DECCMA PI, Professor Robert Nicholls mentioned “Building the Consortium” as an important part of the functioning of the project and what better way to do it than organising face-to-face meetings for the entire consortium. The entire DECCMA consortium meets every six months, this time being the 3rd Consortium Workshop at Accra, Ghana. The Regional Institute of Population Studies (RIPS) of the University of Ghana (UoG), the lead institution for the DECCMA African team, hosted DECCMA members from Bangladesh, India, Italy, Spain, and the United Kingdom.
One might think that research project workshops only entail updating each other on research progress and discussing future research plans. DECCMA not only discussed these but also did much more. The first aim of the workshop was to refresh and reinforce relationships across the wider project, especially in work package teams and build on consortia development. This was achieved when the key members of the Northern team reached the University of Ghana a day ahead of the workshop to get better acquainted with the entire Ghanaian research team. Also, a day was dedicated to facilitate training sessions and discussions with respect to each work package. On 24th July 2015, members huddled around tables deep in discussion or diligently learning from the others during training sessions. This encouraged dialogues within the WPs with respect to delta-specific issues. As a part of the management team, I can proudly say that I attended my WP session outside the meeting venue at the steps in a garden. It was liberating in a way to discuss work yet not feel like doing work! A key outcome from this day was the clarification from each country team on the respective study areas. It was unanimously decided by all WP leads and member leads that administrative units in deltaic areas which are being dissected by the 5 metre contour line in each country shall be wholly considered as being in the DECCMA study area. The day closed with a cocktail dinner accompanied by live African music. The gentle evening breeze, Ghanaian food and the lively beats relaxed us after the long day.
The workshop officially kicked off on the 25th of July with Professor Samuel Codjoe, the DECCMA Ghana Lead, welcoming everyone to Accra and the University of Ghana. Prof Robert Nicholls then took everyone on a journey of the inception of DECCMA, right from its proposal drafting workshop in September 2013, through the kick-off workshop at Dhaka in June 2014, to the last workshop held in India in January 2015. He welcomed any new member attending the consortium workshop for the first time and asked the country leads to do the same from their respective country teams. He reintroduced DECCMA, its objectives, work package structure, aims and timeline to everyone and reminded us that we are 32% through! The reminder of the timeline helped everyone to reflect on the status of work being done. The goals and timetable of this workshop were reiterated. This was followed by formal presentations on the delta boundaries of the Bangladesh Delta, Indian Bengal Delta, Mahanadi Delta and the Volta Delta. The day then continued with presentations on the research progress of each work package (WP) where the WP leads either introduced the overall WP activities or summarised the discussions. The country teams presented on their WP progress and it was a good chance to learn about the commonalities and differences across the deltas. While governance and policies of each country are unique, the effect of climate change was common for all. Although the physical stressors varied from one delta to the other, the effects on the people were comparable. Analysing secondary data and literature reviews showed migration from the hotspot areas of these deltas and the observed adaptation options were also learnt. But stakeholder interactions, focus group discussions gave first-hand accounts of such results. These can be fully validated and more information can be garnered once the DECCMA team ventures out to conduct the household surveys. An effective dialogue between the WPs was initiated to facilitate incorporation of questions from each WP into the household survey questionnaire and also to enhance the integrated modelling framework which relies on inputs from all the other WPs. The day closed with the monthly closed meeting of the DECCMA Management Committee. This was followed by a sumptuous dinner at a local restaurant which also had a live band. It was the perfect setting for everyone to unwind after the day, and work took a backseat for most of us!
Workshops like these enhance working relationships and offer chances for better communication. The added advantage of hosting a workshop at a study area is that the wider project team gains a first-hand exposure to a new study site and on the 26th of July, the DECCMA team went for a field visit to the Volta delta. It was an enriching experience and good to see the Keta Sea Defense Project that is active in the region. As a student of humanities, African Literature had introduced me to the horrors of slave trade which was once dominant in the continent and the visit to Fort Prinzenstein etched it loud and clear in my psyche, the gruesome and inhuman past. The heart-wrenching echoes off the walls were louder than the sounds of the Atlantic Ocean. With lots of activities for us in the field visit, I did not get much time to ponder over this gloom. The team was taken to a farm where wind energy and biomass energy were effectively used and we got a chance to walk through pigsty, maize and shallot fields. The afternoon sun could have got the better of us had it not been for the refreshing tender-coconut water which was kindly served to us at the farm. Ghanaian hospitality at its best!
On the 27th of July, stakeholders from the Volta delta were present at the workshop. It was a nice gesture to begin the day with a prayer followed by an introduction to the CARIAA programme by Michele Leone and an introduction to DECCMA by Prof Robert Nicholls. The documentaries on each delta were shown, which was promptly followed by the climate change skit. It was a delight to watch such a serious issue being enacted in such a simple manner, which was easily relatable by any person, irrespective of their nationality. This was followed by presentations on related projects in each delta and this session also gave enough opportunity for discussion and learning. The next session had a reminder of the key project documents that every DECCMA member should be familiar with. The Research into Use and Theory of Change presentations made the country teams more eloquent with the way DECCMA envisages using RiU to better effect research. It was communicated that an effective RiU strategy should be developed based on the audience as different groups have different needs and engagement efforts should be made accordingly. The next slot dealt with adaptation and personally speaking I benefitted a lot from the interactive session based on identifying which activity would be adaptation, development, mitigation, coping or maladaptation. It made all of us think, debate and learn. This was followed by a discussion on the gender-sensitive approach in DECCMA and the team was reminded once again of the importance of including gender right from the beginning of the project.
The last day of the workshop had discussion on formulation of the expert advisory groups in each country and the future plans with respect to each WP. The research plans, publication plans and upcoming training workshops were all discussed and shared among the members. The workshop closed with a vote of thanks to the Ghanaian team for their hospitality and all the members for attending the workshop and making it a success.
The workshop was successful not only in terms of what was formally presented and discussed during the sessions but also when the members were scheduling catch-ups with one another during the tea-breaks and meals. The interactions were effective amidst the picturesque campus of the University of Ghana with its bountiful dose of greens and birds. I look forward to returning to Ghana but right now I am looking forward to meeting the DECCMA team at Southampton in January 2016!