Building Local capacities and incentives for increased community investment in sustainable woodland management within the degraded areas of the White Volta Ecosystem in the North Gonja
Building Local capacities and incentives for increased community investment in sustainable woodland management within the degraded areas of the White Volta Ecosystem in the North Gonja

White Volta Basin Ecosystem

The White Volta Basin Ecosystem provides the people of North Gonja District with a wide range of services. It provides reliable flow of water for human, animal and industrial uses. The Basin provides productive soils from silt deposits and carbon sequestration. The resources within the basin provide raw material inputs, production processes and micro climate stability.

The North Gonja district is part of the dryland areas and one of the seriously affected desertification-prone areas of savannah region. The area is in the Guinea Savannah agro-ecological zones with mono modal rainfall pattern. Rainfall amount varies from 645 mm to 1,250 mm per annum with a mean of 1,250 mm. A long dry period of more than 5 months follows with little agricultural activity and limited income during the period.

The vegetation consists, typically, of a ground cover of grasses of varying heights interspersed with fire resistant, deciduous, broad-leaved trees at the forest margins along the river Banks. This grade into a more open grassland with widely spaced shorter trees towards the north.

Socio-economic Characteristics

Agriculture is the predominant livelihood strategy for people in this area. It is the most important activity in terms of spatial extent employing about 60% of the labour force. Agriculture is not merely an economic activity; for most people it has been a way of life for many centuries. The economic base of the area hinges on smallholder agriculture with over 80 percent of the population depending on agriculture for their livelihood. The crops grown include Guinea corn, maize, yams, vegetables, and beans. Groundnuts and cotton are cultivated as cash crops. These crops are cultivated in compound and bush farms. Land preparation is largely by hoeing and in few cases by draught animals and tractors. Soil fertility in compound farms is managed using household refuse, crop residue and animal dung. In the bush farms land holdings are usually large and soil fertility is managed by crop rotation, and short fallow periods that allow the soil to regain its fertility. Shea (Vitellaria paradoxa), Baobab (Adansonia digitata), and Dawadawa (Parkia biglobosa) trees are well protected on cropped fields. Cashew and mango are also cultivated.

More than 80 per cent of the inhabitants of the rangelands are farmers who grow food crops and rear ruminant livestock. The traditional cattle rearing are based on an extensive system of production and are entirely dependent on the natural grassland vegetation. Densities of cattle may range from 77 to 103 per km2. The population increase has led to overgrazing of marginal lands. Crop residues are fed to livestock leaving the land bare during the dry season and early part of the wet season.

The constraints to agricultural development in the area include erratic rainfall pattern, low soil fertility, Striga infestation and difficulty in accessing credit. Others include inadequate irrigation facilities, theft of livestock (especially cattle), post harvest losses, land tenure system (land is vested in the Landlords/Tendambas/ Tendana’s), inaccessible roads and annual wildfires.

Pito brewing and shea butter processing are the main economic activity of most women in the savannah region. The raw materials used for brewing the drink are guinea corn, water and fuel wood.

Problem Identification

Land degradation manifests itself by soil erosion, water scarcity, reduced agricultural productivity and decreased nutritional value of food crops has been on the increase in the White Volta Basin. Land degradation and drought are causing severe hardship for many people who directly depend upon the natural resources for survival. Women and children, in particular, bear the greatest burden in times of drought. Women are responsible for hauling water and firewood for the household, and desertification can add hours to labour on an already fully charged workday. During food scarcity, the health of women and children are also at greater risk.

The high incidence of bushfires and alarming rate of tree felling for fuel-wood and charcoal production has contributed to deforestation of large tracts of land. The deforestation process has changed the water-holding capacity of the soil and the percolation needed to recharge groundwater aquifers. It also increases surface evaporation, resulting in a loss of moisture into the atmosphere. Denuded soils are more vulnerable to erosion leading to loss of arable agricultural farmlands and increased siltation.

The main objective of this project is to develop community capacities and enhance their opportunities to invest in sustainable land management, livelihood development, improved market access and trade as a way of ensuring poverty reduction to combat desertification in the North Gonja District.

The specific objectives of the project are:
- To develop and sustain the capacities of five rural communities to identify innovative strategies, procedures and opportunities to create incentives for increasing community investment in sustainable land management through reforestation

- To assist rural communities to restore degraded lands through integrated water and soil management, community based forest woodlot/agro-forestry, wildfires management, natural regeneration establishment and enrichment planting using shea trees.

- To support sustainable livelihood enterprise development as compensation for the provision of ecosystem goods and services through the processing natural resources to enhance sustainable land management

The implementation of the project will produce three main outcomes:

1) Capacities of local people in Kagbala traditional area developed for sustainable land management and conservation of natural ecosystem of the degraded White Volta basin.

2) Local communities within White Volta Basin supported to invest in sustainable land management and Conservation White Volta Basin Ecosystem.

3) Natural resource-based enterprises and alternative livelihood support systems developed.

Outcome 1: Capacities of local people in Kagbala traditional area developed for sustainable land management and conservation of natural ecosystem of the degraded White Volta basin

The component activities will seek to develop institutional capacities at community levels to sustainably manage land and conserve natural resources for wealth creation, poverty reduction, and livelihood improvements. Particularly at the local community levels, the project will support the strengthening of existing effective traditional and local systems, structures and services to foster local development and management and to create an enabling environment where private, civil society and community initiatives can flourish. In addition, the project will support the promotion of sustainable land management (including conflict resolution mechanisms) and planning frameworks at the community levels.

Under this sub-component, the project will strengthen the delivery of services, which are fundamental to support sustainable land management and natural resource management, development and conservation initiatives and support the improvement of the delivery of formal and non-formal education and awareness creation programs, emphasizing on the role indigenous knowledge play in sustainable use and conservation of natural resources. The project will strengthen natural resource-based/farmer-based producer and trade associations operating at the community levels.

The community capacity building in land management is sensitive to local priorities. The project will therefore support the formation and strengthening of community land management committees, and activity-based interest groups based on indigenous management structures. At locality levels the project will support the establishment and running of resource management support centres to demonstrate new technologies, train community level groups and learning ground for the academia. Each resource centre will have catchment(s) area(s) of service.

Outcome 2. Local communities within White Volta Basin supported to invest in sustainable land management and Conservation White Volta Basin Ecosystem

The Component aims at mobilizing five communities to secure existing natural and environmental resources endowments while creating additional stocks through sustainable land management practices, natural regeneration, new woodlot and plantation establishments, reintroduction of threatened species and restoration of vegetation cover as well as measures to prevent and control desertification. The Component will focus on activities that would reverse the current damaging production patterns and promote sustainable development of natural resources and protection of biodiversity by involving key stakeholders including civil society organizations, traditional authorities, forest dependent societies and forest fringe communities.

Key areas of support would include:

• Implementation of effective management strategies and action plans to prevent rapid degradation of the savannah woodland, wildlife and water resources as well as biodiversity and specifically soil and water conservation, de-savannization, wild fire control and bush meat exploitation;

• Protection of areas of significant ecological importance including Sacred groves and riverine forest along the White Volta and other areas with high biodiversity heat index including natural habitats known to contain plant species with medicinal and food qualities;

• Strengthening conflict resolution mechanisms and strategies in natural resource management by building upon traditional as well as new institutions and authorities to reduce insecurity amongst particularly the rural communities and increase opportunities for successful economic activities;

• Promotion of participatory community-based landuse planning. It is considered crucial that a land use plan that clearly indicates the suitability of the various segments of the land for different kinds of uses is formulated to provide information and to guide informed land uses at community levels. This is to ensure best uses of the land resources of the area for food security and maintenance of a balance between physical development and preservation of the integrity of the environment that provides the enabling conditions for the development of food security strategies and physical development.

The component will implement effective watershed and catchments area management and conservation strategies that will ensure the long-term availability of water resources for agriculture, industry and human consumption and maintenance of healthy ecosystem. It will seek to reinforce common property management systems with the dual objectives of alleviating poverty and improving the management of land, water, pasture and forest resources. It will attempts to link agricultural and forestry services aimed at productivity increase on individual and communal farm plots. The main activities to be supported under this component will be to:

- Rehabilitate and manage community lands through soil and water conservation measures, improved pasture and forest and woodland management
- Conserve and manage community common lands as dedicated forest reserves through natural regeneration, enrichment planting, fire protection, and sustainable harvesting of natural resources.
- Promote water harvesting techniques to ensure all-year round water for farming.
- Broaden the scope of agriculture extension to encompass environmental and civic education
- Manage watershed resources and keep headwaters under continuous cover of trees and associated vegetation
- Assist local level entrepreneurs with training, materials, simple tools and equipment to operate their own nurseries to produce the needed planting material. The project would support the introduction of improved planting materials.
- Support traditional authorities with training and resource to form and operate local fire management and control units. Encourage the introduction of early burning systems in high fire prone areas. Use would be made of the Non-formal educational facilities and local FM stations to embark on aggressive educational campaign on bushfire prevention.
- Train and assist farmers to adopt improved technologies in soil fertility and reduction of farm erosion. Some of the technologies to be adopted and promoted include preparation and application of composting, soil bonding, crop rotation, mulching, preservation and development of indigenous and threatened crop varieties and adoption of agro forestry farming techniques.
- Promote integrated nutrient management (INM). This is an approach of soil fertility management that combines organic and mineral methods of soil fertilization with physical biological measures for soil and water conservation. However the choice of the INM would depend on market situation, the price ration of inputs and outputs, availability of inputs, alternative use of organic materials, labour cost and farmers’ knowledge.
- Support water management in drylands. This involves the construction of small-scale irrigation schemes managed by individuals or groups of farmers based on traditional water management systems. The institutional arrangement would be communal ownership with the owners being active and committed participants in the project design and implementation.

OUTCOME 3 Natural Resource-Based Enterprise Developments and Livelihood Support

This component will provide support in achieving efficiency in the production, processing and marketing of products and services (both tangibles and intangibles) extracted from the savannas and other ecological systems in the northern region. In addition, it will provide support for diversification of sources of rural income and interlinked development of farm, natural resource-based and non-farm activities that can reduce rural poverty. The project will support technologies that can combine, for instance, low input agriculture and forestry (including wildlife, wood fuel production) and innovative rotations to improve food security, rural income and reduce poverty.

The project will support the development of viable small to medium-scale village enterprises that can be engaged in wild animal domestication/establishment, harvesting, production, processing and marketing of non-timber forest products including live animals, bush meat, wood fuel, honey and bee waxes, shea butter, plant-based oil, medicinal plants, herbal medicines etc. The project will provide funds through the establishment of a micro-financing window.

Nature-based tourism in Kagbala would support to diversify rural sources of income, shape their economies, and reduce rural poverty. The project will support measures that can mainstream nature tourism businesses to link up with small enterprises supplying goods or services, help rural communities start and operate small-scale eco-tourism businesses built around community assets such as “community dedicated reserves” sacred groves and sanctuaries. The project will also provide support for the development of entrepreneurial capacities and managerial skills of small and medium-sized enterprises and local people, and training to the poor to improve their employment opportunities in businesses that serve the eco-tourism industry.

Special emphasis would be given to the following management practices and technologies

1. Development of Non Timber Forest Resources

• Training programmes will be funded for farmers to learn and develop skills in the cultivations/propagation practices for alternative crops.
• Training of traditional medicine practitioners in appropriate techniques of maintenance, harvesting, storage and packaging of traditional medicines for enhanced sales.

2. Development of livelihood support

Training programmes will be funded for farmers/local entrepreneurs to learn cultivations/propagation practices for alternative crops. Local business people will be assisted in small ruminant production for animal protein on one hand and organic manure on the other hand for home gardening and vegetables.

Output 1
- 100 rural farmers from five clusters of rural communities trained and supported to identify innovative strategies, procedures, and opportunities to invest in sustainable land management.

Output 2
- 400 ha of degraded lands within the White Volta Basin restored through integrated water and soil management, agro-forestry systems, wildfires management, natural regeneration establishment, enrichment planting and woodlot establishment.

Output 3
- One rural enterprises supported to develop sustainable trade initiatives and markets through oil processing; integrated livestock/small ruminant rearing; development of fodder and feed banks; and honey production.


Project Snapshot

Savannah Cooperative Tree Plantation Society
Area Of Work:
Land Degradation
Grant Amount:
US$ 21,500.00
Co-Financing Cash:
US$ 11,500.00
Co-Financing in-Kind:
US$ 13,000.00
Project Number:
Satisfactorily Completed
Project Characteristics and Results
Inovative Financial Mechanisms
A revolving credit will be provided for 60 farmers. Among them, at least 6 farmers each will go for bee keeping, poultry and small ruminants. The division will be done basically on interest of every farmer. This activity will be carried out in the 5th and 6th quarter with resource persons from National Board for Small Scale Industry (NBSSI).
Significant Participation of Indigenous Peoples
All participants are local people
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Number of CBOs / NGOs participated / involved in SGP project 1
Number of CBOs / NGOs formed or registered through the SGP project 1
Number of women participated / involved in SGP project 30
Hectares of degraded land rest 400
Hectares of land sustainably managed by project 200
Tons of soil erosion prevented 200
Number of innovations or new technologies developed / applied 2
Number of local policies informed in land degradation focal area 1
Number of national policies informed in land degradation focal area 1
Increase in household income by increased income or reduced costs due to SGP project 100
Number of households who have benefited* from SGP project 150

SGP Country office contact

Dr. George Buabin Ortsin
Ms. Lois Sarpong
+233 505740909


UNDP, Global Environment Facility Small Grants Programme P.O. Box 1423
Accra, Greater Accra, 233-302
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