Modeling SDG impacts in Ghana’s Atewa landscape under different management scenarios

Atew Landscape

A stakeholder workshop reviewed future scenarios for the Atewa Range landscape, and formulated next steps for achieving the outcomes in the “Living Landscape” scenario.

A Contested Landscape

Everyone agrees that the Atewa Landscape is enormously valuable, but that’s where the consensus ends. There are a wide range of ideas about how the landscape’s ecological and economic resources should be managed. The core of the landscape is the Atewa Range which is a strip of unique upland forest surrounded by a mixture of farms, small scale gold mines and villages about 90 km outside of Accra. The forest functions as the source of three important rivers – the Densu, Birim and Ayensu, it supports several communities who live on the forest fringes, and is home to a large diversity of plants and animals. Despite the forest’s  importance, both inside and outside a protected area is steadily degrading due to timber and non-timber harvesting and the encroachment of farms and gold mines. This is affecting water flows and water quality and those dependent on water downstream in the three river basins, including businesses, the households of over 3 million people in the capital Accra, as well as local communities and farmers that live in the landscape.

The residents of the Atewa landscape in Ghana want what everyone wants: Sustainable Development. More specifically, they want to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The SDGs provide an internationally agreed upon framework for countries to plan and achieve an integrated development vision by 2030. These goals include the full suite of socio-economic, ecological and political topics and are recognized the foundation for development and inherently interrelated.

The SDG framework in Ghana and opportunities for integrated approaches

Many countries around the world are taking these goals very seriously, and Ghana is one of them. In fact, the President of Ghana, Nana Akufo-Addo, has been appointed by the UN Secretary-General as the co-chair of the SDG Advocates, which are tasked with promoting the implementation of SDGs around the world. In Ghana he has appointed an inter-ministerial council, including representation from all relevant ministries, to drive the effort to achieve the Goals throughout the country.

While an inter-ministerial council can drive political will to achieve SDGs at a national level, the specific actions that achieve this vision, in Ghana as well as all other countries, will need to be planned and implemented at smaller scales where stakeholders are able to more clearly understand the impact of specific actions. The landscape is a manageable unit at which these goals can be integrated. A landscape is a socio-ecological system which is organized around a distinct ecological, historical, economic and socio-cultural identity. Integrated Landscape Management (ILM) is the process by which landscapes can plan, implement and monitor actions to support the SDGs at landscape scale. The results of ILM can include an improved understanding among stakeholders of the ongoing conditions and dynamics in the landscape; a plan for action that includes win-win interventions; opportunities for blended investments; and collaborative action to improve institutional and policy conditions.

The specific actions that achieve the SDGs… will need to be planned and implemented at smaller scales

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Through a spatial modeling and scenario building exercise, the Atewa Landscape stakeholders are now considering exactly how ILM can help them achieve the SDGs. A Ghanaian NGO, A Rocha Ghana, PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency and EcoAgriculture Partners, supported by the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs, are collaborating to develop and assess the use of spatially explicit modeling tools and scenarios to help integrated landscape initiatives to plan more effectively to reach the SDGs. This approach will also clarify baselines and identify options for action and investment priorities. The project is developing a clearer understanding of the trade-offs, synergies, and spatial impacts of proposed interventions at the landscape scale, and strengthening the capacity of stakeholder groups for long-term collaborative planning and design.

Workshop for Stakeholders

On November 1, 2017 a workshop was organized to present the first modeled scenario outcomes based on the ambitions of landscape stakeholders. These core ambitions, which align with a wide range of SDGs included the growth in food production in the landscape, development of a National Park in Atewa to protect and restore biodiversity, the integrated management of the Densu water basin, the potential growth of palm oil production and cocoa agroforestry, and the development of an eco-tourism industry. The scenarios explored included ‘Business As Usual’, ‘Taking All Resources’ (which assumed proposed bauxite mining) and a ‘Living Landscape’ (which assumed the principles of ILM were the basis for landscape decisions through 2030).

The scenarios provided the basis for stakeholders to discuss the positive and negative relationships between landscape ambitions as well as concrete action steps that can be taken to achieve the outcomes presented in the Living Landscape scenario. Participants noted the clear relationships between mutually reinforcing goals such as forest protection and water provision in Accra.  But the models also stimulated insights on less obvious linkages between goals. For example, participants noted the ways that improvements in education could lead directly to forest protection by keeping children out of the gold mines and offering them alternative livelihood paths.

Based on feedback at the workshop, the scenarios will be modified and Atewa stakeholders will have another opportunity to consider their implications. PBL and EcoAgriculture, along with Solidaridad, have also undertaken this exercise in the Caribbean North Coast of Honduras. Click here for additional details on that process. It will be implemented in Tanzania in 2018.

Reports on these three cases and well as synthesis report will be published in 2018. You can follow progress on the project here.

Modeling SDG impacts in Ghana’s Atewa landscape under different management scenarios

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PARTNER SPOTLIGHT logoThis story, by Seth Shames, is part of our Partner Spotlight on EcoAgriculture PartnersPartners in GFAR are keenly aware that it is crucial to mobilize better investment in agri-food research and innovation. GFAR’s multi-stakeholder partners can have a collective, evidence-based voice for informing policy and promoting better and more coherent investment, beyond specific institutional interests. Moreover, new mechanisms must be created for directly empowering communities to attract and make use of funding for innovative technologies and approaches, like the Landscape Approach. If we are to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, the metrics for success in agri-food innovation need also to be completely re-thought, and the underlying value systems changed to allow multiple partners, from across sectors, to work together. GFAR Collective Actions aimed at improving investments and developing common metrics are part of GFAR’s Key Focus Area Demonstrating impact and improving investments.

GFAR Secretariat is turning the spotlight on the work and collective actions of Partners in GFAR who share in our mission to strengthen and transform agri-food research and innovation systems globally. Not a GFAR partner yet? Join now!


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