Building coastal resilience through an integrated approach: Lessons from Ghana
Coastal zones are some of the most vulnerable areas affected by extreme weather events and climate change. In Ghana national policy has targeted activities towards protecting coastal regions, but their efforts have not traditionally included local knowledge. This has led to poor outcomes and flawed programs that did not adequately serve the needs of the communities they targeted.
A new program was launched to better incorporate local knowledge into national resilience planning called the ‘Building coastal resilience project’ led by the Regional Institute for Population Studies (RIPS) at the University of Ghana with cooperation from the Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN). Traditionally there have been weak links between the national and district level disaster and long-term planning. RIPS sought to overcome this by collecting and reporting local data to the Ghana National Development Planning Commission, organizing field trips by national policymakers to coastal communities, and creating channels for local needs to be communicated to the regional and national levels.
Lessons learned from this program include:
- Contingency plans are best made at the local level. Local knowledge often includes practices to respond to extreme weather events. This local knowledge can be combined with long-term predictions from researchers to produce district-level response plans that best reflect the needs of the local communities.
- Combining knowledge from traditional leaders and modern policymakers was supported through informal meetings and workshops. At these meetings local traditions and knowledge were honored and local leaders were given channels to communicate with national leaders. Then, local leaders could submit their district-level plans that were included in the national plan.
- Providing resources at the local level to increase climate change knowledge. While local knowledge often includes robust response strategies for extreme weather events, it was found through surveys that local climate change knowledge was insufficient. National leaders can provide resources to local communities on climate change to inform their district-level response plans.
- Focusing on lasting solutions. This program sought to promote the integrated management of land, water, and living resources for sustainable and equitable use. By mobilizing resources and incorporating local knowledge and climate science into city planning, long-term coastal resilience can be enabled.