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Using Transformative Scenario Planning to think critically about the future of agriculture and food security in Ghana

In this brief we describe the approach undertaken during ASSAR's Transformative Scenario Planning workshops in Wa, Ghana, and provide an overview of the results and future steps.


In West Africa, ASSAR works in the semi-arid and dry sub-humid parts of Ghana and Mali – areas that are increasingly exposed to climatic extremes of droughts, floods and heavy rainfall. These changing conditions impact different people in different ways. For all living here, figuring out how to adapt to these uncertain circumstances is a challenging task that requires input from many different groups.

In the Upper West Region of Ghana, there are pressing challenges for agriculture and food. These include: climate variability; food insecurity; land tenure issues; constrained access to credit, water, farm inputs, markets and storage; and the lack of political commitment.

To bring fresh thinking on how to tackle these challenges, we turned to Transformative Scenario Planning (TSP) — a process developed by Reos Partners that brings together stakeholders from diverse and often conflicting perspectives and transforms their thinking around complex issues. In so doing, TSP helps people to imagine the ways that the future can be changed, and to identify the leverage points that can facilitate this change.

In this brief*we describe the processes undertaken during our TSP workshops in Wa (June and November 2016), including the possible responses and actions brainstormed by the participants that could pave the way to greater agricultural and food security in the region.

Related videos providing an overview of the approach and the four scenarios developed during the stakeholder workshops can be found here.

*Download the full brief from the right-hand column. The TSP process is outlined below – see the brief for much more detail on the results of the workshops, and the topics raised.

Methods and Tools

TSP workshops aim to construct a safe space where people can talk openly and honestly about complex issues in order to think differently about ways of working together. Our workshops brought together 27 stakeholders from the Upper West region (Wa, Lawra and Nandom) and were made up of: community groups (including representatives from farmer, youth, input dealer and women’s groups); government (including regional agriculture and water research institutions, district level authorities and extension workers); traditional authorities; researchers; civil society; police and fire services; private, financial, and transport sectors; and the media.

During the first TSP workshop (June 2016), we explored climatic and non-climatic challenges in the Upper West Region and collectively built stories of what the future (up to the year 2035) of agriculture and food security could look like. The par cipants identified many factors that could influence the development of agricultural activities; however, they considered access to water and political commitment as the two key driving forces that are impacting, and will continue to impact, agriculture and food.

The two key driving forces were used as building blocks to develop four possible future scenarios for the Upper West Region until 2035. The scenarios were built in an interactive, iterative way, and involved the use of drawings, the formula on of newspaper headlines, small group work and plenary feedback. With locally-relevant names, the scenarios focused on various levels of political commitment (high versus low) and access to water (poor versus good). They also considered the role of likely internal and external influencing factors — such as oil production, road network construction and conflicts.

During the second TSP workshop (November 2016), participants used these scenarios to develop a shared vision for the future and to delve deeper into what can and must be done to ensure regional food and agriculture security. Through the visioning exercises, the group priori sed major shared themes to create ‘Vision 2035’, and identified key actions that need to be implemented to achieve this vision.

To move towards Vision 2035, participants were encouraged to think critically about their own roles, as well as their collective role as a group. They split themselves up according to the action areas that they are most interested in helping to carry forward, and compiled preliminary ideas for concrete actions that could be instrumental to this process. ASSAR’s Ghana team is now working with these groups to find the best means of puttng these ideas into action.

Lessons Learnt

​Ultimately, we learnt that by building relationships, working collaboratively, and developing cross-sectoral understanding, we can devise and implement adaptation plans that can transform agricultural systems and improve regional food security.

From the front page of the brief. Photo by Prosper Adiku, CGIAR Climate ©

This brief was written by Rahinatu Sidiki Alare, Prosper Adiku, Prince Ansah, Adelina Mensah, Elaine Tweneboah Lawson, Mary Thompson-Hall and Tali Hoffman.

This work was carried out under the Collaborative Adaptation Research Initiative in Africa and Asia (CARIAA), with financial support from the UK Government’s Department for International Development (DfID) and the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), Canada.

Suggested Citation

Alare, R. S., Adiku, P., Ansah, P., Mensah, A., Tweneboah Lawson, E., Thompson-Hall, M. and Hoffman, T. (2017) Using Transformative Scenario Planning to think critically about the future of agriculture and food security in the Upper West Region of Ghana: An Overview. ASSAR

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