Impact of shoreline morphological change in West Africa: Ghana DECCMA project.

Shoreline change has increased coastal erosion along the West African coast. This is destroying the coastal environment, threatening food security (fishing and agriculture which form the foundation of livelihoods in the coastal zones) and significantly influencing migration patterns in and out of West Africa. Coastal erosion is a critical issue and has become the centre of debate in the sub-region in recent times. However, the challenge is how we achieve regional integration in sustainable management of coastal erosion. The coastal areas in West Africa are home to about 31% of the region’s population and growing at a rate of about 4 percent annually. The coast also accounts for 56% of the region’s GDP. Managing coastal erosion is consuming between 5 to 10 percent of the GDP of affected countries, which is a significant sum for the economies of developing countries.

Although erosion is largely a natural process, human activities have exacerbated their impact within the coastal zone. Such activities directly impact the coast and indirectly influence the coastal processes by reducing the capacity of the coastal ecosystem to cope with the natural phenomenon. The situation is quite unique in Ghana given that coastal erosion not only impact on the coastal communities but also the Deltaic regions. The Volta Delta in Ghana is a dynamic and rich environment that supports a considerable portion of the nation’s population as well as diverse economic activities. The delta, as defined by the DEltas, Vulnerability and Climate Change: Migration and Adaptation (DECCMA) research project, occupies the 5 m contour in the lower portion of the Volta river basin. It has a complex ecosystem that is very important in terms of morphological and economic values. This combination of factors has resulted in significant changes in the delta, which has increased the level of vulnerability. Hydroelectric dam construction over the Volta River has affected sediment discharge to the delta system. This has impacted on the sediment budget in the region, increased erosion along the coast and influenced the delta system evolution trend. The increased stress in the delta’s environment has altered the land cover, topography and land use.

This presentation critically assesses the causes of coastal erosion in the sub-region and particularly Ghana and the impact of coastal erosion on the socioeconomic life of the coastal communities as well as influencing migration. The presentation ends with some preliminary results from the Ghana DECCMA Project.

About the speaker

Kwasi Appeaning Addo is an Associate Professor and the head of the Department of Marine and Fisheries Sciences, University of Ghana. He has served on several boards and committees both in the University, nationally and internationally. He is a technical advisor to the West African Coast Observation Mission involving 11 countries, a technical advisor to the West Africa Coastal Area Management Programme involving four nations, a CO-PI for the Ghana DECCMA project funded by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) of Canada and a CO-PI for the Integrated and Sustainable Ports Project in Africa funded by WNO of the Netherlands. His research interests include nearshore coastal dynamics and erosion studies; application of drones in shoreline morphological monitoring; application of video systems in short-term shoreline change studies; climate change impact assessment in Delta Regions; coastal vulnerability and risk Assessment to sea level rise. He has published several articles in peer reviewed journals such as ISPRS Journal of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing, Natural Hazards, Coastal Management, Journal of Coastal Research, Journal of Coastal Conservation and Management, Remote Sensing, Journal of Sustainable Development in Africa. He has also contributed several book chapters including Coastal Hazards edited by C. W. Finkl and Coastal and Beach Erosion: Processes, Adaptation Strategies and Environmental Impacts edited by D. Barnes.