Latest USAID led research from Ghana is testing ways to build rural resilience

Ghana has made tremendous progress against poverty in its rural communities over the past decade. It was the first country in sub-Saharan Africa to attain the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of halving poverty. However, rural families in the northern regions continue to face substantial challenges to their livelihoods.

The Feed the Future Advancing Local Leadership, Innovation and Networks (ALL-IN) program has just launched four research projects led from Ghana that test the impacts of rural development programs as well as researchers’ own innovations.

With support from USAID, these projects are creating new opportunities in Northern Ghana for rural families to improve their income, crop yields and nutrition.

“These four projects are led by researchers who understand the context and culture on this continent and who are closely related to policy makers and understand the intricacies of policy,” said David Ameyaw, co-director of Feed the Future ALL-IN and president and CEO of the International Centre for Evaluation and Development (ICED).

Research to benefit Northern Ghana’s rural communities

One of these ALL-IN projects, led by the Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration (GIMPA) senior lecturer Charles Amoatey, is testing the impacts the One Village, One Dam (1V1D) initiative is having on rural families in the northern regions.

1V1D was launched by the government of Ghana in 2017 to support dry season gardening and livestock rearing as a means of improving food security, incomes and people’s wellbeing.

GIMPA researchers have supported the government of Ghana’s oversight on 1V1D since it was established. This ALL-IN project will contribute to policy decisions related to scaling up the initiative.

Another project is testing an agricultural insurance product designed to complement supplemental irrigation in 1V1D communities.

Led by John Kuwornu, a professor at the University of Energy and Natural Resources and dean of its School of Graduate Studies, this project expands families’ overall drought protection.

While the dams provide supplemental irrigation, the insurance provides payments in the event of severe drought. The Ghana Agricultural Insurance Pool (GAIP) is designing the index insurance product.

Women in Ghana contribute to about 80% of the nation’s shea production but still receive low prices and low pay.

A research team led by Fred Dzanku, a senior research fellow from the Institute of Statistical, Social and Economic Research (ISSER) at the University of Ghana is testing a package of training and financing to empower women producers to receive the full benefits of their work while increasing supply available for growing international markets for shea products. 

Since 2012, the USAID Resiliency in Northern Ghana (RING) project under the Feed the Future initiative has sought to improve the livelihoods and nutritional status of vulnerable rural families in the region.

Robert Darko Osei, an associate professor at ISSER, leads a project that measures the impacts of the USAID RING project while also testing an innovative approach to reinforcing household nutrition using SMS text messages directly to families.

Combining research innovation and policy impact

The four ALL-IN research teams in Ghana are using some of the most advanced statistical methods to measure the impacts these programs have on incomes, crop yields, health, nutrition, women’s empowerment and other outcomes. This tested evidence will show what kinds of programming truly have positive impacts as well as why.

These projects leverage the strengths and knowledge of Ghana’s researchers as well as their relationships with government and local organizations to ensure the results of their work have a positive impact on development policy.

Feed the Future ALL-IN was established by USAID as a partnership between ICED, with offices in Nairobi, Kenya and Accra, Ghana, and the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Markets, Risk and Resilience (MRR) based at the University of California, Davis.

ALL-IN funds researchers at African institutions to lead large-scale international research collaborations, leveraging their local knowledge, skills and ideas to build actionable evidence for promoting resilience and inclusive agricultural growth.

“With the growing capacity in African universities and other institutions, it’s time for more of our local partners to take the lead,” said Michael Carter, director of the MRR Innovation Lab. “We anticipate that doing so will enhance the relevance and long-term impacts of the research.”

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