Home Articles Harnessing geospatial potential for a better community

Harnessing geospatial potential for a better community

Many of the activities that we engage in have spatial components and therefore, require spatial analytical techniques and other forms of spatial representation to bring them to common knowledge in order to enable us make more informed decisions and plan rationally. The ultimate goal is to ensure better living conditions of people. Geospatial information, that is, data concerning places collected in real-time forms important facet of turning people’s lives around and it is important for us to deploy the technologies that will enable us capture, store, process and disseminate the information required in all facet of our research endeavours.

CSIR – Ghana is one of the pioneer institutions that has played immense role in rendering its geospatial activities in forms that have enabled farmers, entrepreneurs, planners, engineers and policy decision-makers to increase their capacities, make more informed decisions and better their living conditions.

CSIR-Ghana was established to drive science, technology and innovation research as a national development tool. The Council runs and coordinates activities of 13 research institutes reflecting all productive sectors of Ghana’s economy. It is an undeniable fact that, apart from cocoa, the CSIR through its researches provides support for all other crops including the staples, thus guaranteeing Ghana’s food security.

Location of CSIR Institutes in Ghana

The focus of CSIR-Ghana’s research is the development and transfer of technologies and provision of services appropriate to needs of stakeholders. Focus is also on technologies identified by strong focus on the Council’s core business of scientific research and enquiry, producing outcomes that will solve national development problems. Additionally, commercialisation of science and technology research outputs for increased productivity and accelerated growth is our focus.

The objective of this paper is to demonstrate how geospatial technologies have strengthened CSIR-Ghana’s capacities and capabilities in its research and development activities to improve livelihoods and make better Ghanaian communities. It is also to show what potentials there are for further strengthening geospatial deployment in the institutes.

How have we harnessed geospatial potential for better community?
This question can be answered when we consider the pockets of geospatial applications in some of CSIR Institutes. CSIR-Ghana operates in several spatial contexts in the quest to meet the developmental needs of Ghanaian communities. Sectors where geospatial technologies are being deployed to achieve this include:

  • Agriculture
  • Land Management
  • Water Resources Management
  • Forestry
  • Socio-economic development

Agriculture continues to be the largest sector of Ghana’s economy, contributing in recent years (2000-2008) an average of about 39 per cent of GDP compared to about 26 per cent for the industry sector and 31 per cent for the services sector. The success achieved by a particular landuse is greatly determined by the suitability of the land for the particular landuse. Land suitability is another fundamental factor in environmental management, most particularly in environmental impact assessment. Between 1994 and 1999, the Government of Ghana in collaboration with the Danish International Development Assistance (DANIDA) and the World Bank, embarked on an environmental information systems development project.

The principal goal of the project was to develop natural resource data sets within a computerised GIS framework. The project also sought to promote expertise in spatial data analysis at various Ghanaian governmental and academic institutions. Among these institutions, the CSIR-Soil Research Institute (CSIR-SRI) was commissioned to build a national soils database from existing 1:250,000 scale analogue soil maps and develop an automated spatial model for agricultural land suitability appraisal.

Today, the CSIR-SRI has developed a land suitability model to evaluate the suitability of land areas in Ghana for 153 pre-defined land utilisation types (LUT) that include 51 crop cultivars and 33 distinct crop types. The GIS model which is based on Food and Agricultural Organization-Agro Ecological Zone (FAO-AEZ) project for Africa was adapted to suit the environmental conditions of Ghana. This called for re-programming the entire crop suitability assessment procedures. For this purpose a set of ARC-INFO macros were designed to implement the logic and essential elements of the FAO-AEZ model. The full use of digital data allows more accurate environmental modeling and generation of resources maps and land suitability maps on request.

Each LUT consists of a specific crop cultivar (e.g., 105-day maize) at three defined levels of management-input. The model initially utilises a digital map depicting length of growing period (LGP) zones to estimate potential biomass production on a pixel-wise basis. GIS maps of other climate characteristics such as temperature, length of growing period (LGP) pattern, and relative humidity are subsequently combined with soil and terrain layers in a semi-quantitative manner to estimate overall potential biomass production and yield. The results of the assessment consist of a series of LUT-specific land suitability maps. These datasets developed are being used for decision making both by government agencies and private agricultural developers.



Land Management
The CSIR- Building and Road Research Institute (BRRI) has played an important role in the development of infrastructure in the geospatial activities in the country. These activities have had a lot of impact directly or indirectly on the lives of the user communities. The Geodetic Reference Network for example plays a major role in all geospatial activities in any country that wants to derive the maximum benefit from spatially related activities. It therefore came as no surprise when the Government of Ghana under the Land Administration Project (LAP) made the establishment of the GRN a major component when it decided to transform the activities of all land management and related agencies.

CSIR–BRRI did not only offer a consulting service in the implementation of this GRN in the southern part of the country which saw the establishment of three Continuously Operating Reference Stations (CORS), located at the vertices of the Golden Triangle of Ghana. These three primary stations which were linked to the International GNSS Service (IGS) are in Accra, Kumasi and Takoradi. CSIR – BRRI in addition to the implementation hosts and maintains the main CORS located in Kumasi on its premises and played active role in all the major pilot projects which made use of these CORS.

Among the projects that CSIR-BRRI has undertaken are the following:

  1. The customary boundary demarcation of Ejisu Stool Lands and Juaben Stool Lands (LAP). This project aims at resolving boundary disputes between paramountcies, thereby improving the economic activities of land occupants and generating revenue for the land owners.
  2. Systematic surveying, inventory and systematic title registration of properties in Danyame – Ridge Section in Kumasi (LAP).This is an urban based project that was aimed at establishing a geo-database that will facilitate land-use management among various stakeholders including individual land owners, government and non-governmental agencies. This will ensure security of landed property and easy land transaction.

Water Resources Management
Geospatial technologies are being used for the study and management of Ghana’s water resources – both surface and underground. The main application of geospatial tools has been to develop hydrological and water resources maps. The outcome of some of the projects is the development of series of maps on hydrology, flood hazards, geology and boreholes, and water contamination.

Forest Resources Management
The CSIR-Forestry Research Institute of Ghana is mandated to undertake forestry and forest products research to ensure sustainable management and utilization of Ghana’s forest resources. There is an ongoing project on Mapping Land Use/Cover Types in the Ankasa Conservation Area. It is aimed at estimating forest cover changes of the Ankasa conservation area in the Western Region of Ghana using satellite images. Quantifying forest cover changes is critically important for forest resource management, biodiversity conservation, and assessment of ecological integrity, human livelihoods, modeling of biogeochemical, climate and hydrologic cycles and sustainability management. The overall objective is to meet the key requirement in the UNFCC and Kyoto Protocol implementation.

The methods being used include:

  • Collecting field points to improve and validate classified image from the satellite images
  • Classification of historical images of the area
  • Analyse post-classification detection change
  • Land Cover change in the conservation area for the period under consideration will be produced.

Preliminary results
Five major land use/cover types identified and mapped (i.e. within 7km buffer around the protected area which constitute the CREMAs).


Socio-economic development
CSIR-Institute for Scientific and Technological Information (INSTI) is among the pioneer units of the council whose activities have led to the creation of databases on the resources of Ghana expressed in cartographic medium. This led over the years to the development of series of maps on population, agriculture, industry, education, health, etc. Today, with the advent of computerized mapping, i.e. GIS, many map products are being delivered on several themes, designed to inform, educate and serve as tools to enhance planning and decision making. The current thrust is to use GIS as a platform to inventorise tourism information in Ghana by designing databases that can serve as useful reference materials. This is being done at the national, regional and district levels. The objective is to increase investment in the tourism sector through unraveling of the tourism potentials in our communities. We believe that information is very vital for education and informed decision-making and planning. The myriads of tourism features and potentials in our communities need to be made visible to the world through their representation in maps form.

The maps compiled were done in ArcGIS platform and consisted basically of data collected from the regions, districts and communities. Today, we are able to map the various categories of tourist attractions in Ghana to suit the preference of different categories of tourists.

CSIR-Ghana has demonstrated throught the projects and activities outlined in this paper enormous capacity for geospatial applications in various sectors of the Ghanaian economy. Given the wide array of expertise and capacities that have been built, CSIR-Ghana will be grateful to seek collaboration with the geospatial community, both in the public and private sectors to further explore other potentials in the best interest of Ghana and mankind at large.