Vice-President Mahamudu Bawumia and Yaa Naa Abukari II, the Overlord of Dagbon, have jointly cut the symbolic sod for the Gulf of Guinea Northern Regions Social Cohesion (SOCO) projects, which seek to address emerging and recurring challenges in the northern part of Ghana, to begin.
This ceremony marked the commencement of construction works on the 582 projects under the SOCO initiative, valued at $150 million.
The SOCO Projects are a crucial intervention being executed in 48 beneficiary Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDAs) across six regions, predominantly in northern Ghana.
The beneficiary districts under the $150 million credit facility project secured by the Government of Ghana from the World Bank, include eight District Assemblies in the Northern Region, six in the North East, all 15 in the Upper East, all 11 in the Upper West, four in the Savannah Region and four in the Oti Region.
The SOCO Project is designed to address several issues, including the spillover of conflicts and extremism from the Sahel Region, vulnerability due to climate change impacts, strengthening local institutions, improving economic opportunities and building public trust.
Speaking at the ceremony, the Vice-President emphasised the government’s commitment to addressing human and security threats in the Sahel Region arising from climate change and conflicts.
He highlighted the importance of creating meaningful jobs, and providing opportunities for economic and social development to prevent these threats from spreading into Ghana.
Dr Bawumia noted that, in this regard, the SOCO project focuses mostly on border communities in th selected Regions where the citizenry, especially women and youth, are exposed and susceptible to the threats of terrorism from the Sahel Region. Thus, he stressed that the project focuses 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. 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,” he explained.
The first phase of the SOCO Project in 2023 focuses on delivering socio-economic community-level climate-resilient infrastructure, skills development and training for youth and women, particularly those vulnerable.
The projects include constructing schools, health facilities, markets, earth dams, and other critical physical infrastructure, as well as providing clean water.
This phase of the project has already created jobs for 434 community facilitators and other specialists. It aims to improve access to basic social and economic services, promote local economic development, gender equality, and enhance environmental management.
The regions and districts selected for this project were carefully chosen based on vulnerability criteria, including exposure to security risks, climate vulnerability, poverty incidence, and unemployment rates.
The Vice-President urged all implementing agencies, at both the national and sub-national levels, to remain committed to achieving the project’s objectives.
The Minister of Local Government, Decentralization and Rural Development, Daniel K. Botwe, assured traditional leaders and community residents that his ministry is dedicated to working closely with them to ensure the smooth implementation of the SOCO projects.
He said contractors and agencies involved had been tasked to provide regular briefings to stakeholders on the progress of the work.
The Member of Parliament for Yendi, Farouk Aliu Mahama, expressed his gratitude to the government for the SOCO project, which he believes will bring “real development to the doorstep of the people” in the northern and Oti regions, as compared to previous promises of development that went unfulfilled.