Regional Environmental Change

, Volume 14, Issue 4, pp 1615–1626 | Cite as

Livelihood adaptations to climate variability: insights from farming households in Ghana

  • Philip Antwi-Agyei
  • Lindsay C. Stringer
  • Andrew J. Dougill
Original Article


Climate variability poses a significant threat to many sectors of Sub-Saharan Africa’s economy. Agriculture is one of the most climate sensitive sectors because of its dependence on rain-fed cultivation. This paper identifies the main adaptation strategies used by farming households in the Sudan savannah and forest-savannah transitional agro-ecological zones of Ghana, in order to reduce the adverse impacts of climate variability on their livelihood activities. It combines questionnaire surveys, key informant interviews and a range of participatory methods. Results show that households employ a range of on- and off-farm adaptation strategies including changing the timing of planting, planting early maturing varieties, diversification of crops, support from family and friends, and changing their diets to manage climate variability. Results reveal that most households use adaptation strategies linked to livelihood diversification to adapt to the increased climate variability seen in recent decades. Most households now engage in multiple non-arable farming livelihood activities in an attempt to avoid destitution because of crop failure linked to climate variability (particularly drought). The findings suggest that policy makers need to formulate more targeted climate adaptation policies and programmes that are linked to enhancing livelihood diversification, as well as establishing communication routes for farming communities to better share their knowledge on successful local climate adaptation strategies.


Drought Coping Climate change Sub-Saharan Africa Agriculture Rural livelihoods 



This study was funded by the Commonwealth Scholarships, UK and the International Foundation for Science (IFS). The authors are grateful to Dr. Evan Fraser, Prof. Jouni Paavola and Dr. Roy Maconachie for providing comments on an earlier draft of this paper.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Philip Antwi-Agyei
    • 1
    • 2
  • Lindsay C. Stringer
    • 1
  • Andrew J. Dougill
    • 1
  1. 1.Sustainability Research Institute, School of Earth and EnvironmentUniversity of LeedsLeedsUK
  2. 2.Department of Environmental Science, College of ScienceKwame Nkrumah University of Science and TechnologyKumasiGhana

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