Building understanding of climate variability into planning of groundwater supplies from low storage aquifers in Africa - Second Phase (BRAVE2)

Lead Research Organisation: NERC British Geological Survey
Department Name: Groundwater


Secure access to water by the rural poor in Africa is central to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. With more than 500 million Africans dependent on groundwater and the potential for expanded use, the resilience of aquifers in the face of climate, population growth, and land-use change is key to this. Evidence suggests however, that during extended periods of low rainfall, groundwater supplies from low storage aquifers can fail. It is unclear, therefore, whether planned development of substantial numbers of groundwater supplies as a means to meet the expected large increase in demand, will be effective in all areas of sub-Saharan Africa. In the absence of long historical records of borehole levels, we are reliant on process understanding and modelling to infer the stability of groundwater supplies. In partnership with national and local government, NGOs and researchers, the BRAVE project will incorporate new understanding of climate variability and observational capacity and its water resource impacts into the planning and operation of groundwater supplies in the Volta River Basin. As a result of improved understanding of how water moves through catchments representative of the Volta River Basin, combined with output from state-of-the-art climate, land surface and groundwater models, new scientific knowledge will allow appropriate tools to be developed for planning at a range of scales: basin-scale long-term regional planning of aquifer-based water supplies for domestic and productive uses; local-scale long-term and seasonal community management of groundwater supplies; and provision of information that allows timely emergency planning in the light developing drought conditions. New observational capacity and assessments of user vulnerability and an understanding of governance frameworks linking local communities to national government, along with this new scientific knowledge, will be translated into forms that allow participatory decision-making to be made. Bringing together communities, practitioners and policy-makers, the application of the planning tools will be piloted in a series of case studies within eight communities in Ghana and Burkina Faso. A set of meaningful groundwater management tools will be developed with these communities that specifically address the information they want and need, and which are embedded within the existing local, district, national and regional governance structures. The use of the system in the pilot communities will provide insights into the extent such an approach can support sustainable decision making and equitable uptake. Furthermore, after consultation with our partners, we will also develop a methodology to produce seasonal groundwater status reports which will be linked into the newly operational Rainwatch-AfClix Drought Early Warning System in Burkina Faso and Ghana. BRAVE will contribute to building the resilience of poor communities to climate variability and environmental change in the Volta River Basin. The project outputs will be of direct relevance to government departments responsible for water supply development, as well as humanitarian and development organisations. Actively working together from the project inception will encourage ownership, culminating in the co-design and implementation of the planning tools. This will deliver a strategic shift in future national disaster risk reduction, adaptation and resilience related policies to support increased water security for the poorest people in Ghana and Burkina Faso with lessons around resilience building for the wider Sahel region.

Planned Impact

BRAVE2 will have a positive impact, both through the process of conducting the research and the outputs, on the following sets of beneficiaries.

Rural smallholder farmers (SHF) will have the opportunity to access, input to, and benefit through their livelihoods from the research. They will be supported to consider development options and pathways for sustainable groundwater use, access and distribution, which will enhance productive (agricultural) and WASH outcomes.

brave2 has very close links with its primary user community of resource planners and government policy makers (e.g. Ghana Ministry of Environment, Science, Technology & Innovation, Ministry of Agriculture, Burkina Faso Direction Générale des Ressources en Eau) to ensure long-term commitment to provisioning accessible information and promoting adaptive capacity through improved regional integrated decision tools for groundwater management. Training & capacity building will be tailored to user groups' specific needs, and the project will empower these groups through participation in networks for appropriate information. Participatory methods to develop new tools will ensure people act as researcher-advocates and contribute to policy uptake by providing practical evidence to inform policy support for SHF. Local/sub-national governments in both countries now have devolved responsibilities for provision of support services and so will also benefit from an improved evidence base to design interventions.

These will benefit from robust quantitative and qualitative evidence to inform their programmes of support to national innovation support systems (including advisory services, SME promotion, regulatory frameworks). Those active in this area will be invited to participate in the high-level BRAVE2 Learning Platforms

Our close collaboratns with NGO partners (e.g. Christian Aid Sahel, CARE Ghana) who are active in supporting SHFs will help influence their livelihood programmes and provide an improved evidence base to inform their own interventions and modes of working with farmer groups.

CSOs, and national/sub-national farmer organizations in both countries, will benefit from evidence to support their lobbying for improved water services for SHF. Some farmer organisations also provide innovation support services of their own (e.g. Uganda National Farmers Federation - UNFFE) and will be able to use the project findings to enhance their service provision. Engagement throughout with CSOs and the media (e.g. Farm Radio) will raise awareness of the research process and outcomes, such as planning information and decision tools. They will also benefit, along with academic stakeholders, from exposure to research and analytical methods that will inform their future investigation and commissioning of research in this area. These initiatives will contribute to improved and sustainable relationships between policy makers and planners and those working with rural communities, setting a platform for longer-term collaboration which is a critical factor in successful future ground water management.

BRAVE2 has very close links with its primary user community of weather and climate forecasters and hydrologists/hydrogeologists, and the decision-makers who use such forecasts, through our formal project partners (GMet, Meteo-Burkina, WRI, Uni. of Ouagadougou & the Institut d'Application et de Vulgarisation en Sciences). These and other national and international research institutes in the region will have access to a richer understanding of the impacts of climate variability on groundwater resource management and how this leads to innovation in practice in the smallholder sector.


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Description 2iE collaboration 
Organisation International Institute for Water and Environmental Engineering
PI Contribution We instigated the revitalisation of the study catchment.
Collaborator Contribution Support in undertaking research at study catchment including the use of students to gather data.
Impact Outputs are the monitoring data collected at the study catchments
Start Year 2016
Description DEIE collaboration 
Organisation Ministry of Water Affairs
Department Department of Water Studies and Information
Country Burkina Faso 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution We will analyse data provided by DEIE and will train their staff to allow them to carry on this work independently
Collaborator Contribution They provide us with groundwater level and river flow data
Impact none as yet
Start Year 2017
Description WASCAL 
Organisation West African Science Service Center on Climate Change and Adapted Land Use
Country Burkina Faso 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Initiated a catchment study that links with one of the WASCAL research catchments
Collaborator Contribution WASCAL provide a local technician who coordinates the collection of data. Also a WASCAL PhD student is associated with the project and is undertaking modelling that will be used on the BRAVE2 project.
Impact just data collected from the study catchment at this stage
Start Year 2016