By Adam Randon, FutureDAMS programme manager
Between 10 and 13 June, Senior Management Team members David Hulme (CEO), Julien Harou (Research Director) and Jamie Skinner (Capacity Director) attended the formal launch of the FutureDAMS programme in Ghana, organised by our partners Emmanuel Obuobie, (Research Scientist at the Water Research Institute, Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research) and Dzodzi Tsikata (Director at the Institute of African Studies, University of Ghana).
The first in a two day schedule of events was a symposium kindly hosted at ISSER Conference Hall, University of Ghana, by Prof Boateng Onwona-Agyeman (Dean of Engineering). The Symposium was enthusiastically introduced by Prof Boateng Onwona-Agyeman and Dr. Kwabena Kankam-Yeboah (Acting Director CSIR). The twenty six participants came from amongst the University’s Schools of Engineering, Institute of Environment and Sanitation Studies, Institute of African Studies, Agricultural Engineering and Geography Department were joined by staff from the Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research, International Water Management Institute and others.
Presentations were given by the FutureDAMS team, which generated a lively discussion about the activities and prospects for the programme in Ghana. Amongst the many topics discussed were around what metrics social scientists could generate to assist decision-making when designing and assessing water-energy-food-environment (WEFE) mega-systems. Equally important, what kind of frameworks might be developed to enable a wider participation in decision making processes and how could guidelines be established to facilitate progressive and productive discussions and negotiations?
On the second day the programme was officially launched at the Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research. Dr. Kwabena Kankam-Yeboah (Acting Director CSIR) opened the event with a speech which was followed by presentations by the FutureDAMS Senior Management Team and Mathaios Panteli, a lead lecturer in Power Systems within the School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering at The University of Manchester.
Forty six participants engaged with the programme at the event including senior staff from the Energy Commission, Forestry Commission, Fisheries Commission, Environmental Protection Agency, Ministry of Energy, Volta River Authority, GRIDCO, Bui Power Authority and many others. Those attending were introduced to the FutureDAMS project, its concepts and methodological framework, expected outputs, outcomes and impacts.
The event helped to build interactions and establish relationships between participants and the project team. Through discussion it was possible to jointly identify how the project outputs can support relevant decision makers, planners and managers to address future dam decisions for improved economic, social and environmental impacts, and create public awareness of the implementation of the FutureDAMS project.
Topics discussed included big vs small dams, the capture of informal agricultural schemes and data, and the importance of looking at how existing dams are operated, as well as what kind of new dams are built and where. Other discussions involved the involvement of stakeholders and methods to engage them in the programme and decision making processes, the future of renewables and optimising hydro-electric power as part of a wider green energy mix.
The event ended with discussion and reiteration that dams should ultimately built for the purpose of providing social benefits and making people’s lives better and this should drive decision makers to think about the wider range of legacy impacts, both beneficial and detrimental, at the planning and development stages of WEFE systems design.
The visit also involved many bilateral meetings with potential partners and stakeholders and the FutureDAMS team left having created a strong network of interested individuals and institutions keen to engage with the programme as it develops. The visit was also successful in finalising the agreements with partners Water Research Institute, CSIR and IAS, University of Ghana for the next three and a half years of activities. The prospects for inter- and cross disciplinary and disciplinary work between the two core partners was particularly encouraging and exciting.
During the trip, David Hulme was interviewed by the Ghanaian press, and cautioned that government plans to invest in infrastructure should be squarely focused on the needs of individual villages.
The FutureDAMS programme is grateful to all that attended the meetings and the events, and particularly grateful to Emmanuel and Dzodzi and their supporting staff for all their efforts in making the launch a success.