Breaking barriers, building resilience: How UNDP is supporting inclusive sustainable development in the face of climate change

In the lead up to COP28, learn how persons with disabilities in Ghana are strengthening their community's resilience to climate change, boosting food security and increasing income with the help of the UNDP Global Environment Facility Small Grants Programme.

November 11, 2023

A group of women, including women with disabilities working on the farmland.

Praise Nutakor, UNDP Ghana

This blog series by the Crisis Bureau Disaster Risk Reduction Team highlights promising practices showcasing how UNDP and its partners are promoting the inclusion of persons with disabilities in initiatives for building the resilience of communities and nations to the risks and impacts of disasters and climate change.

“We have already started feeling it,” expressed Mr. Kumi, the Chairperson of the Ghana Federation of Disabled Persons (GFDP), who himself has a disability. “It used to rain every month, but now it doesn't, and there are high levels of sunshine every day.” This is the reality across Africa: climate change's steady impacts are changing generational practices like agriculture. “This has affected farming across Ghana; the intense heat of the sun has ruined crops,” Mr. Kumi continued.

Science is backing up this reality, as there have been decreases in annual rainfall and an increase in erratic rainfall patterns throughout Ghana, with projections for further climate-induced disruption of agricultural systems. To alleviate this, UNDP is delivering targeted interventions, supporting people like Mr Kumi and strengthening their resilience against climate change. In Ghana’s Banda district, UNDP’s Global Environment Facility Small Grants Programme is supporting persons with disabilities engaging in sustainable agriculture by partnering with local organizations of persons with disabilities, the Ghana Federation of Disabled Persons and the Blind Community.

UNDP Workers visiting the farm

Praise Nutakor, UNDP Ghana

Inclusive sustainable farming

The African continent contributes the least to climate change, yet it is the most vulnerable to its impacts. By 2030, up to 118 million Africans living below the poverty line (living on less than US$ 1.90/day) could be exposed to drought, floods and extreme heat, if climate change responses are not put in place. The situation becomes even more acute for persons with disabilities, who bear a disproportionate burden of climate change impacts. This is primarily because most persons with disabilities experience poverty as a result of societal barriers imposed upon them. The UN Human Rights Council found that poverty, stigma and discrimination further expose persons with disabilities to the adverse consequences of climate change. 

In the Banda District, recognizing the immense value of this proposed project for the community, the Programme, with the assistance of local chiefs, generously donated 24 acres of land to create a farm and installed a groundwater borehole. The provision of irrigation by the UNDP has greatly benefited farmers with disabilities, enabling them to cultivate crops throughout the year. This irrigation system ensures a stable income and availability of food, as affirmed by Mr. Iddrisu, “we feel a strong sense of resilience with it.” He further emphasized the critical importance of irrigation, especially during the dry season when a significant portion of the harvest takes place. “The irrigation provided by the UNDP has been immensely helpful,” he added. Alongside the diversification of livelihoods, these efforts will significantly enhance Banda's capacity to withstand the challenges posed by climate change.

How many benefits can a plot of land and irrigation bring?

Currently, 250 individuals with disabilities from the Banda District in Ghana visit the farm daily, cultivating diverse crops, such as peppers, onions, and tomatoes, which have short growing periods and favorable market prices. For persons with limited mobility, provisions have been made for them to rear animals like goats, sheep, and fowl at home, enabling them to establish reliable sources of food and generate income by selling produce.

The Ministry of Food and Agriculture has provided training sessions, equipping the farmers with a range of techniques, including the production of organic compost for, using neem tree as a natural pesticide, and creating fertilizer for sale. Several organizations have placed orders for thousands of saplings to support restoration projects, injecting additional funds into the farm. To facilitate transportation of produce to the market, the community shares two motorbikes. Mr Iddrisu emphasizes the impact of these developments, stating, 

“Now, we can produce our own food to sell and buy. We are self-employed, engaging in our own work, generating income, and supporting our families.”

Harvesting the chili and tomato crops.

Praise Nutakor, UNDP Ghana

The initiative has been so successful that a communal fund now pools together small amounts of money which is loaned to a member at a low-interest rate every few months. This steady source of income has expanded the educational horizons of the members. Ms. Diare, who has a physical disability, says because of this programme she can plan for school and wants to be a teacher, and Mr. Boama, a man with a disability, says he can now afford a business degree.

“UNDP created great opportunities, and is lifting us up,” Mr. Boama

Preparing for the future

Mr. Iddrisu says the disability community has become an important part of community decision-making because of the project, with local chiefs frequently calling on their input. This has contributed to reduced stigma and discrimination towards persons with disabilities in the community, as Mr. Kumi, the Chairman of the Blind Community, says their recognition and respect in the community has greatly increased. Enhancing equality between individuals with and without disabilities is critical in mitigating the disproportionate impacts that persons with disabilities face due to climate change.

Farmers with disabilities cultivate seedlings for reforestation.

Praise Nutakor, UNDP Ghana

The farmers want their success to spread across Ghana, using their branch as a self-sustaining example for replication. Even within their district, anything less than complete inclusion is not an option, “We want to expand this initiative from 250 to all 670 persons with disabilities in the district. We want total inclusion,” Mr. Kumi stated. In the future, there is hope for increased donor support to establish aquaponics, diversifying their income further.

This project exemplifies how providing modest support to persons with disabilities and their representative organizations can yield profound effects for entire communities. The positive outcomes are evident in Ghana. There are more resources available for investment, food production has increased, a communal fund assists community members with significant purchases, young people have access to educational opportunities, and, most importantly, a greater sense of equality prevails - all achieved in an environmentally sustainable manner. This is what inclusive sustainable development in the face of climate change looks like, and it serves as a model worthy of replication to support the thousands others like Ms Diare and Mr Boama become more resilient to climate change impacts.