Winneba Lagoon City

Launched in fall 2013, the Winneba Lagoon City project focuses on the complex interwoven forces of geomorphological change  and rapid urbanization impacting coastal African cities. Our research examines the interdependent dynamics of these formidable challenges as they affect future planning decisions for cities. Equally important to our work, is the preservation of a community’s cultural identity, embedded in sacred sites and landscapes which are often lost or destroyed through the impact of these forces of change. Our project focuses on the city and surrounds of Winneba Ghana, a historic fishing community (pop. 60,000) that sits on the Gulf of Guinea in West Africa, 40 miles west of the capital Accra.  Water takes on a special significance in Winneba Ghana, where it has originated, sustained, shaped, and continues to define the town. Winneba’s geography is delineated by water in multiple ways; through the Gulf of Guinea and its coastline, the rivers that drain the town and surrounding area, and a major lagoon located to the west of the town. Winneba was founded as a fishing village by Effutu tribes who made their way from the north in search of a safe, peaceable location with access to clean water.  The barrier-fronted lagoon to the west of the town, named Muni by the local tribes, is of particular significance. It is the foundation of the town’s mythology and site of the annual renewal deer hunt each May. In 1992, this lagoon was recognized as a Ramsar wetland for its intact systems and bird migratory population. The identification of Muni lagoon as part of an international network of sustainably managed wetlands through the 1971 Ramsar Convention re-signifies the lagoon waters and forests, and reinforces the traditional sacred views of this waterbody.

This project explores the resiliency and vulnerability of Winneba as a lagoon city, a cultural landscape subject to the dynamic processes of climate change and human agency. As an interdisciplinary approach that factors, both heritage/ culture and environmental/geographic perspectives our project requires the multi-faceted viewpoints of landscape architecture and architecture, history, urban planning, geology, environmental sciences, wild life conservation, urban hydrology, forestry, GIS, physical geography, horticulture, aquaculture,  and  ornithology. Our questions are similarly multi-faceted, requiring collaboration across these fields:

-What are the  projections and scenarios to be expected with regards to sea level rise, extreme sea level events, storm frequency and intensity?

-What are the projections/ scenarios to be expected with regards to population shifts and pressures?

-How will projections and scenarios impact Winneba’s rich heritage and cultural identity? How can we preserve this?

-How do projections and scenarios impact the current excellent water quality of the lagoon? How can water quality be maintained?

-What possible viable adaptation and planning strategies are suggested  based on these projections?

Our team takes an optimistic stance toward the formidable changes that lie ahead. We want to consider how projected environmental change can spur positive sustainable economic and tourism activities for Winneba and further encourage people to live here. Also, as Winneba is recognized as a university community, we imagine how the necessity for good water quality in the lagoon can be leveraged as an educational opportunity for the next generation of citizen stewards of Ghana.

Watch this video to learn more about the project!

-Nancy Takahashi
UVA Department of Landscape Architecture