Regional Profile

1.    Historical Perspective
The Upper West Region is the youngest of the ten (10) regions of Ghana. As shown in Figure 1, the region has the following 11 political districts: Wa Municipal; Wa West; Wa East; Jirapa; Lambussie-Karni; Lawra; Nandom; Nadowli-Kaleo; Daffiama-Bussie-Issah; Sissala East; and Sissala West.
It was carved out of the then Upper Region in April 1983 which was itself created out of the Northern Territory in July 1960, when the country had gone through serious economic downturn. The subsequent adoption of the democratic decentralized system of governance for Ghana offered a window of opportunity for rapid socio-economic development and poverty reduction to many deprived areas.
Infrastructure to date has not been developed enough to befit the status of a region. Even though human, financial and material resources have been sent to the Districts for development by Central Government, NGOs, Donor Communities and indeed private individuals, only marginal improvements have occurred in the provision of infrastructure and poverty reduction.
2.    Demography
The population of the region as enumerated in the 2010 Population and Housing Census (PHC) is 702,110, with 48.6% (341,182) males and 51.4% (360,928) females. The projected population for the year 2015 stood at 772,081. The region has a fairly young population with 53% being below 20 years, and this implies that there is a huge potential labour force for the future.
However, the current economically active population is overburdened as there is a high dependency ratio of over 91 (per hundred population in the working group) and this partly accounts for the unacceptable poverty levels and child labour in the region.
The region also has a consistent female dominance ratio of 94.5 males to 100 females. Generally, over 60% of the population comprising children, women and the aged are socially and economically vulnerable, and need to be protected. The regional population density is 38.0 persons per square kilometre, an increase from 7.8 persons per sq. km. in 2000. Wa Municipal has the highest share of 15.3% of the population, while Daffiama-Bussie-Issah District has the lowest share of 4.7%.
Administrative Structure
Political Structure
The Local Government Act of 1993, Act 462, establishes and regulates the local government system in accordance with the 1992 Constitution. Since its creation in 1983, the Upper West Region has Wa as its capital and seat of government and administration.
The top administrative structure is the Regional Coordination Council (RCC) which include Presiding Members and Chief Executes from each district, Regional Heads of Decentralized Departments, and two representatives of the Regional House of Chiefs headed by the Regional Minister. The region is divided into 10 administrative districts and 1 municipality. A Municipal or District Assembly is headed by a Chief Executive as stipulated in ACT 462.
Traditional Structure
The people of the Upper West Region are organized into communities comprising clans and families and related to each other by a network of an extended family system. These communities are usually headed politically by a chief as well as a spiritual leader.
Chieftaincy is a respected institution and is a major medium for community mobilization. In Sissala, the title Kuro (e.g., Tumu Kuro) is used for the chiefs while Na (e.g., Wa Na) is used among the Dagaaba, Birifor, Wala communities. There are 32 Paramouncies for Chiefs and Pognamine/Hala Kuore (Women Chiefs) and 186 Divisional Chiefs which jointly administer traditional rule. Some of these paramouncies and divisions are however vacant due to chieftaincy disputes.
Presently, 10 out of the total number of paramouncies are vacant; this does not only create division among the people, but also stifles communal efforts for development and has the potential of eroding the current peace in the region. This needs attention as traditional arrangements are convenient for good governance as well as having a greater potential of rallying people for development.
There are six ethnic groups namely the Dagaaba, Wala, Birifor, Lobi, Chakali and Sissala. Genetically they speak Gur languages (previously referred to as Mole-Dagbani group). The major languages of the region are Dagaare, Issale, Wale, Birifor and Lobi.
Inheritance is patrilineal except among the Lobi and Birifor who, like the Akan in southern Ghana, have a matrilineal inheritance system. Polygamous marriage is widely practiced mostly by the traditional system and the Islamic religion. The predominant religions are Christianity, Islam and traditional African religion. Traditional life and beliefs, as elsewhere in the country, are more prominent in the rural areas.
Economy and Living Conditions
The economy of the region is predominantly agrarian, with over 80% of the population engaged in agriculture as peasant farmers which is far above the national average of 41.7%. The average farm size is 2.5 acres per farmer and farming is mostly done on family basis as a daily activity except for rest days. Farming is both on subsistence and commercial basis.
The population depends largely on rainfall to cultivate crops like guinea corn, maize, millet, rice, soya beans, groundnuts, cotton, yam, cowpea, and sorghum.
Livestock rearing (sheep, cattle, goat, guinea fowl, pig, and rabbit) are other agricultural activities undertaken in the region. While maize, guinea corn and millet are cultivated for domestic consumption, cotton, groundnuts and cowpea are mainly produced as cash crops.
Irrigation infrastructure is very poorly developed and so most rural folk do not have any work to engage in during the dry season. Commercial agriculture is gradually gaining grounds through either direct government interventions such the Block Farming System/ Youth in Agriculture Programme and the SADA Agriculture Input Support Programme, or the private sector business such as the Masara Narziki Out grower Project.
These are done through the Small-Holder Farmer outgrower system. The introduction of modern farming techniques with the provision of fertilizer, improved seeds, tractors and harvesters services have increased yields drastically almost creating a glut in maize.
The Region is faced with an estimated 40% of its labour force out migrating to other regions in the south especially Brong Ahafo, Ashanti and Eastern Region amongst others. Most of the rural communities are largely engaged in farming and the unimodal nature of the farming season leaves them with fewer or no options in the off-farming season. There are also fewer opportunities for school leavers and young professionals.
Bush fires, tree felling and over grazing by animals are degrading the environment as tree cover and soil fertility levels are fast declining. Many households are unable to produce sufficient food to last from one harvest season to the next and have very limited means of generating income. Natural resources are being over exploited, leading to a cycle of frequent food shortages and poverty.
Under the Ghana Environmental Management Project (GEMP) the following were implemented to combat land and environmental degradation:
1)Community forest conservation involving enrichment tree planting in protected areas (forest reserve) and control of such areas from bushfires through fire belt creation and mutual monitoring by community members 2) Production of energy efficient stoves; with these stoves less firewood is used 3)    Provision of boreholes for livestock watering and raising of tree seedlings 4)    Livelihood support options; this was introduced mostly in charcoal producing areas. The livelihood options serves as an alternative means of livelihood to get tree felling and charcoal producing communities to adopt. These will reduce direct dependence on the felling of trees for charcoal and firewood. Women groups in 43 GEMP communities in the Region were trained and supported to practice the following; A. Bee keeping B. Small ruminant rearing C. Guinea fowl production D. Pig farming/piggery E. Rabbit rearing G.    F. Shea butter soap making Shea butter processing machines H. Soya bean farming in some of the communities I.    Dough nuts making J. Moringa processing into different products
Soil Management Technologies farmers in 31 communities have been trained and supported to adopt sustainable soil management technologies to improve soil fertility, increase crop yields and reduce loss vegetative cover from farm expansive.
These technologies are; Stone Lining, Half moon and Zai, Ridging, cross slopes, Composting Under the Sustainable Land and Water Management Project (SLWMP) Agro forestry in 4 micro watershed areas in 4 districts
Educational levels in the region remain very low with an adult literacy rate of 24.4 per cent. The region has a Gender Parity Index of 1.04. The Region has been declining in the Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE) performance over the past 3 years as depicted in the table below. Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE) Pass Rates of the region from 2012 to 2014.
2012    48.00%    33.20%    46.10%
2013    50.00%    35.10%    38.65%
2014    34.80%    21.70%    28.83%
The distribution of enrolment across all levels of education among the 10 regions shows that the Upper West Region exhibits the lowest enrolment in crèches and nurseries (4,467); kindergartens (68,394) and primary schools (149,673) in the country during the 2014 /2015 academic year.
Retention of teachers across all levels of education has also been problematic as the region records the lowest number of teachers as compared with the other regions in the 2014 /2015 academic year. Regional distribution of primary schools shows that the Ashanti Region exhibits the highest number of primary schools (3,694) while the Upper West Region has the lowest number (640).
Among the 10 regions, Upper West recorded Low enrolment and retention especially amongst females; inadequate classrooms and tutors and general poverty are serious limitations to the development of education in the region.
Some educational institutions and facilities in the region include: a campus of the University for Development Studies, 1 Polytechnic, 3 Colleges of Education, 5 Nursing Institutions, Technical, Senior and Junior High Schools, Primary and Kindergartens. The massive injection of educational infrastructure into the region is making a significant impact. The Capitation Grant, the School Feeding Programme, Supply of free school uniforms and exercise books has eased the burden on parents significantly.
The priority areas for the development of human capital are: entrepreneurial skills development for women and people with disabilities, ICT education, science, technical/vocational and mathematics education, teacher development and school management.
Water and Sanitation
The Region currently has about 76% Water coverage as compared to the MDGs target of 85% in 2015. This coverage figure could be higher than the actual situation on the ground due to the following attributes: The dispersed settlement pattern, Migration during the census enumeration period, Some facilities having low yields or are broken down for a long period of the year, The prevalence of water-related diseases in some parts of the Region is an indication that water coverage is inadequate. Open defecation in the Upper West Region has reduced from 78.7% to 71.1% between 2006 to 2011. About 24.3% of households in the region have access to improve sanitation facility. The practice is still widespread, with about seven out of ten household members defecating outside.
Road transport is the only means of movement within and outside the region. The introduction of the Metro Mass Transport System in 2006 to some extent eased the transport problems. This has been complemented by the emergence of OA Travel and Tours, but more buses are still needed to ply the numerous routes in the region. Private sector operators are still the dominant transport providers, but a lot has to be done in terms of the quality of transportation services they provide. By end of 2015, the current airstrip will be developed into a commercial flight airport.
Road Network
The region has a total trunk road network of 949km. Out of this total, 132km representing 14% are paved (bituminous surfaced) and the remaining 817km (86%) are unpaved (gravel surfaced).
On Feeder Roads, total road length is 3155Km. Out of this, the total length engineered is 1559Km, partially engineered is 728km and the portion not engineered currently remain at 868Km. Out of the current feeder road network, only 47% can be considered to be good, 28% as fair and 25% poor. Road network in the region is quite good, but the condition leaves much to be desired, especially during the rainy season. Out of the 11 Municipal and District Assemblies in the region, only three (Wa Municipal, Nadowli-Kaleo and Jirapa) capitals are linked by tarred Roads. The region is also linked by tarred road to Tamale and the southern Ghana but yet to be linked to the Upper East by tarred road. This adversely affects the movement of goods and services, and development in general.
Telecommunication and Mobile Network
There has been quite a significant improvement in telecommunication services in the region. Extensions have been made to all districts by the mobile phone service providers (MTN, Vodafone, Airtel, Expresso and TiGo). There are as many as 11 radio stations effectively operating in the region. These include Radio Progress, Radio Upper West, WFM, Sungmali FM, Radio FREED, Radio RADFORD, Bugli FM and Radio FIDS.
ICT centers established by government exist in all the district capitals; however with the exception of the center in Wa, none of the others is operational. Currently private ICT centres have been opened in the regional capital. The situation of internet services at the district level however leaves much to be desired. The concept of the opening of ICT centers at all the districts must be given serious attention to ensure accelerated growth in this global world. Television coverage has also improved with the extension of GTV services throughout the region. TV3 is also operational with limited coverage at Wa and a few surrounding communities. Consistent breaks in transmission of these 3 television stations in the region need to be addressed.
3.    Physical Characteristics
The Upper West region is situated in the north- western part of Ghana. It lies between longitude 1o 25’’ West and 2o 45’’East and latitudes 9o 30’’ N and 11oN. It is bordered to the South by the Northern region, to the North and West by Burkina Faso, to the east by the Upper East Region. The region covers a geographical area of 18,476 sq. km, constituting 12.7% of the total land area of Ghana.
There is strong socio-cultural relationship among the border communities and an extensive inter-boundary mobility of people. This has health implications in terms of disease epidemiology, health service utilisation, management and others. The Region’s strategic location within the country and its ready access to neighbouring ECOWAS markets (Burkina Faso, Niger, Mali, Cote d’Ivoire etc) is a great potential for trade promotion and joint development especially on Shea nuts/butter, mangoes etc. to enhance the growth and development of the Upper West Region.
The climate of the Upper West Region follows a general pattern identified with the three northern regions. It has a single rainy season from May to September, with average annual rainfall of about 115 cm. This is followed by Harmattan, a prolonged dry season characterized by cold and hazy weather from early November to March, followed by intensely hot weather that ends only with the onset of early rainfall in May and lately in June as a result of the impact of climate change. The mean monthly temperature ranges between 21oC and 32oC. Temperatures sometimes rise to their maximum (40oC), just before the onset of the rainy season, and fall to their minimum (20oC) in December during the harmattan brought about by the north-east trade winds.
Altitudes vary from 200m (Black Volta) to 350m for the ridge that stretches from Wa in the South to the Burkina Faso border in the north and that forms the watershed between the Black Volta in the west and the Kulpawn river and White Volta in the east. The Upper West Region has both high and lowland areas with well drained lands. The highest point in the region is the cone-shaped, granitic Kaleo hill (north of Wa) with an altitude of 435m. There are a number of water bodies that flow through the region. The two major rivers are the Black Volta River and the Kulpawn River which flow along the western and eastern ends of the region respectively.
The Upper West Region can be subdivided into two agro-ecological zones: the guinea savanna zone in the southern part and the Sudan savanna zone in the northern and north eastern part. The determining factor for this subdivision is the rainfall pattern. The borderline between the two zones runs approximately half way between Jirapa and Nadowli.
The Sudan savanna is characterized by scattered trees and a sparse ground cover of grasses. The trees found include Baobab (Adansonia digitata), dawadawa (Parkia clappertoniana), shea (Butyrospermum paradoxum subsp. parkii), Acacia albida and species of Albixxia.
In the guinea savanna, the vegetation is characterized by a higher density of pro-climax tree species. The predominant trees are Isoberina doka, Isoberina dalzieli, Daniella spp., mahogony (Khaya seneqalensis) and other Khaya spp., ebony (Diospyros mespilliformis) as well as dawadawa (Parkia clappertoniana) and shea trees (Butyrospermum paradoxum subsp. parkii). The last two are very common, as they are protected for their economic value.
In the more densely populated areas they are almost the only wild trees to be found. During the wet season, the south has a cover of bunch grasses, notably Andropogon and Cymbopogon spp. and forbes (Soil Conservation and Water Management Division, UWR, unpublished).
As a result of annual bush fires, the vegetation has been degrading in both areas. In the northern part of the region, where slopes are steeper and population pressure is higher, severe soil erosion is becoming a problem. However, primary vegetation can still be found in the south of the region, especially east of the Kulpawn River.
Land Tenure System
Lands in this part of the country are communal and land entitlements are generally not a constraint. Perhaps the constraint is how to pull these pockets of lands together in a block form for any meaningful large scale agricultural enterprise.
Inadequate attention has been paid to the complexity of rural livelihoods and efforts at reducing poverty have been concentrated on increase in incomes, wealth and poverty alleviation. Donors, in particular, have poured in money, mostly in the form of support to health, agriculture and natural resources in Ghana.
Indeed, the equation of ‘rural’ to ‘agricultural’ has been a defining influence of donor support over the past years.
It is a widely held view that the poor are small farmers and that agriculture is their only source of livelihood. Investing in agriculture should simultaneously address both growth and equity issues which translate into improved livelihoods.
Small to medium scale businesses are increasingly taking a large proportion of the local economy. The people are engaged in spinning, weaving and smock designing, Mining (Galamsey) etc. They produce musical instruments such as the xylophone and are involved in pottery, blacksmithing and carving. Large scale businesses are almost non-existent. Employment opportunities are therefore very limited propelling a wave of rural-urban movement.
The Region has a huge potential for tourism, but this is underdeveloped. These include festivals, historic/ scientific sites and eco-tourism sites. Specifically the Wa Naa’s palace and the hippopotamus sanctuary in Wechiau are significant tourist attractions in the region.
The foot prints of the legendary slave trader Samori in Ullo on a tree, the wall in Gwollu, which protected them from the notorious slave raiders, and the Wulling stones (near Tuggoh in the Jirapa-Lambusie district) Natural spring at Brifor and Eremon crocodile ponds are also worth visiting.
However, these sites are poorly developed and needs improvement to attract tourist. Conscious efforts must be made to upgrade, renovate and develop these sites. The people are not only isolated from economic opportunities, they also tend to have less access to social services such as health, education and housing.
Houses are constructed mainly with mud, with mostly rectangular rooms. The houses are built in the form of compounds with gates. The walls are plastered with mud and cement is used as the main material for floors. The rooms are mostly decked with mud, and in certain instances, houses are built up to one storey and roofed with iron sheets or thatch made of grass.
Festivals such as Kobine, Kakube, Zumbeti, Willa, Damba, Paragbiele, Bagre, Kala, Bongo and Singma portray the way of life of the people of the region.
Incidence of Poverty
The Region ranks lowest amongst Ghana’s ten regions in terms of development. It continues to score very high incidence of poverty (88%) compared with other regions making the region the poorest in Ghana, though endowed with resources and a huge potential for growth (GLSS 6 Report).
Poverty is highest among farmers, especially food crop farmers. Nationally, 46% of the poor are from households whose main activity is food crop cultivation. About one-quarter (23.3%) of households in the region have difficulty meeting their basic food needs. This problem is more pronounced among rural households (25.8 %) than urban households (14.3%).
Access to Health Care Services
It is estimated that 70% of the people of the region have access to health facilities, but financial and other socio-cultural factors are a hindrance to accessing health services.
The region can boast of 4 Health Training Institutions. These include General Nursing, Community Health Nursing & Midwifery and Health Assistant Training Schools located at Jirapa, Wa, Tumu, Nandom and Lawra respectively. The infrastructures in most of these Health Training Centres however need great improvement to make them function efficiently.