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Adaptation at Scale in Semi-Arid Regions (ASSAR) Project

Semi-arid regions (SARs) in Asia and West Africa are home to hundreds of millions of people who are noted to be vulnerable to climate risk and impacts such as droughts, floods, wind storms and heavy rainfall. Even though people in these regions have shown remarkable resilience, climate risk and impacts are expected to exacerbate existing vulnerabilities including poverty, poor governance and inequalities in the coming decades. In West Africa, climate vulnerabilities relating to agriculture activities, herding, water and forest resources will characterize the semi-arid areas leading to food insecurity and poverty in the sub-region. Responses to climate threats have mainly been short-term solutions, such as early warning systems, famine relief, and soil and water conservation. However, long-term climate projections suggest that by mid-century, a more profound response will be needed, including the transformation of livelihood systems.

Project Purpose

The Adaptation at Scale in Semi-Arid Regions (ASSAR) project is to enable proactive, longer-term approaches to climate change adaptation in semi-arid regions, while supporting the management of current risks. Through participatory work from 2014-2018, ASSAR aims to meet the needs of government and practitioner stakeholders, to help shape more effective policy frameworks, and to develop more lasting adaptation responses.

Project Description

The entire ASSAR project is in three phases including regional diagnostic study, research and research into use (RiU). In Ghana, the project is particularly interested in agriculture intensification in semi-arid areas in the northern region. At the first phase of the project, the team initiated a Regional Diagnostic Study (RDS) consisting of collating information and evidence of climate change impacts and vulnerabilities from three districts in the Upper West region of Ghana. As part of the processes of preparing the RDS, the project team held a national and district level expert meetings to introduce stakeholders to the ASSAR project as well as solicit their opinions on climate change adaptation at the national and local level in Ghana. The research phase of the project will explore further into the information obtained from the RDS in order to explore strategies for developing adaptive capacity at multiple scales, thus from individuals to business and government within theregion. The RiU phase will be informing adaptation practices at multiple scales, and in different contexts, and enabling take-up of research insights in policy and practice interventions.

Project Objectives/Goals

The main objectives of the project are to:

  • Improve understanding of the underlying drivers and determinants of vulnerability of livelihood systems.
  • Assess the strengths and weaknesses of current adaptation practices and policies.
  • Advance understanding of the constraining and enabling factors that determine successful adaptation.

Project Methodology

There are four main research focus areas for the ASSAR project under which agriculture intensification is the main theme for the project in Ghana. The four research areas include social differentiation, governance, information access and use and dynamic change. Research questions have been designed by the ASSAR team to serve as guidelines to the achievement of these research focus areas. Questionnaire surveys, focus group discussions, mental modeling, wellbeing research method, transformative scenario planning (TSP) and other social research methodology that are relevant in the achievement of the key research questions. These methodologies are designed for the first and the second phases of the project while third phase will be the context design and implementation of adaptation strategies.

Project Stakeholders

ASSAR works with diverse stakeholders in a coordinated manner across 11 countries in southern Africa, eastern Africa, western Africa, and south Asia. ASSAR in West Africa is a partnership between System for Analysis Research and Training (START), the Institute for Environment and Sanitation Studies (IESS) at the University of Ghana, and the International Centre for Research in the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) in Bamako, Mali. The ASSAR West Africa group is working closely with CCAFS in West Africa to realize important synergies between the ASSAR and CCAFS efforts in the semi-arid regions of West Africa. In Ghana, the ASSAR team is also in collaboration with various national and international experts and expert institutions, including ministries, local government and non-governmental authorities, community leaders, humanitarian organizations, as well as the private sector.           

The ASSAR Project also consists of capacity buidling activities involving PhD and Masters Students undertaking their research under various themes. See below for the various outputs from the ASSAR Research in Ghana.

ASSAR Project Outputs


For more information visit ASSAR website