Marie Blanche Roudaut, 2018 Gruener Research Travel Awardee

Marie Blanche Roudaut

Ph.D. Student
Arid Lands Resource Sciences GIDP

Research Location

Ghana, West Africa

On Site Research Dates

July 15 to July 31, 2018

Title of Research Project:

"Monitoring and Assessing Land Degradation for Sustainable Land Management in Northern Ghana"

The Raphael and Jolene Gruener Research Travel Award allowed me to travel to northern Ghana in June and July 2018 and start my dissertation research.

My research takes place in the Upper East region of Northern Ghana, and more specifically in the districts of Nabdam and Bawku West. This is semi-arid region where the livelihoods and agro-ecosystems on which farmers and pastoralists depend are under considerable pressure from poverty, inadequate access to income-earning opportunities, environmental degradation, conflict and increased competition over resources.

Land constitutes the most important socio-cultural and economic resource in rural northern Ghana. Its use and its management are central to food security and overall agricultural production and development in this region. Land degradation in this region is in part the result of unsustainable land use practices, deforestation, overgrazing, and bush burning and is a threat to the livelihood of communities. Thus, managing the land in a sustainable manner is critical for people’s livelihood.

My research focuses on how local/indigenous and scientific knowledges can be integrated to provide a more comprehensive understanding of the complex and dynamic socio-ecological process that is land degradation. The core of this research is based on the participation of farmers to not only understand how land degradation affects their communities but also to better understand farmers’ own perceptions of the advantages, disadvantages and trade-offs associated with different land management practices. To accomplish this goal, I travelled with two researchers from the University of Development Studies (UDS) in Tamale, Northern Ghana, to the Nabdam and Bawku West districts. For five weeks we conducted focus group discussions, household interviews, transect walks, and participatory mapping in nine communities. In every community, farmers were eager to share their expert knowledge of sustainable land management and the local innovations they developed to combat land degradation.

The lessons from this trip were invaluable but the most enriching experience was the true collaboration with farmers and researchers from UDS and the new and unexpected friends that I made along the way.