Submitted by guest blogger on Tue, 08/29/2017

Blog written by Christine Omuombo and Washington Ochola

The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research recently hosted to a 3-day capacity development workshop for the WISE-UP project. It was conducted by ACCESS and helped shed light on trade-offs in water infrastructure development and decision alternatives in the White Volta basin.

The workshop provided a platform for basin stakeholders to share ideas, concerns and experiences on decision making regarding water use and infrastructural development within the basin in the wake of climate change. Through a facilitated dialogue process, the participants discussed the key lessons learnt from other water infrastructure developments in Ghana, identified the synergies and collaboration opportunities among institutions, and explored dynamics, tipping points and shocks.

Whatever management practice is put in place, impacts one stakeholder or another and until we agree and have a common vision, we will not have sustainable management structures for climate change adaptation and IWRM ” said Aaron Aduna, Water Resources Commission representative from Bolgatanga.

Under the 'WISE-UP to Climate' project, a theoretical water resource model was used to quantify trade-offs embedding benefits such as flood recession farming, pond fishing, river fishing and irrigated agriculture that are anticipated from the construction of the Pwalugu dam in the White Volta. Although validated and generated by the stakeholders, these trade-offs are unable to account for human behavior or unexpected responses under changing climatic conditions.

The Volta basin is a complex ecosystem with a number of interrelated variables such as climate variability, human factors, political and cultural issues that affect the adaptive capacities of the communities that need to be brought on board. The tradeoff analysis is a useful tool to capture these scenario interplays to come up with what would be acceptable to many stakeholders and could be considered as the optimum solution” said Felix Addo-Yobo, National Development and Planning Commission representative from Accra.

The implementation of water infrastructure projects in any basin faces difficulties in identifying the relevant stakeholders from local to national and to regional levels. In exploring the human and ecological dimensions through spatial mapping, cost benefit analysis and joint interrogation of tradeoff curves, the participants were able to identify the key stakeholders that may impacted by selected basin water infrastructure projects and decisions.

Identifying key stakeholders, their interests, meeting these interests and developing synergies in the implementation of hydro power projects is one of the key things that I have learnt from this workshop that we will be applying in subsequent projects that we will be undertaking as an authority” said Philip Padi from the Volta River Authority.

The current water resources optimization model in WISE-UP, developed by the University of Manchester, combines the biophysical and economic values of ecosystems to provide quantitative data relevant for decision-making. There lies a challenge in communicating emerging issues to key stakeholders such as policy makers, technical managers and other researchers in a manner that makes the science useful and applicable to their mandates and activities. The workshop integrated four plausible future scenarios that outline pathways based on basin governance and the adaptive capacity under a changing climate that had been developed by the stakeholders from the basin at a previous workshop facilitated by Dr. Washington Ochola from ACCESS in June 2016. These scenarios proved to be a powerful tool in the provision of context for the models at different spatial and temporal scales and for communicating information about future uncertainty to a wide range of stakeholders.

We are at the stage where very important results are emerging from the WISE-UP project where various important matrices have been incorporated in the optimization model. However from the social learning processes we are able to bring other concerns on board and allow stakeholders to explore how these additional matrices may impact on the levels of benefits that can be derived from basin” stipulated Emmanuel Obuobie, Country Project Officer from CSIR- WRI.

To automate the dialogue and trade-off analysis process, a dashboard was developed to capture the systems dynamics as reflected in the simplified forms of WISE-UP to Climate project results and stakeholder perceptions of impacts of key water use decisions based specific performance metrics. The dashboard reflects a simplified integrated (toy) model.

By exploring the emerging WISE-UP results, the stakeholders were able to interrogate the challenges, some of the underlying assumptions and expected outputs/outcomes of the project. It was clear from the workshop that in order for the project results to achieve impact, it is important for the researchers to clearly articulate the realities of water infrastructure project implementation practices and policies and to enable stakeholders to dialogue on decisions and balance benefits from water infrastructure projects.

A total of 28 participants from CSIR-WRI and local partners from the Volta basin were represented at this event. The social learning tools and methods used in the workshop enabled the participants to jointly take on board the WISE-UP to climate project results for decision making without the over simplification of the scientific knowledge generated over the last 4 years.

This video presents some of the approaches used during the workshop:


Christine Omuombo – Is a project officer at ACCESS under the WISE UP to climate project. She is an environmental scientist interested in water resources and human impact on the past and present landscapes.  

Washington Ochola – is a capacity building expert at ACCESS. He is currently Regional Policy and Capacity Building Advisor to USAID-Africa Lead Program for East and Southern Africa. He is a lead consultant in environmental and sustainable development scenarios and policy analysis.