Building Understanding of Climate Variability into Planning of Groundwater Supplies from Low Storage Aquifers in Africa (BRAVE) Project

Project Overview

Today, over 500 million people in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) depend upon groundwater supplies; within a generation, that will rise still further, to close to a billion. Groundwater resources are considered more resilient to climate variability and currently the volumes of this water being used are generally small compared with the average amount of rain that percolates through the soil to the aquifers. Groundwater therefore may provide an important water resource to help adapt to changing climate and land use. There is evidence, however, that in areas of SSA where the rocks store a relatively small amount of water, during extended periods of low rainfall, groundwater supplies can fail. For this reason, together with the absence of long historical records of borehole levels, it is unclear whether the planned development of groundwater resources to meet increases in demand is feasible in all areas of sub-Saharan Africa.

Safe and reliable access to water by the rural poor is a key critical factor in reducing extreme poverty and hunger among rural populations in Africa. As most poor people in Africa depend upon farming for their livelihoods, developing resilient agricultural water supplies is clearly an essential first step, especially in this era of climate risks and uncertainties. The BRAVE project will reduce risks and improve water security resilience of rural communities in sub-Saharan Africa by combining better understanding and planning of groundwater supplies with practical communication and knowledge exchange at all levels, from individual smallholder farmers to national government and regional bodies. The project will be implemented over a four-year period from 2015-2019. The focal countries are Ghana and Burkina Faso, in West Africa.In Ghana, the project districts are East Mamprusi in northern region, and Garu-Tempane in the Upper East region.

Project Aim

The overarching aim of the project is to enable sustainable use of groundwater to benefit the poorest communities in the Volta River Basin, by using a powerful combination of user-informed and science-based management tools, that are based on environmental modelling, historic and new environmental data, as well as on information regarding current and future user requirements (embedding existing socio-economic information and projected changes) and predicted available groundwater resources.

Project Objectives

The project has six specific objectives, implemented in five work packages (WP).The objectives are:

  1. Gather information about the Volta River Basin (VRB) to map the vulnerability of local communities to CV and EC and establish baseline metrics for monitoring, evaluation and learning purposes (WP1)
  2. Generate cross-level interactions (local/sub-national/national/regional) to foster engagement of key stakeholders/decision-makers throughout the research process, and cause policy influence to enable appropriate use of water management planning tools. (WP2)
  3. Aided by the development of a modelling system capable of quantifying current climate variability (CV) and environmental change (EC) impacts on groundwater supplies, improve understanding of the interaction between the water balance, climate variability and land-use change. (WP3)
  4. Translate current scientific understanding into appropriate water management planning tools to enable decision-makers to assess the risk to water supply from CV, EC and changing demand, and to support the development of local-level adaptation strategies for supplying groundwater for domestic and productive uses (WP4)
  5. Evaluate new tools and integrated water governance mechanisms in pilot projects linked to livelihood benefits within 8 communities in VRB, building on the RAINWATCH(RWX), operational here from 2014 (WP5)
  6. Deliver a comprehensive dissemination and knowledge-sharing campaign to share evidence and tools for water governance with local decision-takers through to national and regional policy-makers (WP5)

Project Work Packages

The specific objectives of the project are translated into five (5) work packages, each reflecting a specific theme under the Unlocking the Potential of Groundwater for the Poor (UPGro) programme. Each work package is further broken down into several sub-work packages. The five (5) main work packages are:

  1. WP1: Understanding Past, Current and Future Vulnerability (of groundwater resources and rural communities in the Volta River Basin)
  2. WP2: Understanding Decision-making Pathways, Governance Structures and Institutional Influence
  3. WP3: Improving Understanding of the Hydroclimate
  4. WP4: Improved Strategic Planning & Adaptive Capacity
  5. WP5: Delivering Evidence and Demonstrating Resilience

Project Methodology

The project is interdisciplinary in nature bringing together physical scientists, social scientists and knowledge exchange experts.The methodologies used in the project comprise both physical and social science methodologies. The methodologies include literature reviews, focus group discussions, key informant interviews, in-depth interviews, and modelling (development and application of models). 

Project Stakeholders

The BRAVE projectis a consortium of partners from Europe, USA and Africa (particularly West Africa). The project stakeholders areInstitute for Environment and Sanitation Studies (University of Ghana), University of Reading, Africa Climate Exchange (AfClix), British Geological Survey (BGS), Lorna Young Foundation, RAINWATCH, Water Resources Commission (WRC, Ghana), Water Research Institute (WRI, Ghana), Ghana Meteorological Agency (GMet), CARE International (Ghana), University of Ouagadougou, Christian Aid, Practical Action, Water Aid; andNatural and Environment Research Council (NERC, UK), Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC, UK), UKaid, and Unlocking the Potential of Groundwater for the Poor (UPGro) programme.In Ghana, the project team also works with other international and national organizations including ministries, agencies, departments, non-governmental organisations, local government authorities, traditional authorities, humanitarian organisations and private sector institutions.