The BRAVE project will provide an essential ingredient for evidence-based mitigation and adaptation policies in Sub-Saharan Africa. Through working directly with stakeholders through face-to-face meetings and the planned workshops in each country, we aim to develop water demand scenarios to inform the modelling, based on current domestic, agricultural and productive use needs, set within the context of the contemporaneous impacts on, for example, groundwater-based irrigation schemes in the River Volta Basin.
THE BIG IDEA
We can build better ways to model and communicate the complex environmental changes in the Sahel region of West Africa and use that to improve the long term planning of groundwater supplies and provide early warnings of groundwater shortages so that the most vulnerable families and communities are more resilient to drought.
RESEARCH AIM / HYPOTHESIS
That by using integrated governance, the long term use of groundwater can reduce the vulnerability of poor people in the Volta River Basin, in West Africa, in the face of a variable climate and changes to the local environment, society and economy.
Secure access to water by the rural poor in Africa is central to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. With more than 500 million Africans dependent on groundwater and the potential for expanded use, the resilience of aquifers in the face of climate, population growth, and land-use change is key to this.
Evidence suggests however, that during extended periods of low rainfall, groundwater supplies from low storage aquifers can fail. It is unclear, therefore, whether planned development of substantial numbers of groundwater supplies as a means to meet the expected large increase in demand, will be effective in all areas of sub-Saharan Africa. In the absence of long historical records of borehole levels, we are reliant on process understanding and modelling to infer the stability of groundwater supplies.
In partnership with national and local government, NGOs and researchers, the BRAVE project will incorporate new understanding of climate variability and observational capacity and its water resource impacts into the planning and operation of groundwater supplies in the Volta River Basin.
As a result of improved understanding of how water moves through catchments representative of the Volta River Basin, combined with output from state-of-the-art climate, land surface and groundwater models, new scientific knowledge will allow appropriate tools to be developed for planning at a range of scales: basin-scale long-term regional planning of aquifer-based water supplies for domestic and productive uses; local-scale long-term and seasonal community management of groundwater supplies; and provision of information that allows timely emergency planning in the light developing drought conditions.
New observational capacity and assessments of user vulnerability and an understanding of governance frameworks linking local communities to national government, along with this new scientific knowledge, will be translated into forms that allow participatory decision-making to be made.
Bringing together communities, practitioners and policy-makers, the application of the planning tools will be piloted in a series of case studies within eight communities in Ghana and Burkina Faso. A set of meaningful groundwater management tools will be developed with these communities that specifically address the information they want and need, and which are embedded within the existing local, district, national and regional governance structures. The use of the system in the pilot communities will provide insights into the extent such an approach can support sustainable decision making and equitable uptake.
Furthermore, after consultation with our partners, we will also develop a methodology to produce seasonal groundwater status reports which will be linked into the newly operational Rainwatch-AfClix Drought Early Warning System in Burkina Faso and Ghana. BRAVE will contribute to building the resilience of poor communities to climate variability and environmental change in the Volta River Basin.
The project outputs will be of direct relevance to government departments responsible for water supply development, as well as humanitarian and development organisations. Actively working together from the project inception will encourage ownership, culminating in the co-design and implementation of the planning tools. This will deliver a strategic shift in future national disaster risk reduction, adaptation and resilience related policies to support increased water security for the poorest people in Ghana and Burkina Faso with lessons around resilience building for the wider Sahel region.
- UR: Dr Rosalind Cornforth (PI), Ass. Prof. Henny Osbahr, Dr Emily Black, Prof. Anne Verhoef
- BGS: David Macdonald (co-PI), Jonathan Mackay, James Sorensen, Dr Chris Jackson
- LYF: Cristina Talens
- CSIR: Dr William Agyekum
- UO: Dr Jean Pierre Sandwidi
- Burkina Faso
- “Detection and attribution of human influence on regional precipitation” Nature Climate Change 6, 669–675 (2016) doi:10.1038/nclimate2976