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Ghana’s vulnerability to climate change: How the country is responding

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ITU data suggest that mobile penetration reached 84.8 per cent in 2011
ITU data suggest that mobile penetration reached 84.8 per cent in 2011

Ghana is located at the intersection of three hydro-climatic zones, and subject to the impact of El Niño Southern Oscillation, the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone and West Africa monsoon. The country is highly vulnerable to climate change, variability and uncertainty. With forests covering around 23 per cent of its territory, Ghana is endowed with abundant natural resources that have played an important role in the agricultural, industrial, economic and social development of the country. But unsustainable practices have resulted in deforestation, land degradation, air and water pollution, soil erosion, overgrazing, and destruction of biodiversity.

Increases in the frequency and intensity of rainfall, floods and landslides, along with the occurrence of extended periods of drought and intense heat, have been linked to changing climatic patterns. Such extreme and unpredictable events have devastating consequences for Ghana’s socio-economic development and food security, particularly for the millions of people whose livelihoods depend on agriculture and livestock.

Excessive rainfall has led to the overflow of Ghana’s major water bodies. For example in 2010, for the first time in 20 years, the level of the Akosombo Dam Reservoir, which provides electricity to Ghana and its neighbouring West African countries, rose to above its maximum, flooding communities close to the Volta River. An estimated 378 000 people were displaced as a result of the floods. Some affected areas had already been hit by flood waters from the Bagre and Kompeanga dams in neighbouring Burkina Faso.

As in other developing countries, the effects of climate change and variability in Ghana intensify the existing challenges of poverty and rural marginalization, rapid urbanization and growth of informal settlements, land depletion and fragile ecosystems. Climatic impacts are not uniform across the country’s diverse ecological zones, adding to the complexity of adaptation challenges.

Ghana is projected to become hotter and wetter during the wet season, and drier during the dry season, with an increased rise in sea level and storm surges. This heightened vulnerability in both inland and coastal areas will affect vital social and economic sectors.

Approximately 70 per cent of the population depends directly or indirectly on agriculture and forestry, making agriculture and food security particularly vulnerable to climate changes and extremes. Economic assets, in particular cereals that are not tolerant to drought, will be affected by climate trends, compromising the livelihoods of the majority of Ghana’s population.

Population growth and urbanization mean that periods of drought and flooding place stresses on the availability of water for domestic use. Water deficits have negative impacts on industry, hydro-electric generation and food security.

According to a World Bank study, increased heat stress and drought-related deaths in both humans and livestock are already occurring in the extreme north of Ghana. Further risks are related to the higher incidence of malaria and parasitic infections that are linked to flooding.

The ICT sector

Developing countries are experiencing major growth in the deployment of ICT, and Ghana is no exception. According to ITU’s ICT Development Index, Ghana is in tenth position out of 33 countries ranked in Africa. The rapid expansion of Ghana’s ICT industry provides fertile ground for fostering and strengthening the use of ICT tools in adapting to climate change.

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