Goal 1: End poverty in all its forms everywhere; Goal 2: End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture; Goal 3: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages; and Goal 8: Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all.

Group 2: Goal 4: Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote life-long learning opportunities for all; and Goal 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls

Group 3: Goal 9: Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation; Goal 11: Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable; Goal 12: Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns; Goal 16: Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.

Group 4: Goal 6: Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all; Goal 7: Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy for all; Goal 13: Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts; Goal 14: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable; Development; Goal 15: Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss.

Group 5: Goal 10: Reduce inequality within and among countries; Goal 17: Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development

Membership of the research and working groups comprises representatives from the academia, government and non-governmental organisations and they cut across institutions, disciplines and universities. Others are encouraged to join. The groups will be expected to compete for grants, do advocacy and enlightenment, regarding the SDGs. Several participants in the groups are also involved in the CIRCLE programme, including Prof Godwell Nhamo, from the University of South Africa; Prof Labode Popoola, from the University of Ibadan; Dr Olawale Olayide from the University of Ibadan and Dr Divine Appiah, a CIRCLE Visiting Fellow currently hosted at the University of Ibadan.

Need for Collaboration

Participants emphasized the need to actualize the important goal of partnership/collaboration as key to achieving the other goals. It therefore, resolved to sustain the unity of purpose demonstrated at the meeting by the key stakeholders from the civil service, universities, research centres, NGOs, students, and the private sector. The universities in particular, were challenged to take the leadership position in the implementation process, with government, providing the needed support. The meeting also highlighted the steps taken towards actualizing a pan-Africa partnership towards achieving the SDGs by Gambian President Yahya A.J.J. Jammeh’s  Pan-African commitment to Sustainable Development and support for an annual Ibadan Sustainable Development Summit. The Gambia President sent a powerful delegation of nine senior members in his government comprising a junior minister, permanent secretaries, Director General, and Special Assistants in the Presidency. This was viewed as exemplary, for which other African heads of government should emulate in subsequent summits.

Conclusion and Next Steps

The theme of the summit was very timely, as the summit offered a veritable platform on current debates on the sustainable development goals and underscored the role of Africa in the processes and expectations of implementation frameworks. The research and working groups are tasked with developing proposals and strategies for domesticating the Sustainable Development Goals for Africa, especially the ECOWAS region. They would also sustain the collaboration among the academia, NGOs, PSOs and governments in Africa. International support and collaboration were also emphasized as germane to achieving the SDGs. The seventh ISDS will take place in August 2016 and the theme will be determined in due course.

Labode Popoola
Director, CESDEV & Co-Director, SDSN-Nigeria

Olawale Olayide
CIRCLE Post-Doctoral Visiting Research Fellow, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Research Fellow & Coordinator, EPNARP,  CESDEV, University of Ibadan

For and on behalf of the Organisers

Friday 4 September 2015

ILRI emerging career researchers learn to use ‘paperless’ data collection techniques

By Joyce Maru from The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), Kenya

This post is re-posted with permission thanks to Joyce Maru from The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI). For the original post, please follow this link.

Emerging career researchers (ECRs) at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) were recently trained to better collect, organize and manage the data they generate during their day-to-day research activities, starting from data collection in the lab or field through to publishing of research results and archiving.

Using the Open Data Kit at ILRI Ethiopia

One of the tools introduced in the training was the Open Data Kit (ODK) which is an open-source suite of tools that helps organizations to author, field, and manage mobile data collection solutions. ILRI’s research activities are moving from paper-based data-collection methods to mobile-based options like ODK; therefore there’s a need to ensure that the emerging researchers who support ILRI scientists in the field are up-to-date with these new methodologies.

The combination of affordable, powerful, mobile devices (e.g. phones, tablets) and easy-to-use readily-available (open-source) software has significantly lowered the barriers to electronic-based data-collection. ODK tools are fairly easy to develop & use and help to speed up the processing for getting data ready for analysis. Furthermore these tools have the potential to decrease research costs, particularly in the long run, by using standard tools and databases and reduced cleaning time if pre-validation quality assurance has been included in the tool design.
This is the stuff that takes data collection to a new level, aids in collecting and accessing data, thus moves the cleaning work faster.
Jesse Owino, PhD fellow
The ECRs were also introduced to ILRI’s biorepository popularly known as Azizi which is a Swahili word meaning ‘precious’. ILRI biorepository is a research service unit at ILRI tasked with ensuring safe, secure and efficient storage of biological materials and their related data. The aim is to develop a collaborative network of partners who share their samples and data, by encouraging the use of common protocols and systems, creating a virtual, distributed resource for probing the diversity of African livestock. The unit currently preserves a wide range of biological materials and has over 84,000 materials which are open source and can be widely used by the research community.
Thanks to CapDev and RMG for closing the tech gap between social and physical science through this training. I feel very equipped and ready to develop my first ODK data tool!
Violet Barasa, research assistant
The training was conducted by ILRI’s Research Methods Group (RMG) working closely with ILRI’s Capacity Development Unit (CapDev) and the People and Organizational Development Unit (POD) units. Twenty two participants, including PhD and MSc fellows and early career researchers (research assistants and technicians) attended the workshop.

The course was part of an initiative to provide learning opportunities to graduate fellows and staff that include a blend of a series of “bite-size” modular courses in cross-cutting skills areas, e-learning opportunities, effective mentorship support, evidence and assessment to further enrich the their learning experience at ILRI.