Vice President Mahamudu Bawumia Wednesday performed the ground-breaking ceremony for the construction of 582 projects under the Gulf of Guinea Northern Regions Social Cohesion (SOCO).
The symbolic sod-cutting took place at the Palace of the Overlord of Dagbon, Yaa Naa Abukari Mahama II.
The SOCO projects would be implemented in 48 metropolitan, municipal and district assemblies (MMDAs) in six regions in the northern part of Ghana.
Some development experts have touted the importance of the projects, describing them as timely intervention to address some key emerging and recurring challenges in the northern part of Ghana.
The Government secured the $150 million credit facility from the World Bank, which would benefit eight districts in the Northern Region, six districts in the North-East, 15 in Upper East, 11 in Upper West, and four each for the Savannah and Oti regions.
Officials of the Ministry of Local Government, Decentralisation and Rural Development say the projects were designed to address the effects of the spillover of conflicts and extremism from the Sahel Region.
They would also help to reduce vulnerability because of exposure to the impacts of climate change; strengthen local institutions; improve economic opportunities and build public trust.
Vice President Bawumia said government was mindful of the growing human and other security threats in the Sahel Region arising from climate change and conflicts.
Therefore, it was taking appropriate measures to ensure these do not spread into Ghana by creating meaningful jobs and providing opportunities for economic, social and other means of improving lives.
“In this regard, the SOCO Project focuses mostly on border communities in these regions where the citizenry, especially women and youth, are exposed and susceptible to the threats of terrorism from the Sahel Region,” he said.
Thus, the project focused on dealing with issues relating to fragility, conflicts and violence (FCV).
“Another issue of grave importance is the impact of climate change. Climate change poses a multiplier threat and compounds fragilities and conflict dynamics, particularly relating to access to natural resources,” the Vice President said.
“In Ghana, the livelihood of many in the northern part are invariably impacted by climatic conditions, as a greater proportion of the population is dependent on rain-fed agriculture, making it difficult for people to adapt and build resilience to changing conditions over time, hence the need for the SOCO projects.”
The phase 1 is expected to deliver socio-economic community-level climate-resilient infrastructure, skills development and training for the youth and women, including vulnerable groups this year.
These include provision of water, construction of school buildings, health facilities, markets, earth dams and other critical physical infrastructure.
The project has, so far, created jobs for 434 community facilitators and other specialists, and would also improve access to basic social and economic services, promote local economic development, gender equality, and improve environmental management.
The beneficiary regions and districts were carefully selected based on the Vulnerability Index Criteria – exposure to security risk, climate vulnerability, poverty incidence and unemployment rate.
Vice President Bawumia charged all implementing agencies to remain committed to their duties to achieve the desired goals.
“I wish to emphasise that funds have been made available for the execution of all the subprojects, as earlier indicated by the Minister for Local Government.”
“I wish to caution all implementing agencies, both at the national and sub-national levels that implementation delays will not be tolerated.”
He urged them to ensure that the delivery of the project through the decentralised structures culminated in outcomes and impacts as contained in the Project Appraisal Document and Project Implementation Manual.”
Mr Daniel Kweku Botwe, the Minister of Local Government, Decentralisation and Rural Development, assured Yaa Naa, other traditional leaders, and the residents of his Ministry’s commitment to working closely with them to ensure a smooth implementation.
“Your Majesty, the contractors and agencies have been specifically tasked to give you and all other stakeholders regular briefings on the progress of work and to keep you properly informed of any developments.”
Alhaji Farouk Aliu Mahama, the MP for Yendi, commended the Government for the good initiative, which he believed would bring “real development to the doorstep of the people, unlike in the past where we heard about developments in our communities but never saw them.”