Upper West Region


General Information

Location and size

The Upper West Region is at the North-Western corner of the country. It is bordered to the south by the Northern Region, to the east by the Upper East and Northern Regions, and to the north and west by the Republic of Burkina Faso. It lies between longitudes 1o25’W and 2o50’W, and between latitudes 9o35N and 11oN. The region covers a geographical area of 18,476 sq. km, constituting 12.7% of the total land area of Ghana.

Topography and Drainage

The region is geologically part of the high plains that cover most of the North-Western part of Ghana. These are characterized by a series of wide plateaus made up of Birrimian and post-Birrimian granites and their weathered materials. The surfaces have been leveled by denudation. Occasional granitic outcrops rise above them (SRI, unpublished).

Altitudes vary from 200 m (Black Volta) to 350 m for the ridge that stretches from Wa in the south to the Burkina Faso border in the north and that forms the watershed between the Black Volta in the west and the Kulpawn river and White Volta in the east. The Upper West Region has both high and lowland areas with well drained lands. The highest point in the region is the cone-shaped, granitic Kaleo hill (north of Wa) with an altitude of 435 m.  There are a number of water bodies that flow through the region. The two major rivers are the Black Volta River and the Kulkpong River which flow along the western and eastern ends of the region, respectively.

Geology and Soils

The information available on the soils of UWR is based on a survey at reconnaissance level covering only the western parts of Lawra, Nadowli and Wa districts.

The soils are formed over Birrimian rocks, post-Birrimian granites and associated basic rocks and mixed recent alluvium (SRI, unpublished). Soils formed over recent alluvium are found on the flood plain of the Black Volta and of other major rivers and fall under the Bala-Yipiani Association. The series of this association found along river levees are mainly coarse sand, while those occupying lower points of the flood plains are poorly drained, greyish brown fine sandy clay or silty clay barns. These soils would approximate to Fluvisols, Arenosols or Gleysols in the FAO classification system.

The soils formed on the Birrimian rocks border the Black Volta floodplain, but extend eastward in a large strip from Wechiau in the south to the north. They belong mainly to the Wenchi-Pale Association. The soil series of this association occur in a top sequence and vary from those with very shallow sandy loam soils having medium and coarse quartz stones and iron pan boulders on the surface (Dystric Leptosol) to those having deep, poorly drained alluvial clays (Vertic Cambisol) in valley bottoms.

Most of the soils of the remaining area are formed over post-Birrimian granites and associated basic rocks. They fall under Verempere-Kupela (widespread, covering 65% of the region) and Deri-Pani Associations. The Verempere-Kupela Association is derived from granite; the main soil series are moderately deep to deep, well drained, reddish yellow sandy boaxus to sandy barns and occupy relatively flat summits, upper and middle slopes. Other series occupying flat valleys are deep, poorly drained, dark grey salty clay loam. These soils would approximate to Lixisols, Vertisols, Fluvisols or Gleysols in the FAO classification system.

The Deri-Pani Association consists of soil series derived from granites and basic rocks. The soil series also occupy top sequence and vary from shallow and gravelly soils (Leptosols) on undulating terrains to deep, greyish brown alluvial clay in wide bottom lands.


The climate of the Upper West Region is characterized by a short, single-peak rainfall regime and a long dry season from October to the end of April. The southern part of the region belongs to zone Aw of Koeppen’s classification (tropical rainy climate with a distinct dry season), whereas the northern part can be described as Bs (dry climate with annual evaporation exceeding annual precipitation). The rainfall pattern is a result of the region’s location in the sub-equatorial zone with changing wind regimes in the course of the year. During the dry season, the area is under the influence of the dry North-Eastern trade wind (Harmattan); as a result, relative humidity drops to a minimum of 16% in January (Wa). During the rainy season the maritime air from the South West monsoon and strong convection cause high rainfall and relative humidity levels, reaching 69% in August. (Wa).

The average annual rainfall increases from north (Tumu: <900 mm) to south (Wa: 1,111 mm). The total annual rainfall and the rainfall distribution vary considerably from year to year. In some years, the first rains in April and May are followed by a short dry spell of three to five weeks, resulting in serious crop damage.

The long term mean annual temperature for Wa is about 27.2°C, the mean maximum is about 35.5°C and the mean minimum is about 18.8°C.


The Upper West Region can be subdivided into two agro-ecological zones: the guinea savanna zone in the southern part and the Sudan savanna zone in the northern and north eastern part. The determining factor for this subdivision is the rainfall pattern. The borderline between the two zones runs approximately half way between Jirapa and Nadowli.

The Sudan savanna is characterized by scattered trees and a sparse ground cover of grasses. The trees found include Baobab (Adansoniadigitata),dawadawa (Parkiaclappertoniana), shea (Butyrospermumparadoxum subsp.parkii), Acacia albidaand species of Albixxia.

In the guinea savanna, the vegetation is characterized by a higher density of pro-climax tree species. The predominant trees are Isoberinadoka, Isoberinadalzieli,Daniella spp.,mahogony (Khayaseneqalensis)and other Khaya spp..,ebony (Diospyrosmespilliformis)as well as dawadawa (Parkiaclappertoniana)and shea trees (Butyrospermumparadoxum subsp. parkii).The last two are very common, as they are protected for their economic value. In the more densely populated areas they are almost the only wild trees to be found. During the wet season, the south has a cover of bunch grasses, notably Andropogon and Cymbopogon spp.and forbes (Soil Conservation and Water Management Division, UWR, unpublished).

As a result of annual bush fires, the vegetation has been degrading in both areas. In the northern part of the region, where slopes are steeper and population pressure is higher, severe soil erosion is becoming a problem. However, primary vegetation can still be found in the south of the region, especially east of the KulpawnRiver.

Environmental Situation

Human activities such as bush burning, tree felling for fuel, sand and gravel winning and, of recent, small scale mining, contribute immensely to the destruction of the vegetation and consequently the environment.

Further, the poor farming practices such as slash and burn, shifting cultivation, and also farming along the banks of streams and other water bodies are being practiced by farmers in the Region. The impact of these human activities on the natural environment has been the loss of vegetation cover, soil erosion, reduction in soil fertility, desertification and loss of wildlife.

Road and dam construction further increase the land degradation.

The activities of Fulani herdsmen, through the open grazing of livestock, also affect the natural environment.

The current urbanization and growth of existing and new settlements imply that agricultural and grazing lands are being used up.

  Land use

Out of the total land area of 18,476 sq. km, it is estimated that about 70% (12,933.2sq. km) is arable. However, the fertility of the land, generally, is questionable with farmers requiring high doses of fertilizers for satisfactory crop performance. Other uses of land, aside agriculture, are forest reserves, urbanization and, lately, mining.

Lands are typically held by families, whose leadership gives out land under various terms for developmental purposes.


According to the provisional results of the 2010 Population and Housing Census, the population of the region is 667,763, made up of 344,408 females (51.6%) and 333,355 males (48.4%).

Ethnicity and Religion

The Region is ethnically heterogeneous. The different ethnic groups that are found in the region form part of the over 100 groups that are found in Ghana. These are distinguishable by language and cultural differences. The majority of the ethnic groups in this region speak languages of the Gur family or the voltaic branch of the Niger-Congo language family (Goody 1954). They belong to the Mole-Dagbani group, which is a result of links and intermarriages between many groups. The main ethnic groups include the Dagaaba, Sissala, Wala, Chakali and Lobi. There are other smaller ethnic groups like the Hausa, Fulani, and Moshie who are settlers from neighbouring countries.

The major ethnic groups in the region are predominantly patrilineal.

Christianity, Islam and Traditional beliefs are the predominant religions.  Traditional life and beliefs are more prominent in the rural areas.

Major economic activities

The region is, basically, agrarian with about 80% of the economically active population engaged in agriculture directly and/or indirectly (production and processing). Other economic activities are commerce, weaving and manufacture of traditional textiles, basket weaving, some amount of fishing, and, lately mining, which is fast catching up with other activities.


Office Branch Location
Wa Municipal Agricultural Development Unit Wa
Wa East Agricultural Development Unit Funsi
Wa West Agricultural Development Unit Wechiau
Nadowli Agricultural Development Unit Nadowli
Jirapa Agricultural Development Unit Jirapa
Lawra Agricultural Development Unit Lawra
Lambussie-Karni Agricultural Development Unit Lambussie
Sissala East Agricultural Development Unit Tumu
Sissala West Agricultural Development Unit Gwollu
Babile Pig Breeding Station Babile
Babile Agricultural Research Station Babile
Our partners: Best Essay Writing Service