Image AltAlthough the project is national in coverage, the three northern regions form the areas of major interest with 29 out of the 49 beneficiary districts in the three northern regions. While the three northern regions make up about 18 per cent of the total population of Ghana, their national share of the poor is about 40 per cent (over 50 per cent when considering the whole Northern Savannah Zone). Large discrepancies in poverty levels between the North and the South are further emphasized by the disaggregated district data from the poverty map. Two major southern cities—Accra and Kumasi—have poverty headcounts of less than 10 per cent: Over one-quarter of all 38 districts have poverty levels above 80 per cent, and these very districts are located predominantly in the Northern Region, Upper East Region, and Upper West Region, with pockets in the Coastal and Forest Zones of the Central Region.

Causes of under-development of the North are complex. The region is landlocked and suffers from a poorly developed transport infrastructure, which limits access to markets and social services on the local level. In comparison with the South, its geographic locale brings less rainfall, greater land and soil degradation, and a pre-disposition to droughts and floods. This forces agricultural households to adopt low-risk and low-input strategies, creating a virtual cycle of poverty. To supplement their agricultural incomes and diversify livelihood options, many households engage in seasonal migration to the South. While labour migration (both international and domestic) as a whole has made a substantial contribution to poverty reduction in Ghana, there is evidence that the North has benefited to a lesser extent from remittances than other parts of the country.
This is largely due to lower skill levels of northern migrants, which relegate them to the lowest wage segments of labour markets.1 Initiatives in the aftermath of the 2007 floods in northern Ghana led to the formulation of the Savannah Accelerated Development Strategy (SADS) and the establishment of the Savannah Accelerated Development Authority (SADA). The SADS specifies a two-track strategic framework to redress regional disparities between the North and the South:
•   igniting and sustaining market and private sector growth—particularly in the agriculture, tourism, and mining sectors—and developing non-farm enterprises; and
•   (ii) Strengthening food security and social protection among the poor and vulnerable segments of the population.
The Ghana Social Opportunities Project Component is a social protection project that complements this strategic framework