Building participatory research skills in northern Ghana: A field school approach

By Genevieve Agaba and Matt Kandel

Participants with completion certificates post-workshop

BRECcIA researchers from the University of Southampton and the University of Ghana recently held a participatory research skills training workshop for the benefit of early career researchers and development/agricultural extension staff in the Upper East Region of northern Ghana. 

The workshop took place over a four-day period (3rd-6thJune 2019) and included students from Ghana’s YouthMapper Chapters in the University of Cape Coastand the University of Ghana, extension agents from the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, and staff from World Vision International Ghana, Community Self-Reliance Centre(a local NGO) and the University for Development Studies. 

The workshop facilitators used a mixture of class-based lectures and practical exercises at a training venue in Bolgatanga, with participants directly applying their newly acquired skills during fieldwork in two rural communities in Talensi district.  Split into small groups of 3-4, participants engaged in focus group discussions, making use of visual tools such as natural resource mapping.  Workshop participants also conducted community-level transect walks as well on-farm transect walks in order to better understand livelihoods, land uses and spatiotemporal changes (e.g. perspectives on climate, economic practices) in each community. 

On-farm transect walk with workshop participants

Workshop participants were further trained in making field-based observations and then how to record these observations.  All participants practiced writing field notes (this involved recording in-detail their field observations as well as any information/data from interactions and interviews) after each session in the field. 

The workshop activities were also designed to feed into the scoping stage of a research project focusing on land restoration, equity and resilience in Ghana and Kenya.The project aims to understand the opportunities and constraints to restoring degraded lands through development project interventions and who in the community benefits—but might also lose out—from these activities. In order to design best fit interventions for improving livelihoods and the ecological integrity of landscapes, there is a need to listen to local land users to see whether there is existing knowledge that can be integrated into decision-making. Through their involvement in scoping, workshop participants played an integral part in informing the focus of a main data collection phase for this project which lasted from 15 June to 12 July. 

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